Final score and game statistics for the men's football Patriot League opener on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019 at Colgate University. (Micah Golomb-Leavitt/B&W Staff)

Mountain Hawks prevail in Patriot League opener

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Lehigh continued its two-game winning streak after defeating reigning Patriot League Champion Colgate 21-14 in the league opener Oct. 5.

Lehigh solidified its win at Andy Kerr Stadium when freshman running back Zaythan Hill scored a touchdown on a nine-yard run with 33 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Raiders got the ball back with 29 seconds left on Lehigh’s 9-yard line, but junior defensive back Divine Buckrham quickly dismissed Colgate’s hope of tying the Mountain Hawks, after making a game-saving tackle on the 1-yard line at the last second of the game.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Scott Brisson said the excitement and energy permeating throughout Lehigh’s locker room surpassed anything he had experienced during his tenure on the coaching staff. 

“I’ve been here for eight years, and I’ve never seen the locker room like that at halftime, or at the end of the game,” Brisson said. “There was a level of emotion and energy that I really don’t remember ever seeing before.”

Lehigh’s victory moved the team’s record to 2-3, 1-0 in the Patriot League. The Mountain Hawks are now tied for first in the league standings, alongside Holy Cross.

Brisson said one of the biggest factors in capitalizing on the win on Saturday was the remarkable showing from the defensive players. 

“Honestly, our defense played lights out,” Brisson said. “I’ve been here for a long time, (and) I don’t remember many defensive games like that, so that gave us a chance offensively to hang in there.”

Brisson said Saturday’s game wasn’t the first example of the defense’s talent. In its first victory of the season against Merrimack (10-3) on Sept. 28, the Mountain Hawks recorded six sacks, tying for first in the league and 10th in the Division I Football College Subdivision. 

The defensive players pursued a similar strategy against Colgate’s junior quarterback Grant Breneman, recording seven total sacks. Lehigh ultimately held Colgate to 213 total yards, and a mere nine yards of rushing. 

Senior linebacker Keith Woetzel led the defense with 13 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Woetzel was named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week and attained the No. 1 ranking for tackles and sacks in the league. Division 1 FCS also ranked Woetzel No. 2  for solo tackles per game (7.8) and No. 6 for total tackles per game (11.4).

“The game plan was to get as much pressure on the quarterback as possible with different blitzes,” Woetzel said. “It feels great to be acknowledged for the time and effort I put into playing football.”

Following Woetzel’s lead on defense was junior linebacker Pete Haffner, who contributed eight tackles and a sack, as well as freshman defensive lineman Mikhari Sibblis, who recorded two sacks. Junior defensive lineman Erik Slater, senior Juwan Morrow and senior Davis Maxie also recorded a sack. Junior Jaylen Floyd finished the game with five tackles and two pass breakups. 

Brisson said Lehigh had its two best practices of the year heading into the Colgate game, which served to fuel the team’s performance. He said he felt confident heading into the Saturday matchup based on the team’s execution, preparation and high-level of focus.

On the offensive side, Lehigh hit first on the scoreboard after senior quarterback Tyler Monaco found freshman running back Nate Hope for 19 yards. Monaco capitalized on his first career rushing touchdown in the second quarter.

Monaco finished the day 16 for 28 for 231 yards with one passing touchdown and one rushing. In addressing early-season struggles, Monaco said the team accepts full responsibility. 

We have a ton of talent on offense,” Monaco said. “Everyone is a playmaker and can be very explosive, but the only people who have stopped us all year have been ourselves. Now that we’re getting out of our own way, we’re all excited to see how we develop.”

Lehigh will use its bye week as an opportunity to re-energize for its next Patriot League matchup against Fordham at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19.

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