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Round 1 of the 2017 FCS Playoffs: Lehigh vs. New Hampshire!

Stop me if you've heard this before: As a reward for being the surprise outright winner of the Patriot League football championship, the reward is a trip to New Hampshire, the winner headed to seeded James Madison for a second-round game.  And somewhere, Sam Houston State looms on the horizon.

This is the exact situation that Colgate found itself last season, and this year, Lehigh is poised to run through the exact same gauntlet and the exact same teams.

Sunday morning, Lehigh found out their opponents for the FCS Playoffs; the New Hampshire Wildcats.  The game will be played at New Hampshire at 2PM EST, and will be available to watch on ESPN3 on your computer and possibly ESPN Gameplan Pay-Per-View on your TV.


The good news about the draw is that New Hampshire and James Madison, though not exactly simple destinations for football games, are doable drives from the Lehigh Valley.  And, as Colgate last year proved, they shouldn't be seen as daunting, impossible games for the Patriot League Champions.

Yet with this draw comes a tinge of disappointment for those of us who were hoping for a home game against St. Francis (PA), Albany, or maybe even Villanova.

The thought was that Lehigh had a competitive bid for a home game, but that the lack of stadium lights may have made it a non-starter.

"First, second and quarterfinal-round games broadcast on ESPN3 may start no earlier than 1 p.m. local time," the NCAA pre-championship manual states.  "Preferred game times will be taken into strong consideration; however, finalized game times will ultimately be determined by ESPN in consultation with the NCAA."

Though no official explanation has been given for Lehigh not getting a home game, the existence of this above rule is problematic for Murray Goodman Stadium, without lights.

Lehigh home games are always 12:30 PM kickoffs during the regular season for this reason, to make sure that there is plenty of time to get the game in before the sun goes down completely.

With a mandated 1:00 PM start and a current sunset in Bethlehem at 4:39 PM at this time of year, there would be considerable doubt as to whether the game could be completed without additional lights being necessary, not only for the field but the unlit parking areas as well.

Many times in years past, FCS playoff games have had noon kickoffs, including games at Murray Goodman Stadium.  The 1PM restriction is more recent, and it is unclear whether an exception could have been made here, or not.

The upshot is, however, Lehigh will be sent on the road to play the Wildcats, who last saw Lehigh in Durham in 2014, where they won fairly handily, 45-27.

"I figured that's probably where we would go as that's been the pattern lately for Patriot League teams," Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said. "I'm excited about it. We have a history with New Hampshire. I haven't seen them this year but they played Holy Cross early in the season and it was a competitive game. I think our guys will be up to the challenge."

Junior WR Troy Pellietier had a little gleam in his eye about playing New Hampshire, as his hometown (Deerfield) is about a half an hour from where the game is being played (Durham).

"It's really exciting," he told LehighSports.Com.  "I've got a ton of friends and family that will be able to go to the game, and I've got a lot of friends on the team, so it will be a great experience."

Despite the fact that it's going to be the first playoff game for all the members of this Lehigh team, Pelletier didn't think it was going to be too different than any other week.

"We're going to approach it just like any other game this season," he said.  "Follow our process, and get better each and every day."

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