Category Archives: Colton Caslow

2016 Season In Review: Mountain Hawks Complete Five Year Trek To Patriot League Championship

Kids come to play football at Lehigh because they want their games to matter.

They come to Lehigh willing to sacrifice so much, because they want to win games, of course, but they also play the game in order to win championships - Patriot League Championships.

They want those rings.

Sure, they get to square off against the Villanova's, James Madison's and New Hampshire's of the FCS world to measure themselves against the best of their division.  And they get to participate in the nation's most played Rivalry in all of college football, putting them in an elite club of players and into college football history.

All of those things are very important, of course, and allow them great playing memories and, in the case of the Lafayette game, perennial bragging rights.  

But 2015's heartbreak in Hamilton, the 49-42 loss to Colgate, really hurt on a fundamental level for this Lehigh team.  When that senior class was recruited, one of the things that is a part of the deal is that the Mountain Hawks have won Patriot League championships at least once in every four year span.  Until, that is, the class of 2016, though they came agonizingly close several times.

That disappointment seemed to inform this year's team, which also had a couple of fifth-year seniors in senior WR Derek Knott and senior ROV Laquan Lambert, that so many of last year's team didn't get the chance at the championship rings that they ended up earning this season.  

It informed them all the way to a championship, and rings.
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QUICK RECAP: Lehigh’s Season Comes To Close After Dominating 64-21 Defeat To UNH

Right from the opening drive it didn't feel like it was going to be Lehigh's day.

With sophomore QB Brad Mayes in for senior QB Nick Shafnisky, who was unable to start due to an undisclosed illness, a pass that bounced off the hands of senior WR Derek Knott instead bounced into the hands of New Hampshire's first team all-CAA CB Casey DeAndrade.

Six plays later, the New Hampshire offense converted that turnover into the very first touchdown of the day for the Wildcats, the first of many on a defense that clearly missed senior LB Colton Caslow, who got hurt in the second half against Lafayette last weekend.

Four different New Hampshire players scored a grand total of six rushing touchdowns, two coming from RB Dalton Crossan, two coming from his backup, RB Trevon Bryant, one from the third-string, RB Evan Gray, and one on a scramble from QB Adam Riese.

All in all, the Wildcats racked up 364 yards rushing on the Brown and White, rushing to a 36-7 lead on the Mountain Hawks and coasting to a 64-21 victory.  In the ultimate twist of irony, Lehigh got beat in the way they had beaten so many opponents in their nine game regular-season winning streak - with UNH jumping to a big lead and never really taking their foot off the gas.
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#Rivalry152 Game Preview: Two Different Paths For Two Ancient Rivals

It is an easy narrative to point at the 150th meeting of The Rivalry as the turnaround for the Lehigh football program, where the Mountain Hawks got together after that bitter, bitter loss and decided that enough was enough, and that they were going to not allow their team to be a cellar-dweller.  

For Lafayette, though, you need to go back further, past some very enormous wins over Lehigh, and wonder. 

"I can't believe I typed it, but there it is," I wrote back in 2006 after a crushing 49-28 loss where Lehigh was dominated on both lines of scrimmage.   "We've lost three straight to Lafayette. and I've got some news: We're no longer the hunted. The sooner we realize that we now have to be the hunter, the better off we'll be."

The co-championship they shared with the Leopards that year had the feel of the worst consolation prize imaginable.  For the second straight year, Lafayette had stolen the FCS Playoff bid right from under the Mountain Hawks, and it was Lehigh left to sit at home to stew.  The post game press conference was as down and dark as could be, the double indignity of losing to Lafayette, and losing any chance at a postseason bid, at the same time.

It felt like Lafayette was on the brink of becoming permanent contenders for the Patriot League championship, meaning their torture of Appalachian State and UMass in the playoffs in consecutive years would be a regular happening over the next decade.  

But it never happened.

This year, Lehigh travels to Easton in their big Rivalry game, sitting at 8-2 and having already clinched a portion of the Patriot League championship, only seeking to remove the "co-" from the word "championship".  As emotions go, the Mountain Hawks couldn't be riding more of a high, winners of eight straight.

And Lafayette sits at the opposite extreme, sitting at 2-8 and wondering how they've gotten to this point, with only three wins over the last two years.
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Earning A Championship Is Hard, But Lehigh Does So In 20-13 War Against Bucknell

When Lehigh players, coaches and fans went to bed on Friday night, they probably had visions of the Mountain Hawks' powerful offense attacking, and overwhelming, Bucknell to coast to a share of a Patriot League Championship and the conference's FCS Playoff bid.

About ten minutes into the game, the 7,049 fans in attendance had probably figured out that if Lehigh was going to win a championship, it wasn't going to be won like that.

It was going to have to be earned.  It was going to have to be grabbed from Bucknell, smashing them in the mouth the same way they were smashing us.

It cannot be emphasized enough how Lehigh had to earn every single inch of this Patriot League victory, how not easy this win really was.

How the Mountain Hawks fell behind, clawed and scratched back to get the lead.  How they had to stop the Bison stampede at key spots, get crucial turnovers, and fire up critical, difficult field goals by sophomore PK Ed Mish.  Even extra points, normally considered automatic, took on new dramatic tension.

The offense got punished on every single play up until the final couple of victory formations.  But in the end, it was not only a victory, but a victory of the most beautiful, rare sort - the type of win that officially buries the past.

"Sometimes the hardest ones are the ones you enjoy the most," Coen said. "When you're winning a championship, it should be hard. Bucknell made it hard on us today, but we're the ones with the trophy and I can't be more proud of a group of guys than I am of these guys."

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QUICK RECAP: Lehigh Are Patriot League Champs, Claw Back And Earn Title 20-13

Bucknell hardly made it easy.

The Bison jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and made the lead 13-7 on the backs of touchdowns by RB Joey DeFloria and RB Chad Freshnock.

With a chance to build on their lead, though, Lehigh's defense stopped Bucknell again, and again, and again.

The Lehigh Mountain Hawk defense, led by heroic performances by senior LB Colton Caslow (11 tackles) and senior LB Pierce Ripanti (10 tackles), forced two turnovers that became a field goal by sophomore PK Ed Mish and a critical stop on Lehigh's doorstep that preserved Lehigh's Patriot League Championship.

It was a fitting place, in a fitting game, for Lehigh to take this elusive Patriot League championship and to allow Lehigh to finally crash an FCS Playoff party they had been denied five years ago.  They overturned their loss to Lafayette here in 2013.  They overturned their 4th-and-5 at Colgate last year by a sophomore CB Donavon Harris interception that preserved the slender 7 point lead.

It was tough as hell, but Lehigh got their, um, stuff together, and won the damn championship.
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Lehigh At Holy Cross Game Narratives: Mountain Hawks/Crusaders Coverage Nationwide

Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Florida.  South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia.

No, this isn't a list of Power 5 opponents that are suddenly going to be hosting Lehigh and Holy Cross in football the next few years.

It's a list of just a few of the many states across the country that will be carrying the TV broadcast of the Lehigh/Holy Cross clash.

It's going to be airing on something called the American Sports Network, which isn't a network in the broadcast sense but more of a network in the Internet sense: a network of interconnected stations, some over-the-air broadcasts, some local cable stations, that will be carrying Lehigh football over their airwaves.

If you live in PA, all you need to know is the game is going to air on CSN-Philly, CSN-MidAtlantic+, WHP-2 Harrisburg, WPNT-2 Pittsburgh, or WSWB-2 Wilkes-Barre.  If you live somewhere else in the lower 48 states, a full list of broadcast outlets can be found here.

It adds to the tension of what is already a big game this weekend.
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Lehigh 35, Georgetown 3 Postgame Thoughts: The Long Road Back To National Recognition

(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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With Tremendous Confidence, Lehigh Pulls Away Big In Second Half To Beat Georgetown 35-3


(Photo Credit: Keith Groller/Morning Call)

It felt a lot closer than 14 to 3 at halftime.

Sure, Lehigh had outgained Georgetown 220-64 on offense up until that point.  Definitely, the Lehigh defense, which has been playing with a chip on its shoulder for most of the entire season, was playing, as they say, lights-out, and they had just come up with a big defensive stop in the red zone to keep Georgetown from cutting it from 14-7 rather than 14-3.

But a batted ball at the line of scrimmage, alertly grabbed by DE Hoya DE Hunter Kiselick, made it feel like the Mountain Hawks might rue the opportunities they had in the first hald to put away Georgetown.

After coming in for injured senior QB Nick Shafnisky, sophomore QB Brad Mayes jumped right into the fray and finished the scoring drive with a perfect pass over the middle to junior WR Troy Pelletier to make the score 14-3 Lehigh.

But after a drive that went backwards and that interception, it was Georgetown that had momentum going into halftime, and they were getting the ball back as well.

That's when the Mountain Hawks, who have defined this season so far as being a second half team, put the game away resoundingly.

"I'm pleased with how the kids responded at halftime," head coach Andy Coen said after the game.  "It wasn't very pretty on the offensive side on the offensive side of the ball in the first half.  The staff did a great job, got the kids rallied around, made a couple different turns of the wheel, so to speak, and really got the thing running again.
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QUICK RECAP: Lehigh Makes Statement In DC, Dominates Georgetown 35-3

At Cooper field in Georgetown, Lehigh jumped to a 14-0 lead and coasted to a 35-3 victory.

After senior QB Nick Shafnisky appeared to go over on his ankle funny, sophomore QB Brad Mayes came in, and shortly after running 12 yards for a first down, found junior WR Gatlin Casey for Lehigh's second touchdown on the afternoon.
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Lehigh 45, Colgate 31 Postgame Thoughts: Nearly 10,000 At Lehigh Win Evokes Memories Of 2004

It honestly felt like a day from another era out there on Saturday - in a good way.

In a world of bitter political debates, supposedly declining college football attendance, alleged tensions between the generations and the ongoing charges increasing collegian apathy, there it was: the official attendance total of the Colgate/Lehigh game of 9,255.

There were a multitude of reasons why people wanted to go see the game.  Perhaps it was something good to do with the family on Family Weekend.  Maybe it was a concerted effort to get students into the games, and keep them there, with new policies and new promotions.  Maybe it was a thumb-your-nose effort at the fans who come for cocktails but don't go enjoy the game.  Maybe it was individuals, all as a unit, wanting to come out and see if this high-flying, record-setting Lehigh football team is for real.

Or maybe it was all of them; I have no idea, but I know it required a whole lot of planning and a huge amount of effort from a whole lot of people, and I'm glad they did.

Because it felt like something special was brewing in Bethlehem - and not just from the team making everyone pay attention to them on Saturday.  It was the whole thing - the team, the fans, and the atmosphere.  On Saturday, for the first time in a long time, it felt like "it" was back.
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