Freshman running back Christopher Lehigh carries the ball in the rivalry game against Lafayette at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 22. Lehigh lost 27-7 in the 150th meeting of the schools. (Andrew Garrison/B&W photo)

Hawks freshmen discuss big game experience

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The 150th game of the Rivalry came and went, and Lafayette College proved its superiority over Lehigh’s football team for the second year in a row. But regardless of the outcome, nothing can take away the experience that all of the players had that day, whether it was the experience of playing in front of almost 50,000 fans or playing in a professional stadium.

Some freshmen even received action in the game, such as wide receivers Troy Pelletier and Sasha Kelsey, defensive back Quentin Jones, defensive lineman Tyler Cavenas and running back Chris Leigh

Jones explained how focused everyone was on the game on Saturday.

“Saturday was a day all about focus,” he said. “The whole day everyone was focused on winning the game from the moment we woke up.”

For the freshmen on the team, it was a much different way than usual to start out their Lehigh-Lafayette experiences. While almost every senior football player to graduate from Lehigh in recent history played two games in Bethlehem and two games in Easton, the class of 2018 played its first game against Lafayette on the big stage.

“The experience was everything I expected, except for the loss,” Jones said. “It felt like we were playing in a bowl game, and I loved it. And I wish for many more games like that.”

Cavenas agreed with him, saying that the experience of the game was almost indescribable.

“The game was incredible,” he said. “It was a great atmosphere to play in, and it is something that I will never forget. Obviously there were ups and downs, and we didn’t come out with a win, but I know everyone left all they had on the field.”

Arguably the most important player on Lehigh’s team that day was Leigh, who broke free in the third quarter for a 70-yard rushing touchdown. That touchdown was Lehigh’s only score of the entire game.

“The offensive line did a great job blocking…we did a great job on the wideouts blocking the corners,” Leigh said. “I was able to get outside, and I was able to break free, so credits to all the blocking that happened.”

Leigh finished the game with four carries for 81 yards and the touchdown. His rushing yard total, a career high for him, led the team Saturday. It was also his second touchdown of his college career.

One thing that kept coming up was the atmosphere of the game and how it made the game feel bigger.

“Walking out and seeing the stands packed, I was in shock at how many people were here,” Cavenas said. “I took a look around, and I realized that this is a big deal.”

Jones seemed to have the same reaction to first stepping onto the field.

“When I first got onto the field, I looked around and saw all the people, and that energized me because I love the big stage, and I was so happy that there were a lot of people,” he said.

Pelletier, who has arguably been Lehigh’s best receiver this year, also got a lot of playing time in this game. Lafayette’s defense was stopping the Mountain Hawks’ passing game well, though, and he could only total three catches for 25 yards. Still, it was the most receptions for a Lehigh player in the game.

On the defensive side, Jones played well, recording a tackle for loss and a pass breakup in the game.

“My first rivalry game in front of 50,000 set the base high for the next three years,” Jones said. “It was a blessing playing in front of that many people, and I wish we could have that every game.”

Unfortunately for the Mountain Hawks, they lost the game, but the freshmen have three more years for a shot at redemption.

“You can use it as motivation and not let it happen again,” Leigh said.

Cavenas had the same feeling, knowing that they’ll get other chances to face Lafayette.

“It’s about who is willing to play harder and leaving everything out there,” he said. “We just came up short this time, but now we have to start preparing for next year and use this as fuel.”

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