With a passing offense ranked fourth in the country in yards per game, the Lehigh football running back core often gets overshadowed despite deserving recognition.
A trio consisting of juniors Micco Brisker and Dom Bragalone and senior Nana Amankwah-Ayeh has rushed for 697 yards throughout the first six games and leads the Patriot League in rushing touchdowns with 13.
Even though the passing offense accounts for 75.1 percent of the team’s yardage production, it was the rushing attack that anchored the Mountain Hawks to its first victory of the season against Colgate University last weekend.
The backfield combined for 212 rushing yards and four touchdowns in Lehigh’s Patriot League opener. Bragalone tallied a season-high 186 rushing yards on 25 carries while Brisker notched a career-high three touchdowns.
“It was the first Patriot League matchup, so it was important to get that win to get everything started and jolted, because coming in 0-5 we needed to get our confidence back,” Amankwah-Ayeh said. “Now that we’re in league play, these games really matter if we want to be able to win a championship.”
The 41-38 win moved the Mountain Hawks’ record to 1-5 overall and 1-0 in the Patriot League.
The running backs played a large role in what Lehigh hopes is the turning point of its slow start to the season.
The trio intends to use that confidence and momentum to continue their success on the field. As a group, they strive for consistency.
“They’re incredibly consistent in their work ethic,” running back coach John Sibel said. “From meetings to practices to individual work to team practices, they never take a play off. They’re very consistent in their habits, and that’s been key for them. They treat every practice as its own entity. They really go about it the right way.”
Amankwah-Ayeh credited their production as a group to the camaraderie between the players. He said they have each others’ backs, no matter the situation. The trio goes out to dinner and spends plenty of time together off the field.
The three players have varying talents on the field, and Amankwah-Ayeh said this has created a balance that allows them to mesh.
Brisker said he knows that any one of them could have a good game on any given day.
“I think (Bragalone) and (Amankwah-Ayeh) are great players and all of us just feed off each other,” Brisker said. “Whoever’s in the game, we’re supporting them and hoping that they can stay rolling. If they need a break then the next guy is up. At practice, Evan Chadbourn and Marc Raye-Redmond do a great job on scout making sure the defense is ready for the game.”
Looking ahead to the Georgetown University game this Saturday, Amankwah-Ayeh said the running backs know a challenge awaits. He said for as long as he has played at Lehigh, Georgetown has had a defense that makes the run game more difficult.
Brisker said he isn’t worried and knows the group will work all week to prepare itself. He credits Sibel for putting the trio in the best position to be successful.
“Running the ball might be more difficult than it was last week, but we’re not going to let that hinder our progress,” Brisker said. “We’re going to go into the game thinking and believing we’re going to have a really solid run game. As long as we do everything on and off the field to prepare for that, I think we’ll be fine.”
Sibel said he thinks the size and speed the Mountain Hawks have at the running back position will be their greatest advantage, along with their vision on the field.
“We’re only worried about the things we can control, and that’s really the practice that leads into preparing for each game,” Sibel said. “We want to go 1-0 each week until the end of the season.”