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Raindrops Can't Slow Down Lehigh, Defeat Holy Cross 46-14

(Photo Credit: Jay Anderson/Worcester Telegram)

It was a day where even when things went wrong they went right for the Mountain Hawks.

It was early in the second quarter, deadlocked at 7.  Sophomore QB Brad Mayes, picked the starter as senior QB Nick Shanfisky would be the backup to let his injured leg continue to heal, would get a drive going with an 18 yard pass to junior WR Troy Pelletier.  Two plays later, sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone would run a counter play left, escape a few tackles, and surge for a 28 yard run into Holy Cross territory.

You could feel some momentum building as Mayes would connect on a 4th and 7 to Pelletier to get into the Holy Cross red zone, and again when he would rifle a ball to junior WR Gatlin Casey over the middle.  There was even more when sophomore RB Micco Brisker would keep his legs moving - and his offensive line, pushing - until he reached the end zone.

Up 13-7, on the extra point Shafnisky, who holds during extra points, got a low snap, and scrolled right.  Looking up, he saw junior DE Tyler Cavenas, wide open in the end zone, waving his hands.  To salvage the free shot at points, he lofted the ball to Tyler - and he came down with the ball.

It ended up a very good day for the Mountain Hawks, where positive thing after positive thing kept happening for the Mountain Hawks, some planned, some unplanned.  Despite a game where weather seemed like it might make for a tough go, Lehigh wasn't slowed down at all in their 46-14 win.
"We had a good game today, both offensively and defensively," senior ROV Laquan Lambert said after the game.   " The defense came out, we were playing a lot of fast and physical ball, and our offense was able to get out there and put up a lot of points."

Down 7-0 after a 2 yard run by WR Brendan Flaherty off an excellent block on the right side, it didn't necessarily feel like the Mountain Hawks were going to have an easy go on Saturday.

"The defense did a great job," Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said. "The first drive of the game, they came out with two tight ends that is something we really hadn't seen. It caught us off of guard a little bit and they were able to get to the edge. Other than that the guys did a great job."

(Photo Credit: Lehigh Athletics)
After giving up an early touchdown to the Crusaders, on the last Holy Cross drive of the first quarter senior CB Brandon Leaks would expertly go after a ball that bounced up and off of a Crusader receiver, bobbling the ball a little before securing the ball with both hands, stopping a drive.

Nobody knew it at the time, but that bobbled ball steadied by Leaks would be just the beginning of the bounces going Lehigh's way - along with a whole lot of other great plays on both sides of the ball.

The result of the twelve Holy Cross drives after their initial TD reads: Punt, Interception, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Interception, Fumble, Interception, Turnover on Downs.

“We started out the game real well, but it quickly went the other way,” Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore said afterwards. “We really struggled in all phases. Offensively, we couldn’t get any consistency running or throwing the ball. On defense, I think Lehigh is one of those teams that once they get on a roll they are hard to stop. We knew they were really good and capable of doing a lot of good things. We had a lot of issues today, and that resulted in a big score.”

Lambert had a couple of big tackles in that first half too, including a big tackle for loss after Lehigh's unexpected two-point conversion in the second quarter.  After the Crusader punt, the Mountain Hawks would march down the field with a drive that ended with a 34 yard field goal by sophomore PK Ed Mish to make it 18-7 Lehigh.

"We got to the quarterback," Coen said.  "I loved as the game went on, how our young kids got after the quarterback. Just great to see those young players step up and really play well."

In the second half, it everything would seemingly come up Lehigh.

On the initial drive of the second half, Mayes would find wide-open senior WR Derek Knott over the middle for a 31 yard gain.  Executing the offense with blazing speed, Mayes would end a drive with a 2 yard touchdown pass to Casey.  25-7.

After the defense stopped Holy Cross with a 3-and-out, Mayes would hand off to Bragalone, who would see a big hole in the center of the line, and once he got through it, it was 66 yards for a thrilling touchdown, his longest run from scrimmage on the season.  32-7.

"They were blitzing a tremendous amount," Coen said.  "The one big play, we hit them in a blitz and Dom took it."

"The offensive line did a great job opening up holes," Bragalone said afterwards.  "Going into this game, we knew the weather wasn't going to be very good, so we knew we were going to run more than usual.  The offensive line really stepped it up, everyone on the offense stepped it up, and they just made the holes for me."

Bragalone ran for 182 net yards and 2 touchdowns, averaging 10.7 yards per carry in his breakout game, while Mayes, who would finish 20 for 30 for 287 yards and 3 TDs, would balance the offense with another great day.

When Bragalone occasionally would stall in the red zone, Mayes was able to shift gears and find Pelletier (9 catches, 70 yards, 2 TDs) or Casey (6 catches, 94 yards, 1 TD), while all the while finding Knott (5 catches, 123 yards) for big gainers to move the chains.

And that doesn't even take into account the defense, who got eleven tackles for loss on the day from ten different players.  In a way it seems fitting that Tyler Cavenas, the defensive end with the 2 point conversion reception, would also have 2 tackles for loss and a sack, while team captain senior LB Colton Caslow would have 1 1/2 sacks.  

Senior LB Pierce Ripanti, tied for the team lead in tackles with 5, seemed like he had a lot more as he was constantly hurrying Holy Cross QB Blaise Bell into incompletions.

All that pressure caused turnovers, with four players nabbing interceptions (Leaks, Lambert, sophomore DB Mike Gies and sophomore S Sam McCloskey) and another alertly pouncing on a faulty lateral to notch a fumble recovery (senior LB Evan Harvey).

On special teams, two huge returns by Holy Cross WR Jake Wieczorek were called back due to block in the back penalties - more than 100 yards and a touchdown nullified.

Even when a punt snap got bobbled by Ed Mish, things turned out well.  Mish simply steadied his hands, rolled right, adjusted to a rugby-style kick, got drilled as he delivered the punt - a 48 yarder that was inches away from being a tackle for loss and a huge momentum swing.

It was that sort of day that ended with a stress-free fourth quarter and critical Lehigh victory in league play.

"In order to keep this momentum going,"  Lambert said, "all we need to do is continue to do what we've been doing each and every week, which is playing hard football, practicing each and every day like it's our last, just doing everything we've been coached to do.  We just have to believe in the process and work hard."

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