The Lehigh football team (2-9, 2-4 PL) dropped a close game to Lafayette (4-7, 3-3 PL), 14-11 in the 158th edition of The Rivalry on Nov. 19 at Fisher Stadium. Lafayette college seniors played their first ever Le-Laf game on their home turf due to the alternating of locations and the pandemic. (Eric Mehlman/B&W Staff)

Lehigh falls to Lafayette in 158th Rivalry game


Lehigh football (2-9, 2-4 PL) dropped a close game to Lafayette (4-7, 3-3 PL), 14-11 in the 158th edition of The Rivalry on Nov. 19. 

The intensity of The Rivalry game emanated from both sidelines as the teams exited their respective locker rooms, and the coin toss was awarded to Lehigh.

“My brothers have my back,” junior quarterback Dante Perri said. “Everyone is walking out there with us. It’s a big family.”

Lehigh moved the chains well to begin the game, with Perri spreading the ball around to multiple different receivers in the short passing game. Still, Lehigh’s first drive stalled out just past the 40 yard line, and the Mountain Hawks were forced to punt.

Lafayette took advantage of Lehigh’s miscues on its first drive, with freshman running back Jamar Curtis slipping through a gap in the offensive line and ripping off a 71-yard run to put the Leopards up 7-0. 

The Leopards extended their lead with a defensive touchdown, as senior linebacker Billy Shaeffer intercepted Perri and took it 50 yards the opposite way for a Lafayette touchdown and a two-score lead.

The teams exchanged empty possessions to start the second, but late in the half, Lehigh put together a 44-yard drive to move the ball into Lafayette’s redzone for the first time. 

The drive was helped by two Lafayette penalties: a pass interference call and later a face mask penalty committed against Perri, but it only materialized in a 26-yard field goal after successive Lafayette stops. 

Stout defense characterized the second quarter. Lehigh only amassed 66 total yards while Lafayette only gained 19. 

The first half ended in a 14-3 Lafayette lead.  

Both teams could not manage much on their first possessions of the second half, but Lafayette found an opportunity to change that after Shaeffer recovered a muffed punt. 

The Leopards could not capitalize on Shaeffer’s effort, so the deadlock that spanned over from the first half continued.

Lehigh then put together a long, methodical 82-yard drive on the back of two receptions from freshman receiver Geoffrey Jamiel, powerful running from sophomore running back Gaige Garcia and a 42-yard catch and run from junior receiver Eric Johnson. 

The drive, however, ended in zero points for the Mountain Hawks, as their trip into the red zone ended in a holding penalty and two incompletions, setting up a field goal instead of six points. Senior kicker Dylan Van Dusen’s attempt sailed wide left, and the score remained 14-3 heading into the fourth quarter.

Lafayette retained possession deep in its side of the field, and after an inconsequential drive, the Leopards punted the ball away, setting up Lehigh at midfield, prime position to finally hang points on the board. 

The Mountain Hawks started the drive out strong before facing a 3rd-and-10 that threatened the fate of the possession. However, Garcia received a short pass and took it past the first down marker to the 13-yard line to keep their hopes alive. 

The next play, Perri connected with Johnson on a touchdown pass that the Lehigh receiver hauled in with one hand over a defender for a highlight-reel grab. 

Lehigh attempted a two-point conversion, but failed, bringing the score to 14-9. 

Lehigh’s offense looked much stronger in the second half.

“There were not a ton of adjustments, we just kept trusting the process,” Perri said. “I think we were hurting ourselves in the first half, and we kind of stepped away from that.”

Lehigh’s defense forced another Lafayette punt on the ensuing drive and set the offense up with roughly six minutes to complete the comeback. 

Lehigh was pinned deep in its own end to start its drive, but converted two crucial third downs on plays from Garcia — who moved the pile on a rushing attempt — and a catch on a slant route by junior Connor Kennedy.

Later in the drive, Perri found senior receiver Jalen Burbage 37 yards down field on a jump ball that Burbage picked out of the air to set up Lehigh at Lafayette’s 15 yard line. 

The Mountain Hawks next three plays proved unsuccessful, setting up a game-deciding fourth down with 1:19 left. Perri dropped back to pass but Lafayette defensive end Malik Hamm stretched his arm out to deflect the throw. 

Lafayette punter Jakob Tresik ran out of the back of the endzone at the end of the next possession to run out the clock and ensure a Lafayette win. 

Coach Tom Gilmore noted the effort given by his players from the beginning.

“We made some mistakes in the first quarter — those are the 14 points they put up on the board and we didn’t let them on the board after that,” Gilmore said. “I’m really proud of the effort. I’m really proud with how far we have come. We just need to take one more step.”

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