BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh defense needed one final stop to put an end to its 2009 season and senior Al Pierce delivered, intercepting Lafayette’s Rob Curley in overtime to give the Mountain Hawks a 27-21 win in the 145th meeting between Lehigh and Lafayette on Saturday afternoon. In only the second overtime meeting between the two rivals (first since1995) Lehigh junior quarterback JB Clark found junior tight end Alex Wojdowski for an 8-yard touchdown pass to put the Mountain Hawks up six. After a missed extra point by freshman kicker Jake Peery, the Lehigh defense picked off Curley for the second time to end the game and send the 15,741 fans into celebration at Goodman Stadium.
"I can’t say enough about the effort these kids have given through a very tough season and today they were rewarded for that," Lehigh head coach Andy Coen said in the postgame press conference. "There were so many different times that they could have packed it in but they never gave up; they came to practice with their heads up every single day and competed hard to the very end. I could not be any happier for the kids in this program."
Clark finished the game 22-of-38 for 292 yards and two touchdowns. For his effort Clark earned game MVP honors for the second straight year. Sophomores De’Vaughn Gordon and Jake Drawl finished as Lehigh’s leading receivers with 100 yards apiece. Pierce (12) and fellow senior Troy Taylor (11) led the Mountain Hawks’ defense in tackles.
Pierce spoke of his game-ending interception. "That was a play they had run earlier and we were preparing for all week. They got me on it a few times before but on that play I saw (Lafayette quarterback Rob) Curley keep the ball on the play-action and I just played my spot and made the play."
For Lafayette, Curley was 21-of-28 for 300 yards and two interceptions. Junior Mark Layton finished as the leading receiver with six catches for 98 yards. The Leopards finished with 482 yards of total offense in the game. Senior Mark Leggiero paced Lafayette with 12 tackles which included one sack.
The Mountain Hawks started the game off strong driving down the field on their rivals. Clark completed a big third down pass to Drawl for 20-yards to keep the drive going. Clark committed the games first turnover when he fumbled trying to scramble out of the pocket. Lafayette resorted to some trickery late in its first drive when wide receiver Kyle Hayes tried a pass to the end zone, but the Brown and White’s junior safety John Veniero came across to intercept the pass.
After a scoreless first quarter Lafayette struck first as Curley found sophomore Mitchell Bennett in the corner of the end zone to take a 6-0 lead. The Leopards capped off a 15 play 98-yard drive with the touchdown and extra point.
The Mountain Hawks’ freshman safety Bryan Andrews picked off Curley in the end zone to set up Lehigh’s first scoring drive. It was Lehigh’s second interception of the game and the Brown and White were able to drive 80 yards in 2:40 to draw even with Lafayette. Clark threw his first touchdown of the game as he found freshman James Flynn for a 2-yard score.
Clark finished the first half 12-of-22 for 154 yards and one touchdown. Drawl was Lehigh’s leading receiver with four catches for 63 yards. In total the Mountain Hawks could only muster up 154 yards of total offense in the half.
Lafayette finished the half with 236 yards led by Curley who was 10-of-14 for 161 yards. Layton led the Leopards with four catches for 64 yards. Lehigh and Lafayette went into the locker room tied 7-7 at the half.
The Leopards opened up the second half with an 82-yard drive to take a 14-7 lead. Curley found senior tight end Michael Bolton on three-yard pass to pull ahead. Lehigh was held on a three-and-out on its next possession, but on the punt Lafayette’s returner Nathan Padia fumbled the ball into the end zone and Veniero was able to recover it for the Mountain Hawks with 8:41 left in the third quarter. With the extra point by freshman Jake Peery the Brown and White pulled even at 14.
The Lehigh defense came up with a big fourth down stop early in the final quarter to get the ball back. The Mountain Hawks were able to capitalize as they drove 98-yards and senior fullback Anthony Fossati punched in his first-career touchdown from 1-yard out. The score was setup by a 63-yard pass from Clark to Gordon to get the ball down to the Lafayette five-yard line.
The Leopards’ Hayes made up for his first quarter interception by catching a 34-yard pass from Curley to bring Lafayette even with Lehigh at 21 with 1:43 left in the game. Lehigh got the ball back, but after a few first downs had to punt it back with under 15 seconds left in the game. Lafayette took a knee to send the game into overtime.
Lehigh finishes the 2009 season with a 4-7 record with all the wins coming in league play.
EXTRA POINTS… Fans can watch a replay of Saturday’s game tonight on channel 69 WFMZ-TV at 7 p.m. and on Sunday morning on Service Electric 2 Sports at 11 a.m …Today’s game was only the second time the two teams went into overtime in 145 meetings with the first being in 1995 … Saturday's game was Lehigh's first victory over a ranked opponent under Andy Coen ... Over 40 members from the national runner-up 1979 Lehigh football were in attendance for today’s game … Clark is Lehigh's first two-time MVP winner since Ronald Jean earned two straight awards in 1998 and 1999 ... Two of the three captains from the 1979 team were of the several in attendance: Eric Yaszemski and Jim McCormick … Lehigh wrestling fans can watch the Mountain Hawks take on Michigan live Sunday afternoon on channel 69 at 2 p.m.
Photography 2009 (c), Specialty Photographic