Running back C.J. Amil has gained 284 combined yards rushing and receiving for a Lafayette team that would like nothing more than to end its season with a win over rival Lehigh on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette Communications)
When John Garrett was asked Tuesday if he had showed his Lafayette football team the film of the Leopards’ Yankee Stadium victory over Lehigh in the 150th game in college football’s most-played rivalry, his immediate comment was, “No, no.”
When the same subject was brought up again later, Lafayette’s rookie head coach said, “Three years is a long time ago in football.”
Leopards captains Beau Bosch, Brandon Bryant, Mike Donnelly and Dylan Wadsworth might have a different opinion about how long it has been, but they are also well aware that at this moment, their careers should not be defined by a game in their freshman year but that they have a chance to put an indelible stamp on their College Hill experience on Saturday afternoon in Lehigh’s Goodman Stadium.
“It feels like it was just yesterday,’ said Bryant. “I was getting a good amount of snaps by then and that was where I got my first career sack.”
That sack of Nick Shafnisky came on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter, and Lafayette proceeded to drive 67 yards and scored the game’s final touchdown on a 23-yard pass from senior Zach Zweizig to another freshman, Matt Mrazek.
That dominant 27-7 victory was the last truly shining moment for the seniors who will take the field on Saturday. Lafayette has won only six games in the 32 games since then, including three this year in Garrett’s first season.
“We beat ‘em then, and if we can do it again, we will come full circle,” said tight end Wadsworth, whose status for Saturday is day-to-day after he suffered an injury against Georgetown and sat out last week’s game against Colgate. “We have a great opportunity to finish the season strong and show that our program is moving in the right direction.”
Donnelly, a center who dressed for but didn’t play in No.150 and still remembers it as “one of the favorite moments of my career. “That was a senior-laden team and the game was a tribute to them. They played their hearts out. I hope our seniors will play with the same emotion and passion [Saturday].”
Of course, the stars of that 2014 Lafayette victory were running back Ross Scheuerman, who had a 304-yard rushing game, and a defense that sacked Lehigh’s Shafnisky four times, intercepted him once and rattled him into an 8-for-19 passing day for just 81 yards.
In the two games since No. 150, the Brown and White scored 94 points against the Leopards and Shafnisky threw for 551 yards and seven TDs.
Shiafnisky is gone, but Brad Mayes has thrown for 3,156 yards and 25 touchdowns; Dom Bragalone has rushed for 1,200 yards and 16 TDs and record-setting wide receiver Troy Pelletier has caught 86 passes for 1,091 yards and seven scores. In other words, the LU offense has not missed a beat.
Lehigh is not without flaws. Mayes has been intercepted 12 times, and Lafayette’s defensive unit has 15 picks for the year – seven by Phillip Parham.
Also, Lehigh has allowed an average of 236.7 yards rushing per game. Even some of the weakest teams in the league have had success. But Lafayette is the weakest running team over 10 games, averaging just 24.3 yards per game.
Garrett said he “told the guys to make sure when you go out there, pregame, during the national anthem, take it all in, appreciate this. It’ll be a great memory regardless of the result. What you remember is how you play.
“Emotion can only take you so far. You have to execute, do your job. It’s gonna be really fun to be extra hyped up because of all the implications of a big game, the opponent, the league, getting another win as an exclamation point that we’re on our way in the right direction.”
Bosch, who called himself “an emotional dude,” said he would prepare for Lehigh as he does for any other game. On it also being his last game, he said, “That’s the thing that hasn’t hit me yet. A chapter in my life is coming to an end, and I want to give all I got and go out with no regrets.”
Reinhard’s blog: www.ramblingsfromthebench.blogspot.com.
Retired sports columnist Paul Reinhard is a freelance writer.
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