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Lafayette Football Ends Season with Loss to Lehigh
The 2008 Lafayette Leopards football season started out strong with several exciting wins and some impressive performances, but their season was ultimately spoiled by devastating losses against Holy Cross and the rival Lehigh Mountain Hawks.
The Leopards’ 31-15 loss against Lehigh was close until Lehigh’s long touchdown off of an interception in the game’s final minutes. Lafayette fell behind 10-0 before many fans had even taken their seats, but the Leopards were able to recover quickly and at one point even took the lead in the second quarter.
Lafayette trailed by just two points heading into the fourth quarter, but a Lehigh touchdown with just 7:11 left on the game clock made it a two-possession game. Their chances looked grim with a 24-15 deficit, but quarterback Rob Curley ‘10 and the Leopards offense responded in the ensuing drive. Curley, who had been out for several weeks because of a head injury, replaced Marc Quilling ‘11 after the first half.
When Lafayette took the ball deep inside of Lehigh territory with just a few minutes remaining, there was a chance for the Leopards to get within one point. Unfortunately, the opportunity evaporated when Lehigh’s John Kennedy picked off Curley, returning the ball back 94 yards for a touchdown and clinching the win for Lehigh.
The players were disappointed with the loss and the team’s late season struggles. “It’s very disheartening especially since I know we’re better than how we played,” said fullback Joe Russo ‘09, who played his final game as a Leopard.
Running back Jerome Rudolph ‘12 said the team was “somewhat disappointed, but grateful to have been able to play and have great experiences with the senior players who are graduating.”
“[There was] definitely disappointment, but our first concern after the loss was saying goodbye to our seniors that gave everything to this program,” added safety Eric McGovern ‘10.
While the Leopards were not able to accomplish two of their main goals, beating Lehigh and winning the Patriot League, players did not view the season as a failure. “We didn’t accomplish all of our goals, but we had a winning season and had a great time playing,” said Russo.
“It was a winning season and an opportunity to make those players coming back next year more experienced in another swing at the Patriot League Championship,” said Rudolph.
McGovern, who played a key role on the Leopards defense throughout the season, also looked at the season optimistically. “We started 6-1 which was the best record for this school in a long time,” he said. “We didn’t finish as well as we hoped, but in the end we had a good year and look to build on that for next year.”
One of those six wins included an upset victory over the Liberty Flames. “I would say beating number 14 Liberty in their own house [was my favorite moment of the season],” said McGovern. “We played near perfect on defense, offense, and especially special teams and came away with a huge win for our program when no one outside of our own team gave us a shot to come out on top.”
Wide receiver Shaun Adair ‘09 finished his strong season with yet another impressive game, highlighted by a beautiful 62 yard run which helped the Leopards get on the scoreboard in the first quarter. The multi-talented Adair finished his career as a Leopard with 19 touchdowns, including both a kick return and a punt return.
Linebacker Andy Romans ‘09 also went out in style, leading the team with nine tackles. Romans finished the season with 96.5 tackles, two fumble recoveries, a blocked kick, and a memorable game-closing 21 run against the Liberty. Despite missing time due to injury, Romans was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year for the second season in a row.
Romans, along with linebacker Mark Leggiero ‘10 and defensive end Jason Mills ‘09, earned a spot on the All-Patriot League first team on the defensive side. Leggiero finished the season with 93 tackles, while Mills was a key component of the pass rush with 5.5 sacks.
On the offense, Russo was the lone player to receive All-First team honors. Russo finished the season with six touchdowns and had 15 over his varsity career.
Russo, Mills, Romans and Adair are just a few of the many seniors that have played their last games in a Lafayette uniform. Nonetheless, the Lafayette Leopards have excellent depth, and have players who are ready to fill in for those seniors., “We have a few key players coming back from season-long injury such as linebacker Sam Leland who is a real asset to our team, along with Nick Nardone at safety,” said McGovern. “We hope the freshmen who didn’t get a chance to play this year will come out of their shells and really show the team why they’re here".
Rudolph, who was one of the few freshmen to get significant playing time, mentioned wide receiver Greg Stripe, defensive lineman Joe Langen, defensive back Brandon Ellis, and linebacker Corey Watts as freshman who could make an impact in the 2009 season. Russo mentioned wide receiver Mark Layton ‘10, as a player who could make up for the loss of Shaun Adair. “Layton. He’s the next Adair, or at least the closest thing,” said Russo.
It would be easy to look back at this season and remember the lowlights, like the second half collapse against Colgate, the Davis Rodriguez ‘11 missed extra point, the heartbreaking 37- yard touchdown pass against Holy Cross that destroyed their playoff chances or the 94 yard interception return in the Lehigh game. Nonetheless, the 2008 Leopards overcame an abnormal amount of injuries just to compete for the Patriot League title.
Considering key starters Romans, Curley, and running back Maurice White ‘09 each missed significant time due to injury, the Leopards played well despite being short-handed. While they didn’t quite accomplish what they set out to do, the 2008 Leopards finished with a well-earned 7-4 record, and leave the fans with expectations to take back the Patriot league title in 2009.
Football ends season with loss to Lehigh
By Eric Goldwein, The Laf
Photo Credit: Eric Wilson/The Laf