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With Title Hopes On The Line, Lehigh Explodes For a 51-38 Win Over Holy Cross

From the first two plays of the game, the Mountain Hawks seemed like they were going to dictate the terms of the rest of their 2015 season.

It started with a slicing kickoff return from freshman KR Mike Gies, who saw some huge holes and got things started with a 39 yard return.

The very next play freshman QB Brad Mayes, again looking more like a senior than an underclassman, found senior WR Derek Knott who lost his defender on a double move, and then turned on the afterburners for a 61 yard touchdown.

It was that sort of half, and that sort of day for the Mountain Hawks, who put the pedal on the gas and didn't let up until they had secured a very satisfying victory.

"You know Holy Cross is going to score points, they've done it against most of the teams they've played," head coach Andy Coen said afterwards.  "They have a lot of talented players, and I thought our staff did an excellent job and had a very good plan on offense, defense, special teams.  We performed during the game, at times, at a real high level."

The high level was evident right from the beginning.

After a Holy Cross punt and Lehigh turnover, QB Pete Pujals started a potential game-typing drive at the Lehigh 20 yard line, but the Mountain Hawk defense stepped up big-time. With senior LB Matt Laub in Pujals' face three straight plays, the Crusaders had to settle for a field goal, making it 7-3.

And right after that defensive stand, Mayes and the Lehigh offense embarked on a 13 play, 68 yard drive to go up 14-3, using a little bit of everything.  Mayes was 3-for-3 on the drive, finding junior WR Trevor Socarras and junior WR Jarrod Howard with a great leaping grab, followed by a diet of freshman RB Dominick Bragalone and sophomore RB Nana Amankwah-Ayeh.

 In the red zone, it was time for junior QB Nick Shafnisky, who zipped though a huge hole in the "O" line for the touchdown.

"It was a lot better to have that first start under my belt," Mayes said afterwards.  "A bunch of guys, the O line, Dom, all the wideouts, even some of my friends from the freshman class, they got to me and said, 'It's just football.   You've been playing it since you've been 5, 6, 7 years old.'  I really took that to my game this week, just like last week, and I've been doing what I've been doing my entire life."

Mayes had an outstanding day, going 17-for-21 with 239 yards and 3 TDs, all which came in the first half.  Two came in the last three minutes in the first half, the first to sophomore WR Gatlin Casey over the middle for a 43 yard touchdown and the second an 11 yard pass to Socarras in the middle of the end zone.  For good measure, Mayes scrambled on a 4th-and-3 and got thr four yards necessary to move the chains.

"Brad played very, very well," Coen said.  "He actually stepped up his game from what he did last week. We were able to utilize Nick as well. It was a really good combination there with both guys being able to play and make important plays within the game."

With a 31 point halftime lead, Lehigh did something that might be unfamiliar to fans who used to watch "Air Lehigh" in the 90s and 2000s - run the ball.  Lehigh ran the ball 60 times during the game, with Bragalone getting over 100 yards for the fourth straight contest.

"We wanted to control the game on the ground," Coen said of Lehigh's 60 rushing attempts. "Holy Cross threw it 50-something times. You can really extend the game by just throwing and throwing, but we were chewing up clock and using efficient runs. This is the most we've run but if we have the ability to do that, we're going to do that.  If you can run 60 times, you're probably going to win."

Senior OL Matt Ford, junior OL Brandon Short, junior OL Zach Duffy, sophomore OL Tim O'Hara and senior OL Matt Cohen were the trench guys that made those rushing yards possible, dominating the line of scrimmage most of the game.  Bragalone, Shafnisky, Amankwah-Ayeh and freshman RB Micco Brisker all had individual runs of 10 yards during the flow of the game.

"With the rushing game, it makes my job ten times easier," Mayes said.  "They have to respect the run, which opens up my ability to throw the ball to these great wideouts we have.  The line did a fantastic job, just like they did last week."

On defense, sophomore S Quentin Jones set up two scores on two different interceptions, incuding one near the end of the first half to set up the touchdown before halftime.

"The first one was a gift," Jones said, a smile coming across his face as he said it.  "Once I saw [the receiver] slip down, I thought we got to capitalize on out opportunities, so I made sure I caught it, and try to get what I can with the ball.  The second one, it was kind of funny because coach told me I had the running back, and sure enough when he came out there he had the wheel route, and as soon as I turned my head around the ball was right there.  I juggled it, and made sure I came up with it."

The resounding win keeps Lehigh's chances for a Patriot League championship alive.  If they beat Colgate next week and Lafayette in the 151st meeting of The Rivalry in two weeks, the Mountain Hawks will do no worse than get a share of the Patriot League championship.

That makes next week's game extremely interesting.

"I'm really pleased with [this outcome]," Coen said, "and looking forward to our next game vs. Colgate."


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