Following a lackluster 2019 football season going 4-7 overall (3-3 in conference), the Mountain Hawks’ 2020 schedule has been released, with the team’s season opening away from home against Villanova on Sept. 5.
The Mountain Hawks have lost eight straight games against the Wildcats dating back to 2007.
Lehigh will also face off against other tough competitors early in the season, such as Holy Cross on Sept. 12, who went 7-6 overall last season and beat Lehigh 24-17 in early November. Lehigh’s game against Holy Cross will be the team’s first Patriot League game of the season.
Looking ahead at the schedule for next fall, sophomore quarterback Alec Beesmer said he is only focused on the Villanova game.
“The first game is the only one that matters right now,” he said.
Junior wide receiver Jorge Portorreal agreed with Beesmer, and said while he is focused on their first game, he is also excited for other rivals like Holy Cross and Fordham University.
Portorreal also said that, as the 2020 season approaches, Lehigh has to prepare to play without some key graduating players, including seniors Keith Woetzel and Devon Bibbens, who were both named First-Team All-Patriot League following the 2019 season.
Bibbens, a wide receiver from New Hope, Pennsylvania, has been a key player since his freshman season. In addition to his end-of-year award, he was named Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week in October 2019.
Like Bibbens, Woetzel, a defensive player from Wyckoff, New Jersey, was an important contributor to the team throughout his career, and he was also named a third team All-American by the Associated Press.
“Next season we have to execute at a higher level and perform to our capability every play,” Beesmer said. “Woetzel and Bibbens will be two guys that are tough to replace on the field, but we have a lot of talent coming back as well.”
Although the Mountain Hawks are losing veteran players in 2020, freshman quarterback Nigel Summerville has a positive outlook on next season.
“We are a really young team now with a little bit of experience, but a lot of talent,” Summerville said.
As the offseason begins, special teams coach Anthony DiMichele said the team will be focusing on strength and speed in order to prepare for their first game against Villanova in the fall.
Developing their young core is a point of emphasis for DiMichele and the rest of the coaching staff.
“Our team is full of freshmen and sophomores,” DiMichele said. “We, as a coaching staff, need to do our best to school our team up and empower the youth to contribute in all facets of the game.”
Portorreal agreed with DiMichele and added that the team’s biggest downfall last season was inconsistency. He said Lehigh played well against some teams, but allowed themselves to play down to others.
Portorreal mentioned that this offseason, players are working hard individually to be better prepared for next season.
“Right now, I’m working on changing my body a bit to prepare”, Portorreal said. “(I’m) gaining good weight while also trying to get faster, along with doing footwork and handwork like releases and different hand-eye coordination drills.”
DiMichele said the team will be working very closely with one of Lehigh’s strength and conditioning coaches, Eric Markovcy, to see the results they are looking for.
The annual Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry game will take place on Nov. 21 at Fisher Stadium in Easton.