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Archive For The “Pierce Ripanti” Category

2016 Season In Review: Mountain Hawks Complete Five Year Trek To Patriot League Championship

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2016 Season In Review: Mountain Hawks Complete Five Year Trek To Patriot League Championship

Kids come to play football at Lehigh because they want their games to matter.

They come to Lehigh willing to sacrifice so much, because they want to win games, of course, but they also play the game in order to win championships – Patriot League Championships.
They want those rings.

Sure, they get to square off against the Villanova’s, James Madison’s and New Hampshire’s of the FCS world to measure themselves against the best of their division.  And they get to participate in the nation’s most played Rivalry in all of college football, putting them in an elite club of players and into college football history.
All of those things are very important, of course, and allow them great playing memories and, in the case of the Lafayette game, perennial bragging rights.  
But 2015’s heartbreak in Hamilton, the 49-42 loss to Colgate, really hurt on a fundamental level for this Lehigh team.  When that senior class was recruited, one of the things that is a part of the deal is that the Mountain Hawks have won Patriot League championships at least once in every four year span.  Until, that is, the class of 2016, though they came agonizingly close several times.
That disappointment seemed to inform this year’s team, which also had a couple of fifth-year seniors in senior WR Derek Knott and senior ROV Laquan Lambert, that so many of last year’s team didn’t get the chance at the championship rings that they ended up earning this season.  
It informed them all the way to a championship, and rings.

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Fate Determined That Lehigh Would Crush The Sweet Dreams Of Their Rival Lafayette, 45-21

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Fate Determined That Lehigh Would Crush The Sweet Dreams Of Their Rival Lafayette, 45-21

The parties raged on in the parking garage next to Fisher Field, which were packed with Lafayette fans eager to enjoy a party with plenty of great food and copious drinks.

The tiny businesses below Fisher Field, the small bits of capitalism next to the concrete husks of factory jobs that have left ages ago, had plenty of visiting Lehigh fans, enjoying the tailgates and ready to invade the stadium that they hadn’t seen in four years.

In the line coming into the stadium, a silent protest of hundreds of Lafayette students clad in black, handing out a political statement on a piece of paper and showing some signs that were up seemingly to simply show that these people exist, and are not happy.

Somewhere in this mix of people escaping, people expressing and people denying, a football game was played, one that matched an 8-2 team that was headed to the national stage and the FCS playoffs, the other a 2-8 squad that had their fans questioning the tenure of their head coach.

It was one of the strangest disconnect of emotions that I’ve ever seen in a Rivalry game, one where the outcome, a 45-21 victory by the Brown and White, was almost expected by everyone going through the crowded gates at Fisher Field.

There was plenty to celebrate – for one side, anyway.
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QUICK RECAP: Lehigh Dominates The Leopards In A 45-21 Rivalry Win

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QUICK RECAP: Lehigh Dominates The Leopards In A 45-21 Rivalry Win

In the most-played college football Rivalry, there was a mild concern of complacency on the Lehigh side.

Would they be able to manage the emotions of the Rivalry after a bye week?  Would they come out flat, and let 2-8 Lafayette take away their chance at an outright Patriot League championship, an undefeated Patriot League record, and a 9-2 regular season mark?

The Mountain Hawks proved resoundingly that fans needn’t have worried.

Lehigh rolled to a 17-0 lead before Lafayette connected on a big pass play, then kept the foot on the gas to get to a 45-7 lead before starting to put in the second stringers.

It was pretty telling that the biggest outpouring of emotion during the game happened when Lehigh’s marching band, the Marching 97, marched off Lafayette’s pep band after they went over on their time to play.  It was that sort of day for a joyous Lehigh victory.
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#Rivalry152 Senior Spotlight

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#Rivalry152 Senior Spotlight

Thought I’d put together this multimedia “presentation” of all the seniors that will be playing in #Rivalry152 tomorrow.  All the content here, pictures, videos, etc. are mostly courtesy of LehighSports.com, The Morning Call, Lehigh Valley Live, and The Brown and White.

If nothing else it will go you something to do while waiting for tomorrow’s game.

Enjoy.

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#Rivalry152 Game Preview: Two Different Paths For Two Ancient Rivals

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#Rivalry152 Game Preview: Two Different Paths For Two Ancient Rivals

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.  

For Lafayette, though, you need to go back further, past some very enormous wins over Lehigh, and wonder. 
“I can’t believe I typed it, but there it is,” I wrote back in 2006 after a crushing 49-28 loss where Lehigh was dominated on both lines of scrimmage.   “We’ve lost three straight to Lafayette. and I’ve got some news: We’re no longer the hunted. The sooner we realize that we now have to be the hunter, the better off we’ll be.”
The co-championship they shared with the Leopards that year had the feel of the worst consolation prize imaginable.  For the second straight year, Lafayette had stolen the FCS Playoff bid right from under the Mountain Hawks, and it was Lehigh left to sit at home to stew.  The post game press conference was as down and dark as could be, the double indignity of losing to Lafayette, and losing any chance at a postseason bid, at the same time.

It felt like Lafayette was on the brink of becoming permanent contenders for the Patriot League championship, meaning their torture of Appalachian State and UMass in the playoffs in consecutive years would be a regular happening over the next decade.  
But it never happened.
This year, Lehigh travels to Easton in their big Rivalry game, sitting at 8-2 and having already clinched a portion of the Patriot League championship, only seeking to remove the “co-” from the word “championship”.  As emotions go, the Mountain Hawks couldn’t be riding more of a high, winners of eight straight.
And Lafayette sits at the opposite extreme, sitting at 2-8 and wondering how they’ve gotten to this point, with only three wins over the last two years.

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Earning A Championship Is Hard, But Lehigh Does So In 20-13 War Against Bucknell

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Earning A Championship Is Hard, But Lehigh Does So In 20-13 War Against Bucknell

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.”

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QUICK RECAP: Lehigh Are Patriot League Champs, Claw Back And Earn Title 20-13

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QUICK RECAP: Lehigh Are Patriot League Champs, Claw Back And Earn Title 20-13

Bucknell hardly made it easy.

The Bison jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and made the lead 13-7 on the backs of touchdowns by RB Joey DeFloria and RB Chad Freshnock.

With a chance to build on their lead, though, Lehigh’s defense stopped Bucknell again, and again, and again.

The Lehigh Mountain Hawk defense, led by heroic performances by senior LB Colton Caslow (11 tackles) and senior LB Pierce Ripanti (10 tackles), forced two turnovers that became a field goal by sophomore PK Ed Mish and a critical stop on Lehigh’s doorstep that preserved Lehigh’s Patriot League Championship.

It was a fitting place, in a fitting game, for Lehigh to take this elusive Patriot League championship and to allow Lehigh to finally crash an FCS Playoff party they had been denied five years ago.  They overturned their loss to Lafayette here in 2013.  They overturned their 4th-and-5 at Colgate last year by a sophomore CB Donavon Harris interception that preserved the slender 7 point lead.

It was tough as hell, but Lehigh got their, um, stuff together, and won the damn championship.
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Lehigh 45, Colgate 31 Postgame Thoughts: Nearly 10,000 At Lehigh Win Evokes Memories Of 2004

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Lehigh 45, Colgate 31 Postgame Thoughts: Nearly 10,000 At Lehigh Win Evokes Memories Of 2004

It honestly felt like a day from another era out there on Saturday – in a good way.

In a world of bitter political debates, supposedly declining college football attendance, alleged tensions between the generations and the ongoing charges increasing collegian apathy, there it was: the official attendance total of the Colgate/Lehigh game of 9,255.

There were a multitude of reasons why people wanted to go see the game.  Perhaps it was something good to do with the family on Family Weekend.  Maybe it was a concerted effort to get students into the games, and keep them there, with new policies and new promotions.  Maybe it was a thumb-your-nose effort at the fans who come for cocktails but don’t go enjoy the game.  Maybe it was individuals, all as a unit, wanting to come out and see if this high-flying, record-setting Lehigh football team is for real.

Or maybe it was all of them; I have no idea, but I know it required a whole lot of planning and a huge amount of effort from a whole lot of people, and I’m glad they did.

Because it felt like something special was brewing in Bethlehem – and not just from the team making everyone pay attention to them on Saturday.  It was the whole thing – the team, the fans, and the atmosphere.  On Saturday, for the first time in a long time, it felt like “it” was back.
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Monmouth at Lehigh Game Preview: Mountain Hawk Defense Will Be Front And Center

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Monmouth at Lehigh Game Preview: Mountain Hawk Defense Will Be Front And Center

“I hit him with a double move, and then I knew I had him beat,” Monmouth WR Eric Sumlin said after the game, thrilled with the play of his Hawks.  “It was a great feeling.”The happy occasion – or unhappy occasion, in the case of Lehigh fans – was …

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LFN’s Five Burning Questions Of Preseason Camp

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LFN’s Five Burning Questions Of Preseason Camp

It’s almost here – the 2016 football season.

On August 8th, the Lehigh football team finished their offseason testing and officially started in with the incoming freshman class.

Head coach Andy Coen was very impressed with the 20 new faces of the incoming class.

“It’s always a huge for the freshmen coming from high school to college but I think that group of kids did a really good job,” he told LehighSports.com.  “I was really impressed that we didn’t have as many mental mistakes, especially the young guys,” he continued. “That’s always good to see. The guys are keeping their faces in the playbook, learning and trying to get better.”

So what will Lehigh Nation be looking at during the 2015 preseason?
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