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Sunday Word: Goal

(Photo Credit: Matt Smith/The Express-Times)

"Goals".  Such an easy term to grasp.  It's used in almost everyone's life in some form or another.  Set a "goal" for yourself, and achieve it.

Every person this year who put on a uniform in a Patriot League school had as a "goal" to win the Patriot League.  (Yes, even Fordham, whose wins didn't technically "count" towards the league title, used it as a goal, too.  Per head coach Tom Masella, they were very much aware what their place in the standings would be.)

But only the guys in Brown and White would achieve that "goal" this year.

On the field and after the game this Saturday, there was a lot of talk about "goals".  It's important to note, however, that winning the Patriot League championship was only one "goal" of many.

The next "goal" - having a senior class that has not lost to "that school in Easton" - is the next achievement they are looking to accomplish.

"Let's put them all on in unison," a happy Andy Coen reported at the post-game press conference on Saturday.  He was talking about some brand-new Patriot League Championship hats, provided by the Patriot League offiice for the occasion.

But senior QB Chris Lum actually waited a minute before he noticed that everyone else had put on their hats, before placing it on his head as well.

For some reason, this story seems to fit this team extremely well.

Some athletes might have whooped it up, shown the emotion, even asked the members present about where they were going to be playing in the FCS playoffs.  They might have complained that the national media gave them no respect, or let their egos burst out of the room, claiming personally that they were responsible for the win.

Not this room.  With this team, it seems like the accomplishments and accolades are almost an afterthought on the way towards accomplishing their "goals".

“We wanted to prove we were a talented team,” junior WR Ryan "The Answer" Spadola said after the game. “This is one goal we achieved toward our ultimate goal of a national championship. We’ll celebrate tonight, but be back to work tomorrow.”

Despite the fact that Ryan had just beaten the single-season receiving record, formerly held by his offensive coach, Dave Cecchini, the media present had a tough time getting him to talk about his accomplishment.

Matter of fact, Spadola became more animated when he took responsibility for Lum's lack of touchdown passes on Saturday, recalling a reception where he was stopped at the 1/2 hard line by a Georgetown defender.

All season myself and others have reported about the business-like atmosphere around this football team, and while Spadola, Lum, and junior CB Bryan Andrews were clearly happy to put on the Patriot League champion hats, it seemed almost like it was simply the first "goal" achieved of many.

Andrews said he was happy his family was there from Georgia, but he was happier that they achieved their "goal" of the title.

Part of their business-like demeanor comes from their confidence.

This team has a lot of faith that when the offense gets stopped on occasion, the defense will kick things into gear and make a big stop or force a big turnover.  When the defense gets a bit worn down and gives up a score, this team has the confidence to receive the kickoff, and drive the length of the field to answer.

It's a confidence that has delivered eight straight wins, and a Patriot League title.

But it's not overconfidence.

A bunch of times this year I was worried that this Mountain Hawk football team would be overconfident.  It's an affliction that hits many a football team, where they think they can walk on water every week, and perhaps relax a little.

But every time, they have responded with another great performance.

Their focus is incredible.

And they'll need every ounce of that focus going into Rivalry weekend.

*****

In terms of "The Rivalry", the fact that Lehigh has achieved one of their "goals" of a Patriot League championship is crucial.

For "that school in Easton", their season will end one way or another next Saturday.

But had Lehigh lost this weekend, the pressure would have been on for the Mountain Hawks to win that game for another reason - to earn consideration as an at-large team to the FCS playoffs.

Losing against Georgetown would have been a stiff blow to Mountain Hawk confidence.  But instead, their victory and Patriot League title means that Lehigh comes into the 147th meeting between the two schools brimming with the stuff.

That's not to say that the game this weekend isn't important for Lehigh on the national scene.

With a win, the Mountain Hawks will probably wrap up a first-round bye in the playoffs, and possibly, if everything falls exactly right, result in a seed, which would guarantee one or more home games at Murray Goodman stadium.

Some years, I might worry about the focus of Lehigh on their way to the most important regular season game of the year.

I'd even worry about their focus being on a national championship, rather that "that school in Easton".

But not this team.

They know what their "goals" are, and how to achieve them.

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