Archive For The “Dominck Bragalone” Category
(Photo Credits: Mike Geer/Lehigh Athletics)
“We went right at ’em.”
That was head coach Andy Coen talking to Lehigh Sports’ Steve Lomangino after the Mountain Hawks’ 42-21 win over Bucknell.
With their Patriot League title hopes on the line, and the No. 1 defense in the Patriot League the opposition, it seemed like the Mountain Hawks might enter into the type of defensive struggle that defined last year’s game against Bucknell.
But after junior LB Mark Walker forced and and grabbed a Bison fumble and returned it to the Bucknell 9 yard line, junior QB Brad Mayes didn’t mess around.
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The 2017 Lehigh Mountain Hawks are known for having a great offense, a high-octane group that features stars like junior QB Brad Mayes and junior RB Dominick Bragalone.
But senior WR Troy Pelletier would trade it all for conference wins.
On an afternoon where he broke a bunch of school and Patriot League records – some of them unanticipated – his focus, as ever, was about getting the league victories that count towards the main goal of this team – to defend their Patriot League Championship.
“I didn’t know what the records are,” Troy said afterwards about his record-busting, 16 catch, 197 receiving yard, 4 touchdown performance. “I just knew I was close. I knew it was going to come if I bought in every day, do what I need to do every day to get better, and I knew it would come.”
Fortunately for Lehigh fans, his banner day came to allow Lehigh to resoundingly beat Georgetown 54-35 and go to 2-0 in Patriot League play.
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It was a very different time for Lehigh football, but in 1966, the Engineers started out the season 0-5, and had to travel up to Hamilton, New York to take on the Colgate Red Raiders.
“Lehigh faces its toughest opponent of the season tomorrow afternoon in the Red Raiders of Colgate, at Kerr Memorial Stadium in Hamilton, N.Y,” the 1966 Brown and White preview read.
After their 21-15 loss to Colgate in 1966, the Engineers would fall to 0-6 and eventually finish 0-9 on the season, the last time Lehigh started a season 0-6 and the last time Lehigh would go winless in a season as well.
It was that sort of historic elephant that the 2017 Mountain Hawks had on their backs this Saturday, whether they realized it or not.
Had they lost to their Chenango Valley rival, they would have been the first Lehigh football team to go 0-6 in more than fifty years. 0-5 entering this game, ironically their sixth shot at a football victory would involve going to the same venue to play the same opponent they played fifty-one years ago trying to avoid a 0-6 start.
Turning around an 0-5 start could be one of the hardest jobs in football, especially against a hated conference rival, and especially in a place that has always been a difficult place for Lehigh to play.
And it wasn’t easy. The 2017 Mountain Hawks had help, both from some tough calls against Colgate and from some boneheaded penalties against the Raiders that were justified.
But this group of athletes achieved that goal that eluded the same goal of the Lehigh Engineers of 1966. The football team playing this Saturday won a hard-fought 41-38 contest that maybe, just maybe, might have turned things around just in time.
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It was Colgate 28, Lehigh 14 as the first half was coming to a close. The Mountain Hawks had the ball, but the pall over Lehigh fans everywhere was very evident – “here we go again,” most seemed to be thinking.
You couldn’t blame fans necessarily for thinking that way, of course. The Mountain Hawks hadn’t found out yet this year how to pull out a game like this, and normally, a two-touchdown deficit to Colgate feels like a four-touchdown deficit, the way they run the ball and gradually crush the spirit of opposing teams.
Driving and scrambling – somewhat of a broken play – junior QB Brad Mayes found junior RB Dominick Bragalone downfield with a big 35 yard touchdown pass, cutting the deficit to 28-21.
And then, gradually, over the course of a half of football, Lehigh put mistakes behind them just as the uncharacteristic mistakes by Colgate seemed to mount. One Colgate touchdown would be called back. Then another. And Lehigh would battle back to tie the game twice, fall behind by a field goal with 5 minutes to play, and then score the winning touchdown and get a game’s only turnover at the exact right time to preserve the win.
Somewhere, Al “Just Win, Baby” Davis was smiling.
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You could say that following Lehigh football through the first five weeks has been an exercise in frustration.
That’s probably understating things quite a bit.
The season was not supposed to unfurl itself in this way.
The Mountain Hawks, rated in the Top 25 to start the season, remained that way after losing a tough game against Villanova, but then fell out of the national rankings when they followed that up with a loss to Monmouth.
And since, the team has just kept losing, each week more excruciating than the last.
Some Lehigh fans appear to think that the Mountain Hawks could turn things around and make a run at the Patriot League Championship in a world where the Patriot League is a combined 9-20 against out-of-conference foes.
I suppose it is still possible.
But to this fan, this goal can’t be the focus of the coming week.
Speaking as a fan, I feel the focus of all the players and coaches needs to be on one singular goal: how to win one, singular, football game.
(Photo Credit: Kyle Craig/Lehigh Valley Live)
Head coach Andy Coen would hear nothing of moral victories in the post game press conference.
“I thought we had every opportunity to win this football game,” Lehigh’s frustrated head coach said.
“When you go through this stuff,” he said, flipping through the pages of the post-game statistics packet, “you’re going to see a lot of mistakes. You see it with some young guys, guys in their first game, but we had some guys that where it was just out of character.”
It was a game where neither side looked like they were in mid-season form, though you could see the quality shine through offensively on both sides at different times. So the outcome hinged on mistakes, and who made fewer of them – and that team was Villanova.
That shouldn’t take away from the offensive fireworks on both sides.
There was the tremendous blocking up front that set up a great rushing day for Villanova RB Matt Gudzak, who ran for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns, and an effecient all-purpose yardage of a day for Wildcat QB Zach Bednarczyk, who went 17 for 23 passing and scored three touchdowns, two through the air and on the ground.
And there was the electricity of junior QB Brad Mayes repeatedly connecting with senior WR Troy Pelletier, senior WR Gatlin Casey, and the newest starter in the receiving corps, junior WR Luke Christiano. Mayes went 33 for 49 passing for 406 yards and 4 touchdowns, and some of them were a sight to behold.
Yet it would boil down to mistakes – a pass here with too much mustard, a dropped reception there, a missed assignment there – and Lehigh simply made too many of them to beat a quality Top 10 ranked team at home.
“After the game, and we all got in our circle,” coach Coen said, “and I just told them all, you guys need to look into your mirror, and see how you feel about what you did or didn’t do right. They were a very good football team, and I give them a lot of credit – they were very fast, and very physical. This was an opportunity for us to beat a very good Villanova team, and also an opportunity to beat someone from the CAA, which I thought would be very important for us. We didn’t get it done.”
Spotlight On: QB Brad Mayes
Rightfully, much of the focus of Lehigh’s football coverage this offseason has been on the offense. That makes sense; after all, Lehigh ranked near the top of every receiving and rushing category in 2016.
Yet most of that coverage has been on guys that have been on preseason FCS all-American teams (senior WR Troy Pelletier, junior RB Dominick Bragalone) or probably should have been on more of them (senior WR Gatlin Casey).
Oddly, the focus on those all-League caliber players have shifted the focus from what could be the most important transition from the 2016 offense to the 2017 offense – the transition to a new starting quarterback.
Certainly, junior QB Brad Mayes was no ordinary understudy for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks last season.
Though technically he did back up QB Nick Shafnisky, he showcased his obvious talent multiple times last year, most notably breaking a Yale Bowl record with 524 passing yards and scoring 6 passing touchdowns in a 63-35 win over Yale.
Much press has rightfully gone to the receivers and running backs, but the direction of the 2017 football season might come down to the play of the quarterback whose number switched from No. 14 to No. 4 this season.
“I think Troy and Dom are outstanding players and they deserve all the recognition they’ve been getting,” Brad told me. “And I’m excited to play alongside those guys, because that makes my job that much easier.”
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(Photo Credit: Akira Suwa/Philly.com)
Writing a season preview about Villanova used to be the easiest job in the world.
Just grab your boilerplate biographical information about future hall-of-fame head coach Andy Talley, do a little Googling of the Wildcat’s next up-and-coming NFL prospects, come up with a dozen synonyms for the words “tough” and “challenge”, and the preview basically writes itself.
But this season’s task of facing Villanova is simply different than all of those other years. Talley, the only coach Villanova has ever known since restarting their football program in 1985 after a failed attempt to pull the plug on it in 1981 in the middle of spring practice, has finally retired from the head coaching ranks. While the same familiar trappings of high preseason rankings and potential NFL prospects remain, their new head coach, longtime Talley assistant Mark Ferrante, is now running the Wildcats and will be seeking his first win as a collegiate head football coach.
The three things that are certain is that the Wildcats are ranked No. 10 in the STATS FCS Top 25 Poll to start the year, that they’re ranked No. 9 in the FCS Coaches’ Poll, and that when they come and visit Murray Goodman Stadium on September 2nd at 12:30 PM, they’ll be playing Lehigh in a battle between Top 25 teams.
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Some spring games are loaded with drama as to who might be rising into starting positions.
On Lehigh’s offense, which boasts a backup quarterback-turned-starter that threw for 1,000 yards last year, a 1,000 yard rusher, and two of the Top 10 receivers in all of FCS, drama for starting positions was, shall we way, lacking.
Instead, the scrimmage became a show as to what Lehigh fans might be able to hope to see in Setpember, a reminder of all the good things that may be in store.
In that sense, even though they started out slow, junior QB Brad Mayes, junior RB Dominick Bragalone, senior WR Troy Pelletier and senior WR Gatlin Casey showed that they indeed still knew how to play some football.
They all came to play, and in the process gave Lehigh fans a taste of an offense that has the potential to be special yet again.
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Kids come to play football at Lehigh because they want their games to matter.