Fifth-year offensive lineman Zach Duffy sits on the bleachers Nov. 1 at Goodman Stadium. Duffy is preparing for his final Rivalry game versus Lafayette College on Saturday. (Angelica Kowalski/B&W Staff)

Mountain Hawk Tribune: Zach Duffy

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I’d never experienced such a gut-wrenching loss.

I remember immediately looking for my dad after coach Andy Coen broke down the huddle for the 2013 Mountain Hawks one final time.

I turned around to a crowd of parents embodied with sadness while we all watched Lafayette celebrate on our 50-yard line. I sorted through the madness to find my dad.

He looked at me and said, “I can’t believe it.”

None of us could. It’s difficult to explain, you know?

We had come into that game 8-2 with some momentum. We knew Lafayette was a tough team, but we didn’t respect them because we thought they couldn’t be tougher than us.

At no point in the 149th meeting with the Leopards did we have control of the game. They dominated us in every facet.

After saying bye to my dad, I began the walk back to the locker room. It felt like an eternity.

I had no option but to stagger through the families consoling our seniors because they would never play football again. I watched grown men cry because they’d never again make a game-changing play, score a touchdown or deliver those big hits we love on defense. We saw their faces, and we felt their pain. Not only were their careers over, but we also lost the Patriot League Championship to our archrivals.

Now, four years later, we’re in a similar position.

This Saturday, we will take on the Lafayette Leopards for the 153rd time with another Patriot League Championship on the line.

Being a fifth-year captain, I’ve tried to take a step back and appreciate the opportunities this institution — and the football program specifically — has given me.

This weekend, we’re playing for more than a win against Lafayette or a league title. We’re playing for those seniors who left the field in tears my freshman year. We’re playing for the seniors who last played at Yankee Stadium when we were embarrassed in front of 50,000 people. We’re playing for every other Lehigh football player who’s ever worn the brown and white.

Coach Coen frequently tells us tradition never graduates. It takes some time to realize, but Lehigh’s tradition of excellence is much bigger than just what we do today. It’s about everyone before us and everyone that comes after us.

Football is a game that replicates life.

Everyday, we face adversity in some capacity. The same applies to football. Whether it is an injury, a bad play or that gut-wrenching loss that won’t seem to go away, you have to get back up and fight.

I’m fortunate to say I play the greatest team game in the world, and I’m proud to say I’ve gotten to partake in the most-played college football rivalry ever.

While this weekend will be bittersweet regardless of the outcome, the silver lining is that I’m going to be a part of this tradition for the rest of my life. That’s what makes The Rivalry so special.

Le-Laf week is one of the few times when we all come together as a student body. Regardless of what groups you are involved in, whether it be sports teams, Greek organizations or other clubs, come out this weekend to support the brown and white. This isn’t just a rivalry. It’s THE RIVALRY. #GoHawks

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