Patriot League Champions!
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BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Lafayette took down No. 15-ranked Lehigh 50-28 in front of a sold out Goodman Stadium. With the victory, the Leopards captured the seventh Patriot League championship, having earned titles in 1988, 1992, 1994, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Freshman QB Drew Reed was named MVP of the game after throwing for a career-high 378 yards on 20-of-27 passing to go along with three touchdown passes. Senior Mark Ross finished the game with 127 yards including a 31-yard TD pass in the first quarter. Ross eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the season with a 21-yard grab in the second quarter. He is the first Leopard ever to have two 1,000-yard seasons in a career.
Junior Ross Scheuerman racked up 106 yards on the ground and also reached the 1,000-yard plateau on the season. It is the first time he has reached the 1,000-yard mark in his career and the first for a Lafayette rusher since 2006.
Scheuerman set the tone for the 149th meeting of The Rivalry by returning the opening kickoff 59 yards to the Lehigh 32. Senior TE Brandon Hall caught a 27-yard pass from Reed on the first play from scrimmage. Scheuerman found the endzone two plays later when he picked up a loose football in the backfield and beat a Lehigh defender to the outside for the score.
After a Lehigh (8-3, 3-2) three and out, Lafayette drove into the redzone on back-to-back completions to Ross and Demetrius Dixon. A bad snap on 3rd-and-8 set up a long 4th-and-26 from the 31-yard line. Reed dropped backed and hit Ross in the back of the endzone for the touchdown. The Leopards led 14-0 with 6:39 remaining in the opening quarter.
Following a sack and a holding penalty, which set up a 4th-and-long, Lehigh blocked the punt and returned to the 10-yard line of Lafayette. On third down, Mountain Hawks' QB Matt McHale hit Tyler Coyle over the middle for the touchdown. The score cut the Leopards' lead to 14-7 with 14:07 remaining in the first half.
The Maroon & White responded by driving 65 yards in less than two minutes. Lafayette completed a 49-yard flea flicker pass to junior wideout Justin Adams on third and short to set up first-and-goal from Lehigh's eight-yard line. After back-to-back run plays, Reed threw a short pass to a wide-open Adams who walked in for the score. The four-yard TD pass put the Leopards back in front by 14 with 12:22 left in the second.
After trading punts on four consecutive possessions, Lehigh ended the drought by putting together a 5-play, 32-yard drive that was aided at the start by a kick-catching interference penalty. McHale found WR Lee Kurfis all by himself in the endzone for the nine-yard score. The touchdown trimmed Lafayette's lead to 21-14.
The Leopards tried to answer right before the half, marching inside the redzone after a 21-yard pass from Reed to Adams. After an incomplete pass to Ross, sophomore Ryan Gralish came on to attempt a 34-yard field goal. However, Lehigh's defensive front pushed through and blocked the kick to end the half. Lafayette went into the break with a 21-14 lead.
Following a Lehigh three and out to begin the second half, the Maroon & White put together a six play, 80-yard drive to go in front 28-14 early in the third quarter. Lafayette moved the ball inside the twenty after Ross came down with the ball while being draped by two defenders. After a Scheuerman rush, senior TB Marcellus Irving found the goal line from seven yards out to give him his first career rushing touchdown.
On the ensuing Lehigh drive, senior LB Mike Boles stripped Keith Sherman and classmate Tyler Robinson recovered the loose ball. Lafayette took over on the Lehigh 49-yard line. The Leopards drove half the field in 11 plays and Scheuerman finished the drive, pounding it in from one yard out on 4th-and-goal. The hold was mishandled on the extra point attempt by freshman Blake Searfoss, but he was able to run it in for the two-point conversion. Lafayette would go up 22, 36-14, with 3:28 remaining in the third.
Lehigh drove 85 yards on its next drive in 12 plays. The drive was capped off with a seven-yard completion from freshman Nick Shafnisky to Coyle for the touchdown. Lafayette's lead was trimmed to 15 after the score with just under 15 minutes left to play.
Lehigh got the ball back after the Leopards drive ended quickly. The Mountain Hawks marched 53 yards in nine plays. Sherman, on 4th-and-2 from the Lafayette 13-yard line, ran right up the middle for a score. The touchdown cut the Leopards lead to 36-28 with 8:49 left in the game.
On the first play of Lafayette's next drive, Reed threw a short screen pass Dixon who made a cut and with the help from blocks from Adams and Ross, reversed his field and out ran the Lehigh defenders for the 68-yard touchdown. Dixon finished with a career-best 107 yards on the afternoon. With 8:29 left to play, Lafayette found itself in front 43-28.
Junior Tyrus White forced a fumble of McHale on the fourth play of the following Mountain Hawks drive and classmate James Coscia scooped it up and returned it 40 yards for paydirt. The Leopards led 50-28 with 7:29 left in the fourth, and the celebration was beginning.
Sophomore Matt Smalley picked off Shafnisky with six minutes to go and Lafayette ran out the clock.
Lafayette will next play in the FCS Playoffs, learning its opponent on Sunday when the brackets are announced at 11:30 a.m. on ESPNU. Lafayette will hold a selection show gathering on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Kirby Sports Center. The event is free and open to the public.
NOTES: Lafayette wore decals on its helmets in support of Aubrey Baumbach '17, a first-year student and member of the Crew Club, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver Nov. 8 following practice on the Lehigh River. Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani has been in touch with Aubrey's family to express the football team's support. Last week, the team presented the family with the game ball from its win over No. 5 Fordham. This week, a helmet bearing one of the light-blue "AB" helmet decals, whose color symbolizes hope for Aubrey's recovery, was given to the family.
Reed is the first freshman since Lehigh's Phil Stambaugh in 1996 to earn the Lafayette-Lehigh Game MVP. Reed joins Jim Johnson (1984) and Tom Costello (1988) as the only Lafayette freshmen to win the award which was established in 1960.
The duo of Ross and Scheuerman is the first pair in Lafayette history to have 1,000-yard seasons in the same year.
Coscia's fumble return for touchdown is the first for a Lafayette player since 10/23/04.