Whether they hail from South Mountain or reside in Easton, current undergraduates from Lehigh and Lafayette will experience The Rivalry at Fisher Stadium for the first time Saturday.
From first-year students who have never experienced a rivalry game to seniors who have attended two games at Goodman Stadium and one at Yankee Stadium, it’s a first for everyone. Among many students at both schools, the same emotion seems to resonate: excitement.
“My parents both went here, and Lafayette-Lehigh used to be the biggest weekend of the year,” Lafayette first-year student Lexi Long said. “They used to rip down the goalposts. Hopefully it won’t be quite as rowdy this year, I don’t think it’s even possible. But they said it was always their favorite weekend, so I’m excited.”
While first-year students have never experienced The Rivalry, those who have experienced the game are still curious what a Lafayette home game means.
The only time current undergraduates have been to a Lafayette “home game” was the 150th meeting at Yankee Stadium. Students on both campuses are engaging in spirited festivities throughout the week, while the athletes work to remain focused.
Lafayette sophomore defensive back Clayton Rush has only experienced the rivalry matchup at Lehigh and is looking forward to playing with his team at home.
“I just think it’s a really big deal, being there last year and having a hectic environment at Lehigh was pretty intense, so to have that here and have it be our fans, is crazy,” Rush said. “It’s going to be crazy regardless of where it is, but it’s just a different feeling when it’s home.”
Rush said his team feels more pressure to win at Fisher Stadium. Although the season didn’t go the way the Leopards had hoped, he said a win against Lehigh would motivate the team going into next year.
With three years of rivalry experience, Connor Staudle, Lafayette senior offensive lineman and team captain, is happy to bring the game back to Easton. Staudle said the team is putting aside any nerves or anxiety for the time being as it prepares for the rivalry.
“The young (players) still don’t know about this whole rivalry ordeal yet, but they will soon enough,” Staudle said. “For the upperclassmen, everyone is excited to be playing in front of their home crowd one last time before the offseason.”
Former Lehigh football player Randall Lawson, ’17G, already knows the feeling of playing in front of his home crowd for the final time. Watching the game from the stands will be an entirely different rivalry experience for him.
Lawson had a difficult time putting into words what it feels like to be on the field for the rivalry game. He joked that while watching from the stands this year, he knows he’ll want to run onto the field and tackle someone, but he’s also looking forward to being a spectator.
“I am definitely excited for my first experience as a fan at Le-Laf,” he said. “I’ll miss being on the field and the pregame feeling, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to have a beer before the game . . . or a couple.”
Four years ago, Lehigh students stormed the field after winning the rivalry game. Fifth-year students who cheered the team to victory their first semester at Lehigh are hoping for a similar outcome Saturday.
Despite the anticipation of a potential win, some students feel that Lehigh harbors a rowdier, more accepting atmosphere for the game.
“In my experience, the rivalry game at Lehigh has always been better because there’s no guessing,” Nicole Fiene, ‘17G, said. “You know exactly where to go. You know what to expect. You know the cops will be reasonable. You can choose to go to student tailgates or hang out with alumni.”
Fiene said regardless of where the game is, it’s important that students participate while they can. She offered some advice for students who are unsure of what a game on Lafayette’s turf will look like:
“Anything is fun as long as you make it fun and surround yourself with the right people.”