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Lafayette Erases Five Years of Frustration, Beats Rivals Lehigh 50-38

On the third play of scrimmage, Lafayette freshman QB Drew Reed fumbled the ball off a bad snap.

The ball squirted loose from the line - where a Lehigh player might have fallen on it - and instead nudged in the direction of junior RB Ross Scheuerman, who found himself with the ball in his hands, and, on the broken goal line play, wide open space to get into the end zone.

It was that type of day for the Mountain Hawks - a day when five years of Rivalry frustrations, five years of balls bouncing the wrong way, and five years of Lehigh victories came crashing to an end.

It was a game where Lehigh never led.  It was a game when the Mountain Hawks came close to coming back - and clearly believing that it could, and would, happen.  But it wasn't meant to be, as Lafayette took home all the marbles on Saturday - the Patriot League Trophy, the Patriot League championship and autobid, and the win over Lehigh that the players, and the many people that follow the Lafayette football program, have been hungering for the last five years.


After the initial touchdown, Lehigh's offense went 3-and-out, while an inspired Lafayette squad marched down the field a second time, with Reed dissecting Lehigh's pass defense to advance to the Lehigh goal line.

After a 3rd down fumble set up a 4th and 26, another indicator as to how it seemed like Lafayette's day came to be.

"You weren't going to go for a 40 plus yard field goal," head coach Frank Tavani said after the game, as Reed instead threw a strong-armed ball to junior WR Mark Ross in the end zone, where he - after a clear push-off that clearly wasn't called - was awarded a touchdown.

Bad calls come up both ways in games, and so do bounces - but rarely do two good things end up coming from fumbles, and in this case it led to Lafayette's early 14-0 lead.

Lehigh would try to get the offense kick-started with a big punt block from junior LB Tashan Mitchell, which would be converted into a 10 yard touchdown pass from junior QB Matt McHale to junior TE Tyler Coyle.

But like they would do all afternoon, Lafayette would respond to Lehigh's touchdown with big plays of their own.

Reed would find WR Justin Adams on a flea-flicker on a 49 yard pass to Lehigh's red zone, and then connect with him again on the score to make it 21-7 Leopards.

Right before the half, the seniors on Lehigh's offense tried to take over the game, though, with a big 25 yard run by senior RB Keith Sherman and a touchdown pass to senior WR Lee Kurfis to convert a big touchdown with under a minute to play in the half.

But another 3-and-out from McHale to start the second half - who never really seemed to get in a good rhythm all game - led to another Lafayette score, set up with another big 35 yard pass from Reed to Ross and a 9 yard touchdown push by little-used senior RB Marcelus Irving.

“The main thing that hurt us today is the same thing that hurt us all year — big plays,” senior FS Tyler Ward said. “For the most part during the season we did a good job but there would probably be three or four big plays (a game) that were touchdowns or really got drives going for the other teams. We’ve been giving up too many big plays this year and it really hurt us today.”

Another big play - a forced fumble, recovered by Lafayette - was also converted into points, with the Leopards going for it on 4th and 1 at the 1 yard line, and Scheuerman pushing through for another touchdown.

And indicative of the type of day Lafayette was having, the holder, P Blake Searfoss, fumbled the snap, picked up the ball, and pushed through the line to get a critical 2 point conversion.

With all that, Lehigh still had a chance at the end of the game.

With freshman QB Nick Shafnisky in the game for a few plays, he'd also find Coyle for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 15.

After forcing a punt, McHale would orchestrate another scoring drive to cut the deficit to one score, punctuating the drive with a 25 yard touchdown run by Sherman that seemed to grab the momentum of the game with 8:49 to play.

Sherman would end the game with 141 yards rushing, his third consecutive 100 yard rushing game.

“We didn’t execute as well as we did all year — we had some penalties, dropped balls, fumbles, just things you’re not supposed to do in a big game like this,” Sherman said. “Games before we’ve had some of those mistakes and won those games, but today wasn’t our day. Offensively we weren’t executing like we have all year and it came to bite us in the butt today.”

But then Lafayette would put the final dagger in Lehigh's heart with a screen pass that was taken by WR Demetrius Dixon that found him weaving down the field for yet another big play - this one a 68 yard touchdown pass from which Lehigh wouldn't recover.

"We had a very poor start in the second half and even into the fourth quarter we battled back to a one score game," Coen said. "I was feeling confident and our guys have rallied around each other so many times in the past. I really felt we'd be able to do it again in the fourth quarter but they had that big play right away. That cooled the jets a little bit."

A McHale sack, scooped and scored by DE James Coscia ultimately stopped any thought in the stadium of another cardiac Lehigh comeback.

"We've come a long way to bring this thing back," Frank Tavani said. "As I've been saying all along, I credit our seniors and their leadership for holding this team together, as well as our staff.  I really felt the momentum after last week's game. This team was determined to come in and prove to everybody that they deserve to be champions."

"It wasn't our best day of football," Andy Coen said. "You'd like to play your best on a big stage like this, but it doesn't always happen. It wasn't for lack of effort or emotion or pride in the institution. It just wasn't our day and they played well. That's why they won the game."

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