Archive For The “Brandon Leaks” Category
Thought I’d put together this multimedia “presentation” of all the seniors that will be playing in #Rivalry152 tomorrow. All the content here, pictures, videos, etc. are mostly courtesy of LehighSports.com, The Morning Call, Lehigh Valley Live, and The Brown and White.
If nothing else it will go you something to do while waiting for tomorrow’s game.
(Photo Credit: Chris Barry/The Brown and White File Photo)
In terms of national recognition, life in the Patriot League isn’t always easy.
Certainly Patriot League players and fans read the preseason magazines about FCS. And last I checked, the youth of America still watch ESPN, and they see some FCS darlings in the FCS Kickoff Classic, like North Dakota State.
They tune into the college football landscape, and they see Eastern Washington upsetting Washington State, Bo Pelini coaching Youngstown State, Albany upsetting Buffalo.
Yes, the national FCS scene has their darlings, and frequently it feels like the Patriot League and their opponents are mere afterthoughts in the world where Big Sky teams are putting up big scores, Sam Houston State is beating all comers, The Citadel is dominating in the South, and the Missouri Valley Football Conference sees almost half its members in the Top 25.
And despite having junior WR Troy Pelletier and junior WR Gatlin Casey sitting at No. 1 and No. 2 in the FCS in receiving,respectively, despite a five game winning streak, and despite their emergence as a top contender for the Patriot League title past the halfway point of the season, Lehigh sits just outside the national Top 25 polls.
Respect in the Patriot League is easy to lose, and hard to earn back – and this Lehigh team seems to know how fragile that is.
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Although you see big, bright smiles on the faces of senior CB Brandon Leaks and senior WR Trevor Soccaras when talking about the performance over the last four football games, their focus has understandably been on Georgetown and guarding against a possible letdown.
Such thought is undeniably warranted, especially if they caught the college football scores from yesterday.
There was only one college football game being contested Thursday night, which was Monmouth vs. Presbyterian.
The Hawks, who already beat Lehigh on opening weekend and also beat Fordham last weekend, had a short week to prepare for their Thursday game. But few people thought they would struggle against 1-4 Big South leaguemate Presbyterian, who had already lost to a Division II school (Florida Tech).
Instead, the classic letdown game happened – a 17-13 loss that almost certainly doomed any chance Monmouth has to not only win the Big South, but also to qualify for any sort of at-large postseason berth.
Senior QB Nick Shanfisky called them “motivation games”, and it’s clear during this four game winning streak motivation hasn’t been lacking for this Lehigh football team.
Start with Penn, where it was critical for the Mountain Hawks to avoid an 0-3 hole. Then proceed to Princeton, where the defense gave up 52 points last season in a loss; to the Yale Bowl, where two years ago no less than five players came down with injuries in another loss; and of course Colgate, where last season the Raiders’ stop at the goal line preserved their 49-42 victory and snatched a Patriot League title that was within the Mountain Hawks’ grasp.
At 4-2, and in the drivers’ seat, along comes a game for Lehigh at Georgetown, which by any measure doesn’t have the same types of motivation that fueled this four game winning streak.
Not that there’s no motivation, mind you. Conference games count for more than games against Yale, or Monmouth.
But you can’t blame folks for looking at this Georgetown and fearing a letdown, a quintessential “trap game”. In the last four games, they were all motivation games – games fueled by either a desperation to get the season on track, or a continuation of track with a side order of revenge. This one is different – and thus, oddly enough, more dangerous.
Admiral Ackbar might correctly identify this game as a classic trap.
From early in practice on Friday, when the 2016 Mountain Hawks were performing tackling drills on what looked like huge red padded human-sized donuts, the defense brought the energy to the practice field on what was a beautiful Friday afternoon in the Lehigh Valley.
From the drills to the scrimmages, rising senior LB Colton Caslow and rising senior CB Brandon Leaks stood out in terms of their energy level, flying to the ball.
On one play during the scrimmage I saw, Caslow nearly took out someone holding up a down marker as he left his feet, trying to get at the offensive player.
On another, Leaks made a break on his receiver to give the Brown side a chance to crow against the White-jerseyed offense.
Though the contact has been “very limited”, coach Coen said the tackling practices have been making a difference thus far in the spring season.
“I was very happy with our defense,” head coach Andy Coen told me. “I believe our veteran players really took the bull by the horns and were very good leaders during practice.”
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All the Rivalry games are memorable in their own way for everyone in attendance, from the seniors playing in their last game to the kids playing on the grass embankment.
The there will be four plays that will be remembered the most, the four plays that defined this game for Lehigh and really demonstrated how tough this team was in 2015, and how tough they might be in 2016.
Most importantly, though, was the fact that Lehigh finally was able to chuck aside any doubts about winning a big game.
Wins against Lafayette are always important for the many Lehigh fans in the near-16,000 people who attend these games. But winning this particular game was doubly important for this Lehigh squad that seemed to almost desperately need the win in order to demonstrate to the fans in the Valley who they are, who they were, and where they’re headed.
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Not that long ago, Lehigh football players had to take those dreaded 4 O’Clock exams, an essential, dreaded part of the Lehigh experience.
Today, though the 2015 Lehigh Mountain Hawks are getting areport card of a different sort.
Past the halfway point of the season, it’s time to take a step back and see where the Mountain Hawks are, and where they need to go to get back to the top of the Patriot League.
The season, as befitting a young team, has been inconsistent. At times, Lehigh has looked like a team that could possibly win the Patriot League title. At other times, though, they haven’t.
Fortunately for all Lehigh fans, the Mountain Hawks last game, a gritty 21-10 win over Bucknell, was the equivalent of acing the mid-term exam. That win, which brought Lehigh back to a 3-3 record, was huge. But tougher challenges await in the last five weeks of the season.
I always enjoy making the trip to catch a Princeton game when I can.
Aside from the sentimental attachment that I have to the place, there’s a lot to recommend it as a destination for anyone.
After Lehigh’s 52-26 loss to Princeton, however, the Mountain Hawk people I saw after the game couldn’t wait to get out of there and regroup.
Everything about this early, challenging schedule for the Mountain Hawks seems to have been designed to determine how close Lehigh is at becoming contenders once again. It’s a challenging, strong out-of-conference schedule that doesn’t need an FBS team on it to make it a stern test for this group of players.
If anything in particular was learned about this weekend’s game, it’s that this Mountain Hawk team still needs work in order to win their Patriot League games and possibly win a Patriot League championship. Spectacular individual plays, like junior CB Brandon Leaks upending Princeton RB Dre Nelson, are great, and like any other Lehigh fan I love to see them. But the stuff needed to win football games are greater than individual plays, unfortunately.
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The word that sums up the 2014 football season for Lehigh is almost, and nowhere was that almost more symbolic and frustrating was in their opening weekend against a team that would make it to the FCS Playoffs, James Madison.
Early in the 4th quarter, thanks to a gutty touchdown run by senior RB Rich Sodeke, Lehigh held a 28-24 lead on the Dukes and had taken advantage of a litany of James Madison miscues to get the ball at their 20 and a golden opportunity to stomp on the throat of the Dukes.
But that 4th quarter instead was an all-too-accurate look into the small things that cost the Mountain Hawks wins this season.
In the end, it wasn’t the talent that had Lehigh limp to a 3-8 finish in the 2014 schedule. It was a whole lot of little things.
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There have been times this season that Lehigh has been agonizingly close to winning games they have ended up losing.
It’s as if they’ve been stuck with bad karma; that they’ve been oh-so-close to winning, but some bad karmic event keeps them out of the victory column.
Against the Big Red on homecoming this weekend, the Bad Karma seemed to be at Schoellkopf Field for Lehigh once again.
A well-defended pass bounced into the hands of Cornell WR Collin Shaw set up one Big Red touchdown. and a low snap to punter junior P Austin Devine set up another, making a 17-0 Mountain Hawk become a very slim, thin-feeling 17-14 spot for Lehigh.
But then just like that, the Lehigh offense seemed to have finished with its bad karma, with senior RB Rich Sodeke leading the charge to set up one big touchdown, and scoring the final exclamation point on Lehigh’s first win of the season.
It all added up to a satisfying return to winning for the Mountain Hawks.
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