Category Archives: Tyler Ward

Lehigh 46, Holy Cross 14 Postgame Commentary: Does This Team Have Shades Of 2011?

I've been doing this long enough to know that every Lehigh football team is different.  The dynamics running through every team is different; what motivates one team has no impact on the team of the following year.

But every big win this 2016 team gets, many of the fans who have been here a while keep whispering:

2011.

Like an Adele Spotify channel, you can't help but be reminded of 2011 when you go to Murray Goodman Stadium or Fitton Field or wherever they're playing.  The popular online game between fans on the Lehigh football message board is: Who was better, 2011, or 2016?

The answer is still, beyond a shadow of a doubt, 2011 - for now - but the only reason for that is that 2016 is still in the midst of writing their story.  Yet it can hardly be helped that fans look at the potential of this 2016 team and think, with apologies to Adele, that they are rolling in the same sort of wins that they were in 2011.
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Lehigh 46, Holy Cross 14 Postgame Commentary: Does This Team Have Shades Of 2011?

I've been doing this long enough to know that every Lehigh football team is different.  The dynamics running through every team is different; what motivates one team has no impact on the team of the following year.

But every big win this 2016 team gets, many of the fans who have been here a while keep whispering:

2011.

Like an Adele Spotify channel, you can't help but be reminded of 2011 when you go to Murray Goodman Stadium or Fitton Field or wherever they're playing.  The popular online game between fans on the Lehigh football message board is: Who was better, 2011, or 2016?

The answer is still, beyond a shadow of a doubt, 2011 - for now - but the only reason for that is that 2016 is still in the midst of writing their story.  Yet it can hardly be helped that fans look at the potential of this 2016 team and think, with apologies to Adele, that they are rolling in the same sort of wins that they were in 2011.
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Season In Review: Great Accomplishments In A Rebuilding Year

(Photo Credit: Matt Smith/The Express-Times)

When I look back at Lehigh's football program over the last four years, I can't think of a single game that wasn't meaningful.

And when you think about this fact, that's a powerful thing to say about this group of seniors that will graduate this season.

So many programs have off years, years in between quality starting quarterbacks, years when players who find themselves in NFL training camps graduate, and the number of holes to fill are too great to compete for championships, let alone playoff spots.

But that didn't happen for this group of Lehigh athletes in 2013.

Despite needing to replace two players who found themselves in NFL training camps, WR Ryan Spadola and LB Billy Boyko, a starting quarterback, QB Michael Colvin, and an all-Patriot League secondary consisting of CB Bryan Andrews and S Billy O'Brien, the expectations on this year's team was great: Win the Patriot League.  Build off a 10-1 season.  Make the playoffs.

That's what going to Lehigh to play football is all about: Winning.  High expectations, on and off the field.  And despite the rebuilding, and despite the gigantic injury to QB Brandon Bialkowski, this team made every game meaningful.
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Lafayette Erases Five Years of Frustration, Beats Rivals Lehigh 50-38

On the third play of scrimmage, Lafayette freshman QB Drew Reed fumbled the ball off a bad snap.

The ball squirted loose from the line - where a Lehigh player might have fallen on it - and instead nudged in the direction of junior RB Ross Scheuerman, who found himself with the ball in his hands, and, on the broken goal line play, wide open space to get into the end zone.

It was that type of day for the Mountain Hawks - a day when five years of Rivalry frustrations, five years of balls bouncing the wrong way, and five years of Lehigh victories came crashing to an end.

It was a game where Lehigh never led.  It was a game when the Mountain Hawks came close to coming back - and clearly believing that it could, and would, happen.  But it wasn't meant to be, as Lafayette took home all the marbles on Saturday - the Patriot League Trophy, the Patriot League championship and autobid, and the win over Lehigh that the players, and the many people that follow the Lafayette football program, have been hungering for the last five years.
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Will "Losing" Help Lehigh Win Another Patriot League Title?

(Photo Credit: Chris Shipley/Special to the Morning Call)

There's no doubt about the fact that it was a terrific day for Lehigh football on Saturday.

For the only the second time this year, the Mountain Hawks never trailed, and the many questions that surrounded the team after the loss to Bucknell were, in large part, answered.

But I also heard something interesting, too, in several conversations with fans.

It's the idea that Lehigh's "losing" to Bucknell was the perfect thing to happen to this team at this time.
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Can You Dig It? Shaf Helps Lehigh Dominate Holy Cross, 38-20

If you went into Murray Goodman Stadium and said you knew exactly what to expect from this Lehigh Mountain Hawks team, you were lying.

Everyone involved with the Mountain Hawks football program had seen, or heard about, the loss to Bucknell.

If they had sharp eyes, too, they saw the former starting quarterback, Brandon Bialkowski, on the sidelines in a jacket, his arm immobilized so his collarbone can heal.

You had to go back a long way to find a Lehigh team with this much uncertainty, with this much at stake, with three games left.

And in this environment, this Mountain Hawk team responded.

The Mountain Hawks would never trail in this game, though the Crusaders would tie the game twice, at 7-7 and 13-13.  But then, after filling in permanently after what seemed to be a rib injury to junior QB Matt McHale, freshman QB Nick "Shaf" Shafnisky came into the game and guided Lehigh on three touchdown drives in a convincing 38-20 victory.
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Lehigh Puts Pedal to Metal, Beats Georgetown 45-24

The term being bandied about the season in regards to the 2013 Mountain Hawks was the "Cardiac Kids".

Every week, the Mountain Hawks would fall behind.  Every week, there would be hiccups, issues, and heart-stopping moments, but most often would end up in Lehigh victories.

Most fans wondered: Could it be possible, would it be possible, for Lehigh to put the pedal to the metal against an opponent, to surge to a huge lead, go for he jugular early, and never look back?

This Saturday, the Mountain Hawks answered.

Lehigh scored the most points they'd scored in the first half since 2002, scoring on seven of their eight drives of the first half and narrowly missing the eighth.  They'd cruise to a 38-3 halftime lead before the second stringers would make the final score look a lot closer.

In short, it was exactly what most of the 9,866 fans in attendance were looking for in the first Patriot League conference game of the season.  Never trailing.  Making the game's outcome not be in doubt early.  Winning.
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Lehigh’s Midway Report Card Filled with "Fives"

As sports comebacks go, this one was pretty epic.

Down 5-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Boston OF David Ortiz jumped on the first pitch from Tigers P Joaquin Benoit, a pitch he put over the short right-field bullpen fence in Fenway Park.

OF Torii Hunter leaped, and the baseball appeared to bounce off his glove, but he went head-over-heels into the dugout without the ball in hand, and Big Papi had tied the game at "five".

Like so many Lehigh football games this season, Boston came from behind, thanks to heady baserunning by OF Johnny Gomes, and ultimately won Game 2 of the ALCS 6-5.

It seemed apropos that this game would have that score, and be won in this way, because it seems like that game could also be a microcosm of this Lehigh football regular season, too.

Everywhere you look at this season thus far, things are coming up "fives" for Lehigh.
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Lehigh’s Day of Busted "Pride" One To Forget in the Big Apple

(Photo Credit: Howard Smith/USA Today Sports)

So on the morning of October 5th, I got out of bed.

The Lehigh football team was undefeated, of course.

WR Ryan Spadola was a receiver on the NFL's New York Jets, and by many indications was in line for more playing time on the biggest of stages, Monday Night football.

And G C.J. McCollum, after ripping up the NBA summer league for the Portland Trailblazers, seemed poised to enter the NBA season with a flourish, maybe even competing for Rookie of the Year.

By the end of my trip to the Big Apple, all three dreams were shattered.

Athletically, most Lehigh people of all stripes had three things in which they take an immense amount of "pride" - the football team, successful on the field for so long, the battle of Ryan Spadola against the odds to make the 53 man roster of the New York Jets, and the first Lehigh player ever taken in the NBA draft, C.J. McCollum.  By the end of Saturday, Lehigh's "pride" had been run over by a truck on the upper level of the George Washington bridge.
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