Archive For The “Nick Shafnisky” Category
It is an easy narrative to point at the 150th meeting of The Rivalry as the turnaround for the Lehigh football program, where the Mountain Hawks got together after that bitter, bitter loss and decided that enough was enough, and that they were going to not allow their team to be a cellar-dweller.
When Lehigh players, coaches and fans went to bed on Friday night, they probably had visions of the Mountain Hawks’ powerful offense attacking, and overwhelming, Bucknell to coast to a share of a Patriot League Championship and the conference’s FCS Playoff bid.
About ten minutes into the game, the 7,049 fans in attendance had probably figured out that if Lehigh was going to win a championship, it wasn’t going to be won like that.
It was going to have to be earned. It was going to have to be grabbed from Bucknell, smashing them in the mouth the same way they were smashing us.
It cannot be emphasized enough how Lehigh had to earn every single inch of this Patriot League victory, how not easy this win really was.
How the Mountain Hawks fell behind, clawed and scratched back to get the lead. How they had to stop the Bison stampede at key spots, get crucial turnovers, and fire up critical, difficult field goals by sophomore PK Ed Mish. Even extra points, normally considered automatic, took on new dramatic tension.
The offense got punished on every single play up until the final couple of victory formations. But in the end, it was not only a victory, but a victory of the most beautiful, rare sort – the type of win that officially buries the past.
“Sometimes the hardest ones are the ones you enjoy the most,” Coen said. “When you’re winning a championship, it should be hard. Bucknell made it hard on us today, but we’re the ones with the trophy and I can’t be more proud of a group of guys than I am of these guys.”
Perhaps you’ve heard that the Cubs, managed by a Lafayette grad called Joe Maddon, broke their more than century old championship drought vs. the Cleveland Indians last night.
The Lehigh Mountain Hawks’ championship drought isn’t quite as long as that.
But if the Brown and White hope to raise the trophy at Murray Goodman Stadium this weekend, they’ll need to break a mini-curse of their own.
It refers to the Mountain Hawks’ inability over the last four years to win both Game 10 and Game 11 on the schedule, specifically during the last four years.
There have been years that Lehigh has needed Game 10 to have a chance to win the Patriot League, but haven’t been able to get it done. There have been other years where they’ve needed Game 11 to do so, and missed.
When Games 10 and 11 have title implications, and when Lehigh wins those games, they tend to be Patriot League champs. When they lose one or the other, there tends to be the type of hurt that the Indians got to experience firsthand last night.
The Lehigh seniors almost certainly remember how that feels, on the potential last day of their playing careers at Murray Goodman Stadium.
(Photo Credit: Keith Groller/The Morning Call)
Lehigh football post-game press conferences don’t get much more relaxed than the one that happened last weekend.
You can hardly blame head coach Andy Coen, senior QB Nick Shafnisky, junior DE Tyler Cavenas and sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone for feeling that way, after jumping to a 13-0 lead right out of the gates and piling up an incredible 57-9 lead against their opponents last weekend before calling off the dogs.
It led to a familiar feeling in the post-game: talk of how the offense is clicking so well, how the defense keeps coming up big. There were plenty of accolades to go around.
But when one media member tried to lightly broach the subject to Lafayette, the always-loquacious Shafnisky quickly steered the conversation back to next week’s game.
That’s because Shafnisky, perhaps more than anybody, feels the importance of next week’s game vs. Bucknell.
“For us to be in this position, it’s all a credit to us and our coaches. We put ourselves in this position, we earned it. But we didn’t earn anything yet. Next week, when you ask that question again, hopefully I’ll be the happiest man.”
(Photo Credit: Amy Herzog/The Morning Call)
When people think Lehigh football, they rightfully think of a powerful air attack.
After all, the Mountain Hawks boast the top two receivers in all of FCS in regards to receiving yards, junior WR Troy Pelletier and junior WR Gatlin Casey.
What they don’t necessarily think of is a grinding rushing attack, something more out of a triple-option team or perhaps a run-heavy Wing-T team.
Yet in Lehigh’s 58-37 statement win over Fordham, the same Ram team with potential future NFL player RB Chase Edmonds, the main headline wasn’t the aerial show, though there were a few highlight-reel plays there, too.
Instead, the headline became Lehigh’s six rushing touchdowns, three from senior QB Nick Shafnisky and three more from sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone, and 349 yards on the ground.
I looked through the record books last night, and combed through recaps of a lot of football games, and the last time I found that Lehigh scored six rushing touchdowns in a game was in 1971, when FB John “Jack” Rizzo and RB Don Diorio combined for six rushing TDs in a 48-19 win over Lafayette.
That’s some pretty good company.
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The questions around Lehigh, as ever, surrounded the defense. Would they be able to slow down Edmonds? Would he score two touchdowns, or three? Would they hold the almost-certain-NFL-player to only 200 yards?
In all the talk about Edmonds, people forgot about two pretty good runners on the Lehigh side: senior QB Nick Shafnisky and sophomore RB Dominick Bragalone.
Bragalone, for the second straight week, had another amazing game, getting 192 yards rushing, zero negative rushes, and 3 touchdowns. Shafnisky ran for 112 yards and added 3 touchdowns of his own.
It would be a game where Lehigh would not need to punt – the first game since Bucknell in 1999 where that was the case. That’s because they ran over Fordham, 58-37, going up at one point 51-9 before giving up a bunch of late scores.
Next week Lehigh will host Bucknell for the right to clinch an FCS playoff shot, and the chance to do no worse than tie for the Patriot League championship.
It was a day where even when things went wrong they went right for the Mountain Hawks.
Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Florida. South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia.
No, this isn’t a list of Power 5 opponents that are suddenly going to be hosting Lehigh and Holy Cross in football the next few years.
It’s a list of just a few of the many states across the country that will be carrying the TV broadcast of the Lehigh/Holy Cross clash.
It’s going to be airing on something called the American Sports Network, which isn’t a network in the broadcast sense but more of a network in the Internet sense: a network of interconnected stations, some over-the-air broadcasts, some local cable stations, that will be carrying Lehigh football over their airwaves.
If you live in PA, all you need to know is the game is going to air on CSN-Philly, CSN-MidAtlantic+, WHP-2 Harrisburg, WPNT-2 Pittsburgh, or WSWB-2 Wilkes-Barre. If you live somewhere else in the lower 48 states, a full list of broadcast outlets can be found here.
It adds to the tension of what is already a big game this weekend.
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(Photo Credit: Chris Barry/The Brown and White File Photo)
In terms of national recognition, life in the Patriot League isn’t always easy.
Certainly Patriot League players and fans read the preseason magazines about FCS. And last I checked, the youth of America still watch ESPN, and they see some FCS darlings in the FCS Kickoff Classic, like North Dakota State.
They tune into the college football landscape, and they see Eastern Washington upsetting Washington State, Bo Pelini coaching Youngstown State, Albany upsetting Buffalo.
Yes, the national FCS scene has their darlings, and frequently it feels like the Patriot League and their opponents are mere afterthoughts in the world where Big Sky teams are putting up big scores, Sam Houston State is beating all comers, The Citadel is dominating in the South, and the Missouri Valley Football Conference sees almost half its members in the Top 25.
And despite having junior WR Troy Pelletier and junior WR Gatlin Casey sitting at No. 1 and No. 2 in the FCS in receiving,respectively, despite a five game winning streak, and despite their emergence as a top contender for the Patriot League title past the halfway point of the season, Lehigh sits just outside the national Top 25 polls.
Respect in the Patriot League is easy to lose, and hard to earn back – and this Lehigh team seems to know how fragile that is.
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Although you see big, bright smiles on the faces of senior CB Brandon Leaks and senior WR Trevor Soccaras when talking about the performance over the last four football games, their focus has understandably been on Georgetown and guarding against a possible letdown.
Such thought is undeniably warranted, especially if they caught the college football scores from yesterday.
There was only one college football game being contested Thursday night, which was Monmouth vs. Presbyterian.
The Hawks, who already beat Lehigh on opening weekend and also beat Fordham last weekend, had a short week to prepare for their Thursday game. But few people thought they would struggle against 1-4 Big South leaguemate Presbyterian, who had already lost to a Division II school (Florida Tech).
Instead, the classic letdown game happened – a 17-13 loss that almost certainly doomed any chance Monmouth has to not only win the Big South, but also to qualify for any sort of at-large postseason berth.