My rants and insight into Colgate athletics and Patriot League sports

Sunday, August 28, 2005

#1 Lehigh

Well dear readers, this marks the last installment of my Patriot League preview. It's been a lot of fun putting this together and getting feedback from everyone. I'll look to get this done a little bit earlier next time around. Enjoy and best of luck next weekend!

#1 Lehigh

Recent History

In addition to Hamilton, New York, the other pillar of the Patriot League for the better part of the last decade rests firmly in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The Lehigh Mountain Hawks have made their mark on both Patriot League football and the national I-AA football scene as they've won half of the league's titles and a fair share of I-AA playoff games as well. Other league teams certainly owe the Mountain Hawks a debt of gratitude for improving the outside perception of the league and for taking on I-A and I-AA scholarship programs numerous times.

The past five years have seen the former Lehigh Engineers led by relative youngster Pete Lembo. The 1992 Georgetown graduate inherited in 2000 an already outstanding I-AA program from now Citadel coach Kevin Higgins who left at the time for the bright lights of the NFL. Lembo has done nothing short of an outstanding job, giving the fans in Bethlehem the best winning percentage in I-AA over the past seven years.

Last season was no exception to what has become expected of Lehigh, as Mountain Hawk fans saw their team share the Patriot League title with hated rival Lafayette and host a I-AA playoff first round game in Goodman Stadium. Even though they failed to advance, Lehigh continued to make Patriot League fans proud with a one point loss to eventual National Champion, James Madison.

Off Season Developments

For those following the program, this off season thankfully provided less to write about as Lehigh has become quite a target for teams looking for new coaches. Both coordinators as well as the majority of other coaches stayed put for in Bethlehem. Lehigh does welcome a new defensive line coach, Jay Bateman, from the University of Richmond. Bateman was at one time the youngest head coach in the nation as he led Siena College before they dropped football. In addition, Tony Trisciani begins his tenure at Lehigh as the linebackers coach, coming from I-AA quarterfinalist New Hampshire.

(Late edit: A coordinator was lost. The position was filled internally.)

On the recruiting front, Lehigh is another school that appears to be mining the rich local talent in Pennsylvania and New Jersey: 16 out of the 29 players come from those two states. Some standouts appear to be: Adam Watson from New Jersey power Bergen Catholic (and he brings his teammate Brian Jackson); Quadir Carter out of the Hill School (teammates of Jamie Swagler, a Colgate recruit); Max El-Hag who made a name for himself at Lawrenceville; and lastly Jarvis Lewis, all the way from New Orleans, Louisiana appears to have impressed the staff in camp and may see some time this year.

In addition, Matt McGown at running back is now eligible after transferring from the University of Richmond and should provide some depth behind Eric Rath.

2005 Schedule

2005 brings an exciting schedule to bear. After bringing in Monmouth of the NEC for what should be a tune up game (although one can never be certain), the highly anticipated resumption of the Lehigh/Delaware series takes place in Newark. That game should be one that all I-AA is watching as it may have playoff implications down the road and, for us Northeasterners, is a quality Patriot League/A-10 match up that always gives us reason to talk. Delaware is just the beginning of a fairly tough road stretch that first heads south for VMI and then up to Cambridge against Harvard. A 4-0 start should send the Mountain Hawks soaring in the rankings.

Holy Cross starts the Patriot League slate with a visit to Goodman followed by another Ivy foe Yale. The Mountain Hawks then take to the road for a game against their other Pennsylvania rival, Bucknell, before making the long drive up to central New York of an annual game that has meant many a conference title in the past.

The season rounds out with a home game for Georgetown, a short trip across Route 78 to the Bronx and the Fordham Rams before finishing at Goodman Stadium when the Leopards come to town for the 141st meeting of Lehigh/Lafayette.

Season Outlook

The chemistry for a repeat title run appears in place, starting with seven of 15 all Patriot League players return this season; perhaps most importantly the duo of Mark Borda at quarterback and Eric Rath at tailback. Rath runs behind fellow senior Greg Fay who became the starter half way through the 2004 season. These three skill positions should provide plenty of exciting offense to watch.

The biggest asset Lehigh lost to graduation would be now Arizona Cardinal Adam Bergen at tight end. It will be up to Gerran Walker and Winfred Porter at wide receiver to provide the main targets for Borda. Three seniors in Kevin Zebluim, Adam Kovacs and Greg Petrosky should round out the Mountain Hawk signal caller's choices, along with any new faces that emerge from camp.

In order for this offensive dynamo to continue to function as in years past, the offensive line will have to find athletes to replace two all-league captains. Two seniors in Adam Selmasska and Tom Toth should anchor the line while the remaining three spots will be battled out by four other players that saw time last year due to Lehigh injuries.

Even with their offensive prowess, the hallmark of recent Lehigh teams has been a stingy defense, and this year's version should prove no different. Six starters from last year's squad remain and are bolstered by the return of Royce Morgan at defensive tackle. Morgan went down in the second game of the year versus Villanova with a broken leg and boosts a defensive front that lost both all-league defensive ends. The task of containing opposing quarterbacks will most likely be up to a pair of juniors, Matt Mohler and Paul Fabre. Besides Morgan on the inside line, seniors Josh Cooney and Will Mitchell return as starters.

The linebacking corps are manned by veterans Anthony Graziani, Owen Breininger and Matt Purdy. While Graziani was an all-league selection, Breininger and Purday saw significant time last year, playing in all twelve games. The defensive backfield loses a pair of heavyweights in Karrie Ford and Neal Boozer-Gallman, but returns another standout that was lost to injury: Kaloma Cardwell at safety. Cardwell's all-league selection even though he only played seven games speaks volumes of his talent and respect. The cornerback positions should be held down by juniors Andrew Nelson and Brannan Thomas.

If this defense continues to perform in the manner of its predecessors, not only will Lehigh be a strong favorite to win the league, but due to the presence of several juniors in the lineup, it could be a force in the future as well.

The kicking game was one of the Mountain Hawks low points last year, and unfortunately for Lehigh this year could prove to have similar difficulties. Lehigh will be looking for a new punter to replace three year starter Kyle Keating and junior Justin Musiek should get the full time nod at place kicker in the hopes it will provide the team with more consistency.

Predicted Finish

1st. My reasoning rests in what could be an equation fit for an Engineer: RT + HS + HGVLc = PF. Or, in other words: Returning Talent + Historical Strength + a Home Game Versus the other top candidate for preseason favorite (Lafayette College) = Preseason Favorite. We all know that football seasons are hardly mathematical equations due in no small part to the funny shape of that oblong ball we use, but for crystal ball prediction purposes, it will have to do!

It will most definitely be a long hard road to hoe for Lehigh, as several dangerous stretches to the schedule will require 110% focus week in and week out. As the a top dog out of the gate this
year, all teams will be up for a game against the Mountain Hawks. The tight rope to the championship could falter at times least expected: For example, right after taking on two of the top programs in the nation in Delaware and Harvard, former Lehigh assistant will bring in an improved Holy Cross Crusader squad for a shot to knock off the big guys. Further down the stretch with Lehigh focused on Bucknell and Colgate, it could be easy to forget about the Georgetown Hoyas. With those games in the bag and looking forward to revenge against the team from Easton, they still have to head on the road to play almost the same Fordham team that came within a touchdown of beating Lehigh last year. In my humble opinion, should Lehigh take the reigns of their own destiny this year, Fordham might just be the most dangerous game on the schedule because it's on the road before the big rematch against Lafayette that could mean the title.

As it stands now, the Patriot League appears to be Lehigh's to lose. It won't be handed on a silver platter and their might be a blemish or two on their league schedule, but with how close the race is between the top teams of the Patriot League, I'm going to stick with RT + HS + HGVLc = PF. Or in the case, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

Best of luck to everyone in the Patriot League this year, of course except when you're playing Colgate!



4 Comments:

  • Nice analysis '13', but two errors:
    First--the fans are in Bethlehem, NOT Easton (home of you-know-who);
    Second, we lost D.C Shannon Morrison who left in May to got to his alma mater Marshall. Secondary coach Wicher moved up to DC that created the vacancy for Triviani. Since Coach Wilcher was part of the equation last year, I wouldn't expect much of a problem in transition. In fact, Wilcher may be more aggressive than Morrison--especially with a bevy of deep and athletic db's.
    I do agree that the 'trap'game could be Fordham--especially if they have a few losses in the league by the time Nov. 12 rolls around.
    --Ngineer

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:26 PM  

  • so noted and corrected ngineer. Thanks!

    By Blogger colgate13, at 10:39 PM  

  • Great write up's across the league! Well done.

    Is is certainly going to be a "long hard road to hoe" but I don't know why were hoeing roads. ;) Perhaps a dificult road to travel or a tough row to hoe?

    By Anonymous Engineer91, at 11:37 AM  

  • Must be a farmer...;-)

    --Ngineer

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:29 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home