Senior Alex Buford practices at Whitehead Football Practice Fields on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Lehigh's next game is against Colgate at Goodman Stadium on Nov. 15, 2014. (Andrew Garrison/B&W photo)

Football loses seventh game of season to Holy Cross


The Mountain Hawks 2014 season can be summed up in one word: frustration.

Frustration has plagued Lehigh (2-7, 1-3) in many different ways this season. A myriad of year-ending injuries to starters, a freak-lightning strike that lead to an opening day loss against James Madison University and inconsistent play have all contributed to the team’s lackluster start.

Saturday was no different, as Worcester, Massachusetts served as the latest site of the almost inevitable Saturday feeling of frustration for Lehigh football when the team fell to the College of the Holy Cross Crusaders (4-6, 2-2) by a score of 27-20.

After the team’s 48-27 loss to Fordham University on Oct. 25, senior receiver and captain Josh Parris gave his team a choice: keep chugging or pack it in. Coming off a win at Georgetown University last week, the Hawks did anything but roll over against the Crusaders on Saturday.

Digging themselves out of a 14-point deficit at halftime, the Hawks chugged their way back into the contest. Sophomore running back Brandon Yosha, playing in his third game back after sitting out for three weeks with a leg injury, brought the Hawks within seven after his 11-yard touchdown run with under four minutes to go in the game.

Rich Sodeke, '15, practices at Whitehead Football Practice Fields on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014.

Senior running back Rich Sodeke, ’15, carries the ball down the field during a drill in an Oct. 29 practice at Whitehead Football Practice Fields. (Andrew Garrision/B&W Photo)

Poised to complete the comeback late in the fourth quarter, the Mountain Hawk faithful were due for some luck. No lightning, no injury could stop the team from collecting their first set of back-to-back wins of the season. They were wrong.

As sophomore quarterback Nick Shafnisky fell back into the pocket, frustration struck again at the expense of the men in brown and white. Shafnisky’s pass tipped off the hands of freshman receiver Sasha Kelsey, falling into the grasp of Crusader junior defensive back Steven Martinez, sealing Holy Cross’s first win over Lehigh since 2009.

In the post-game press conference, coach Andy Coen echoed his frustration to the media.

“You can’t turn the ball over the way we did very carelessly,” Coen said. “Not scoring when we went for it in the first quarter and then the turnovers was a big key to it. We really beat ourselves today.”

Despite the loss, the Hawk’s offense continued to show signs of progress. Amassing 470 yards of total offense to Holy Cross’s 306, the Hawks took to the air to try to steal a win on the road. Shafnisky completed 24 of 38 passes for 390 yards and a touchdown, but not without surrendering two interceptions. Freshman receiver Troy Pelletier’s career-day did not end in ideal fashion, however. His 214-yard day was cut short in the fourth quarter after suffering an injury.

As Shafnisky and Pelletier dominated the air, the Hawks turned to Yosha for some yardage on the ground. Yosha has been eased back into the Hawk backfield over the last three weeks, and Coen’s offensive staff continued to take it light on the speedster in Worcester. Carrying the ball only six times against the Crusaders, Yosha tallied 17 yards and his fourth touchdown of the season. Yosha, who has battled his own frustration with his injury this year, is tempering the frustration of the Hawks’ season as a whole.

“In the locker room after the game was the most frustrated I’ve been all year,” Yosha admitted. “The season isn’t over. We’re going to come out and have a big week of practice. One of the biggest games in the program’s history against Lafayette is coming, and we’ll be ready.”

If there is one thing Yosha has learned in his football career it is resiliency. Lower body injuries have plagued the Carmel, Indiana, native from his time in high school and at his former school, the University of Miami, as well. Refusing to pack it in on an individual front after getting hurt, Yosha knows his team isn’t going to roll over in the final two weeks of the season.

“We’ve known for a while now that the playoffs are out after the loss to Fordham,” Yosha said. “We are a resilient enough of a group to come and work hard at practice every day to play our best each Saturday.”

The senior class will end their collegiate football careers with only one Patriot League championship ring, courtesy of the 2011 season. But even though more hardware for the Lehigh trophy case is out of the question for this season, the class of 2015 is anything but checked out.

Senior tight-end Tyler Coyle remembers what it took to win that ring years ago and is trying to instill those winning habits into the younger guys.

Troy Pelletier, '18, practices at Whitehead Football Practice Fields on Wednesday Oct. 29, 2014. Lehigh's next game is against Colgate at Goodman Stadium on Nov. 15, 2014.

Freshman wide receiver Troy Pelletier, ’18, runs a route during an Oct. 29 practice at Whitehead Football Practice Fields. Pelletier had a career-day in the game against Holy Cross but was benched in the fourth quarter due to an injury. (Andrew Garrison/B&W Photo)

“When we were freshmen winning a Patriot League Championship, the older kids knew what it took to win,” Coyle said. “There are certain things you need to do like not going out on week nights and respecting the process.”

Coyle and his class have a mere two weeks before they make the transition from football players to alumni. They plan on making every second of every practice count to instill the values of the aforementioned process to the young Hawks. The principal rule of which is to take nothing for granted.

“Our motto is TNT: There’s No Tomorrow,” Coyle said. “You never know when the season is going to be over or when your last play is going to be. We’ve had so many guys go down this year in the blink of an eye.”

Just ask sophomore lineman Brandon Short and junior receiver Derek Knott, whose promising seasons were prematurely ended due to injury earlier this season.

For Coyle and his fellow seniors, the “tomorrow’s” are dwindling down but not before their two biggest games of the season. With Rivalry 150 looming in the Bronx, the Hawks are trying to stay grounded against secondary rival Colgate University.

The last time the Raiders visited Goodman Stadium, the game ended with a mass-celebration on the Mountain Hawk crest at the 50-yard line and a league championship was brought back to upstate New York. No current junior or senior on the team forgets that feeling of the 38-21 championship game loss. They want another crack at the 2012 champs.

“We always get asked about Lafayette, but Colgate is the biggest game right now,” Coyle said. “It’s a huge game for the freshmen who haven’t been a part of that rivalry.”

The season hasn’t gone anywhere close to the way the seniors had hoped for, but the support from the underclassmen have helped keep their heads high.

“It’s pretty cool for sure knowing the whole team is behind you,” Coyle said. ” Obviously this season playing for the seniors is a little more noticeable. The seniors know how much another win for us in on the minds of the younger kids.”

The seniors will take the field in Bethlehem for the last time this Saturday, Nov. 15 against Colgate University at 12:30 pm.

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