All week, the Lehigh football team was stressing how each year, the game versus Lafayette College is a “second season” for the team. This year, Lehigh finished its second season undefeated.
For the first time since 2012, Lehigh (6-5, 4-2 Patriot) football defeated Lafayette, winning a 49-35 shootout Saturday at Goodman Stadium.
Lehigh knew it had no chance of making the postseason after losing to Colgate University last week, but that didn’t matter much to the team anymore.
“I told the guys, ‘You know it’s tough to lose the opportunity for the league, but we’re blessed to have this game next week, and if you win that game, you won’t even remember what happened at Colgate,’” coach Andy Coen said. “And I’m pretty sure all the seniors would corroborate that today.”
Junior quarterback Nick Shafnisky had what was easily his best game of his college football career. After struggling in the past against the Leopards, he buried that past and lit up the scoreboard for the Mountain Hawks.
He said he doesn’t even talk about last year’s game against Lafayette.
“Especially after this win with my boys and with my family, I won’t ever think about that loss, just this win,” he said. “And that’s why I’m so blessed to play in this game.”
Shafnisky finished the day as the game MVP, completing 21-of-27 passes for 283 yards, four touchdowns and one interception that came on fourth down, which was essentially just a punt.
As usual, his performance wasn’t limited by his passing ability. He ran for 109 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, the first time surpassing 100 rushing yards all season and just the second time he’s done it in his career. His five total touchdowns on the day were tied for a career high.
“I loved just kicking Lafayette’s butt in front of them and showing them what Lehigh’s about,” Shafnisky said.
Shafnisky wasn’t the only Pennsylvania native to set milestones against the Leopards. Dom Bragalone’s 44-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter was enough to put him over 1,000 rushing yards on the season, the only freshman in Lehigh history to do so.
Bragalone, who holds the high school record for the most rushing yards in a season in state history, was kept in check for most of the game, stuffed for just 44 yards other than his touchdown after five straight games over 100 rushing yards.
Coen said he was hoping Bragalone would reach 1,000 yards by the end.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Coen said. “It was in the back of my mind, thinking ‘boy I really hope we can get Dom this record because it would be really cool for him.’”
Lehigh’s defense allowed a large volume of yards and points, a problem it has dealt with all season. However, the highlight of the team defensively was an 84-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the third quarter by junior cornerback Brandon Leaks.
“Once I saw it pop out, I knew that the first thing I had to do was pick up the ball and catch it clean,” Leaks said. “Once I scooped it I knew that my speed was going to take me.”
Following the win, Lehigh will cement its place as third place in the Patriot League, below only Fordham University and Colgate.