Archive For The “Dominck Bragalone” Category
(Photo Credits: Lehigh Athletics)Just like that, the 2018 Spring Session comes to a close this week, giving us a taste of what is to come in the late summer and fall.Here are my quick observations about what I saw at Murray Goodman on Saturday.Read mor…
(Photo Credit: Alec Turner c/o Lehigh Athletics)
For those that care about these things, Lehigh entered the first round FCS playoff matchup 21 1/2 point underdogs.
And if we’re being fair, that was probably the right number.
The Seawolves were 9-2, nationally ranked with seven conference wins in the tough CAA and one of their losses coming to a very strong FBS team in South Florida. In contrast, unranked Lehigh came into the game 5-6 and only were here because they upset Colgate 41-38 on the road and won enough Patriot League conference games to win the autobid.
Yet a young Lehigh team was game to put their best foot forward and to have a heroic sendoff for potential NFL prospect senior WR Troy Pelletier, and in that, the game was a rousing success.
With junior QB Brad Mayes expertly picking apart one of the top defenses in FCS, time after time he’d find Troy for reception after reception, each one highlighting his impressive skill set as an audition for the next level.
It wouldn’t be enough to win the game, but it was enough to keep the Mountain Hawks within striking distance until the Seawolves would pull away in the 4th quarter.
It was also enough to establish Troy as the all-time greatest receiver in Patriot League history.
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For the first time all season, it was a dark, wet day for a Lehigh football game.
It was not at all ideal for the more than 15,000 fans, and countless tailgaters that made it to the tailgates but not in the stadium, partying and tailgating outside the gates of Murray Goodman.
It was also not at all ideal for Lehigh’s high-powered passing game, and during a disastrous second quarter with three turnovers, it felt like the wheels were coming off the Mountain Hawks’ chances at successfully defending their Patriot League title.
It seemed like everything that could go wrong, was actually going wrong. Three fumbles resulted in three Lafayette recoveries. A third down conversion incompletion by Lafayette QB Sean O’Malley became an unexpected first down, thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that kept their drive alive. A 14-7 first quarter lead became 17 unanswered points, leading to a 24-14 deficit against the best defensive team in the Patriot League.
In this most important of football games for many of the Lehigh faithful, it seemed like they were losing it by shooting themselves in the foot.
Then halftime happened, and everything changed. More rain, and worse weather, did not deter Lehigh from their goal. And a couple of Rivalry legends were made in the process.
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It has been a most unusual season for Lehigh.
Starting the year off at 0-5 and getting swept in their out-of-conference schedule, the Mountain Hawks were in danger of having their season go off the rails.
But two things have come together over the last five football games that have put Lehigh on the brink of back-to-back championships.
The first is the late blooming of the Lehigh defense, which kept battling every week since the low point of the September 30th loss to Wagner to do the job in four of their five Patriot League conference games.
The second is the development of junior RB Dominick Bragalone into a bellcow running back, a back who has to be in the conversation for Patriot League offensive player of the year.
In five Patriot League games, Bragalone has run for 863 yards in 5 games, rushing for 11 touchdowns and adding two more receiving touchdowns as well.
The South Williamsport, PA native certainly wasn’t unknown before this week – after all, as a freshman and a sophomore, he had already rushed for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. But this year, where he’s amassed 1,200 yard rushing and an FCS-leading 16 rushing touchdowns, he’s gone into full Monster Mode, and Lehigh fans are loving every minute of it.
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After the Bucknell victory, senior OL Zach Duffy said something that cut through the entire 2017 Lehigh football season.
“We have 14 days to stay locked in and do whatever it takes to win another championship,” he said to the team.
And it’s true.
It really doesn’t matter what happened Week One, Week Five, or even last week. When this Mountain Hawk team goes to bed, and wakes up again during the next six days, they are in the Patriot League Championship race. If they win, and stay locked in for the next fourteen days and win two football games, they will win the Patriot League.
It will require being locked in for fourteen days.
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(Photo Credits: Mike Geer/Lehigh Athletics)
“We went right at ’em.”
That was head coach Andy Coen talking to Lehigh Sports’ Steve Lomangino after the Mountain Hawks’ 42-21 win over Bucknell.
With their Patriot League title hopes on the line, and the No. 1 defense in the Patriot League the opposition, it seemed like the Mountain Hawks might enter into the type of defensive struggle that defined last year’s game against Bucknell.
But after junior LB Mark Walker forced and and grabbed a Bison fumble and returned it to the Bucknell 9 yard line, junior QB Brad Mayes didn’t mess around.
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The 2017 Lehigh Mountain Hawks are known for having a great offense, a high-octane group that features stars like junior QB Brad Mayes and junior RB Dominick Bragalone.
But senior WR Troy Pelletier would trade it all for conference wins.
On an afternoon where he broke a bunch of school and Patriot League records – some of them unanticipated – his focus, as ever, was about getting the league victories that count towards the main goal of this team – to defend their Patriot League Championship.
“I didn’t know what the records are,” Troy said afterwards about his record-busting, 16 catch, 197 receiving yard, 4 touchdown performance. “I just knew I was close. I knew it was going to come if I bought in every day, do what I need to do every day to get better, and I knew it would come.”
Fortunately for Lehigh fans, his banner day came to allow Lehigh to resoundingly beat Georgetown 54-35 and go to 2-0 in Patriot League play.
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It was a very different time for Lehigh football, but in 1966, the Engineers started out the season 0-5, and had to travel up to Hamilton, New York to take on the Colgate Red Raiders.
“Lehigh faces its toughest opponent of the season tomorrow afternoon in the Red Raiders of Colgate, at Kerr Memorial Stadium in Hamilton, N.Y,” the 1966 Brown and White preview read.
After their 21-15 loss to Colgate in 1966, the Engineers would fall to 0-6 and eventually finish 0-9 on the season, the last time Lehigh started a season 0-6 and the last time Lehigh would go winless in a season as well.
It was that sort of historic elephant that the 2017 Mountain Hawks had on their backs this Saturday, whether they realized it or not.
Had they lost to their Chenango Valley rival, they would have been the first Lehigh football team to go 0-6 in more than fifty years. 0-5 entering this game, ironically their sixth shot at a football victory would involve going to the same venue to play the same opponent they played fifty-one years ago trying to avoid a 0-6 start.
Turning around an 0-5 start could be one of the hardest jobs in football, especially against a hated conference rival, and especially in a place that has always been a difficult place for Lehigh to play.
And it wasn’t easy. The 2017 Mountain Hawks had help, both from some tough calls against Colgate and from some boneheaded penalties against the Raiders that were justified.
But this group of athletes achieved that goal that eluded the same goal of the Lehigh Engineers of 1966. The football team playing this Saturday won a hard-fought 41-38 contest that maybe, just maybe, might have turned things around just in time.
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It was Colgate 28, Lehigh 14 as the first half was coming to a close. The Mountain Hawks had the ball, but the pall over Lehigh fans everywhere was very evident – “here we go again,” most seemed to be thinking.
You couldn’t blame fans necessarily for thinking that way, of course. The Mountain Hawks hadn’t found out yet this year how to pull out a game like this, and normally, a two-touchdown deficit to Colgate feels like a four-touchdown deficit, the way they run the ball and gradually crush the spirit of opposing teams.
Driving and scrambling – somewhat of a broken play – junior QB Brad Mayes found junior RB Dominick Bragalone downfield with a big 35 yard touchdown pass, cutting the deficit to 28-21.
And then, gradually, over the course of a half of football, Lehigh put mistakes behind them just as the uncharacteristic mistakes by Colgate seemed to mount. One Colgate touchdown would be called back. Then another. And Lehigh would battle back to tie the game twice, fall behind by a field goal with 5 minutes to play, and then score the winning touchdown and get a game’s only turnover at the exact right time to preserve the win.
Somewhere, Al “Just Win, Baby” Davis was smiling.
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You could say that following Lehigh football through the first five weeks has been an exercise in frustration.
That’s probably understating things quite a bit.
The season was not supposed to unfurl itself in this way.
The Mountain Hawks, rated in the Top 25 to start the season, remained that way after losing a tough game against Villanova, but then fell out of the national rankings when they followed that up with a loss to Monmouth.
And since, the team has just kept losing, each week more excruciating than the last.
Some Lehigh fans appear to think that the Mountain Hawks could turn things around and make a run at the Patriot League Championship in a world where the Patriot League is a combined 9-20 against out-of-conference foes.
I suppose it is still possible.
But to this fan, this goal can’t be the focus of the coming week.
Speaking as a fan, I feel the focus of all the players and coaches needs to be on one singular goal: how to win one, singular, football game.