Lehigh football ends season on high note, says goodbye to seniors

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Sophomore wide reciever Gatlin Casey recives the ball at the 151st meeting of Lehigh and Lafayette College. Casey scored one touchdown in the game. (Chris Barry/B&W Photo)

Sophomore wide receiver Gatlin Casey receives the ball at the 151st meeting of Lehigh and Lafayette College on Nov. 21 at Goodman Stadium. Casey scored one touchdown in the game. (Chris Barry/B&W Photo)

As winter approaches, another Lehigh football season has come and gone.

The Mountain Hawks finished their season with an overall record of 6-5 and 4-2 in the Patriot League. The Hawks ended the season by topping long-time rival Lafayette College, with a convincing 49-35 victory.

Lehigh’s offense seemed to be the backbone of the team as it finished second in the league in total scoring offense. The Hawks shined this year as they averaged 32.27 points per game with 2,070 yards of rushing offense and 3,017 of passing offense.

Some standout players included freshman running back Dom Bragalone, who finished the season as Lehigh’s top rusher with 1032 yards on 179 attempts and seven touchdowns. Junior quarterback Nick Shafnisky had a big year as well. Shafnisky threw for 2279 yards with 15 passing touchdowns. Shafnisky also finished with 674 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.

On the defensive end, junior linebacker Colton Caslow and senior linebacker Noah Robb led the team with 167 combined tackles and six total sacks. Sophomore defensive back Quentin Jones led the team with three interceptions, while his counterpart, junior defensive back Brian Githens, had two.

Throughout the year, Lehigh’s defensive game plan was to create advantageous matchups as well as staying confident in its run defense to stop teams. The Hawks’ strategy stayed consistent throughout the whole year. They had their base fronts, blitzes and coverages, and the only tweaks in game plans depended on that weeks matchup.

When Lehigh topped College of the Holy Cross earlier in the season 51-38, it used an aggressive game plan to slow down Holy Cross’s quarterback Peter Pujals, who is considered one of the best quarterbacks in the Patriot League. When Lehigh put pressure on Pujals and stopped the run, everything else fell into place, and the result was a big conference win.

As the football team says goodbye to its senior players, it will allow some younger guys to step up as starters. According to Shafnisky, the football team is looking great for next year. The team is bringing back a lot of talented guys as well as its whole starting backfield.

For improvements on offense Shafnisky said, “we just have to keep working on being a consistent offense and not having as many low moments. We also have to work on limiting our turnovers.”

The Hawks do lose some top talent such as senior wide receiver Stefan Sansone, who was sidelined with a mid-season knee injury, as well as senior offensive linemen Matt Ford and Matt Cohen. Lastly at tight end, junior Zach Bucklin and sophomore Drew Paulsen will take over the reigns from Chris Ruhl.

As with any end of a season, many seniors will end their careers and start the next chapter of their lives. For senior Randall Lawson, who is an accounting major, being a part of the Lehigh football program has meant carrying a torch of a respected tradition.

“It meant becoming part of a family that will always show unity and support,” Lawson said. “It meant playing for coaches who really care to see you grow and mature both on and off the field.”

For senior defensive linemen Matt Laub, the past four years as a Lehigh football player has been everything he expected and then some. He raved about the great people he has met and will particularly miss working with the strength trainer, Eric Marcovsky. Although his career has come to a close, Laub is excited to continue following Lehigh football.

“I can’t wait to see what the near future holds for this program,” Laub said.

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