LEHIGH PRESEASON CAMP: Cahill and Mountain Hawks Dedicating To Make Goodman Home Field Advantage

BETHLEHEM, PA – This past Saturday at Murray Goodman stadium, you could hear loud music, the Marching 97 and loud yelling on 3rd down, only the season hadn’t started.

That’s because new head coach Kevin Cahill and the coaching staff have made changes to the way Lehigh football, coming off a 2-9 season, prepare.

“Anytime we can be in Goodman we’ve got to make it as ‘gameday’ as possible,” he told me after Saturday’s scrimmage. “For the players, and also the staff. This is our first game here [against Villanova] in two weeks. It shouldn’t be the first time we’ve gone through it, going in and out of the locker room, music playing, and understanding the timing of the game.”

It’s clear that almost as much as Xs and Os, Cahill is spending a good amount of time building not only football fundamentals, but also culture – and that extends to the fans.


“The biggest thing Coach Cahill preaches is our four core values, which are ‘passion’, ‘brotherhood’, ‘accountability’ and ‘gritty’,” senior DE Trevor Harris said to WFMX 69’s Dave Lesko after football practice this week. “The biggest thing for us that I thought we struggled with [last season] was ‘brotherhood’, so we’ve been building those bonds with the team.”

That “brotherhood” was in evidence during this entire offseason for Lehigh football, with the teams dining together, taking the bus over together (rather than drive over in smaller groups), and even doing specific team events together.

This week, the football team spent time with the Lehigh women’s soccer team to have some fun times and show some support for the rest of Mountain Hawk athletics.

Senior RB Jack DiPietro told me that on average there were 75 players on campus over the summer lifting and preparing together, including one morning climbing South Mountain.

Away from the spotlight, these team building activities have been very important to this squad as they look to put 2022 behind them, including a visit from the Frog-X Parachute team. Frog-X is based out of San Diego and led by retired Navy SEAL Nix White. The team regularly participates in jumps at major sporting events, with funds raised from various appearances supporting the families of fallen special operations servicemen, and going to a museum of special military operations in San Diego.

“The first takeaway is that we play a game,” Dean Colton said afterwards. “They put their lives on the line every time they go to work. We talk about our days being work days, but we don’t have that ten-point of intensity. When we lose, we’re still all right. When they lose, it means a lot more. The second takeaway is that when you take care of the man to your right and the man to your left and they do the same thing for you, it just raises the level of the room. If everybody is worried about themselves it’s easier to let yourself fall below the standard. When everybody is holding each other accountable, that’s when great teams are made.”

Passion at Goodman

It was also in evidence in Goodman on Saturday, with players on offense and defense talking and working together at time to course correct and fix mistakes during the scrimmage itself.

While the competition was fierce, it was always with a mind for both sides to improve and get better. Coming from a 2-9 season where it felt like players were on their own little islands at times, it stood out.

“Guys really committed to the new culture and to the new system,” DiPietro said. “and it’s been awesome to see, especially since it’s my senior year.”

It made for a preseason scrimmage that felt different than in past years – one more focused on what gamedays will look like and a culture of “continuous improvement”, as coach Cahill told me after practice.

“We’re still a work in progress, and we’ll continue to be a work in progress until the middle of November,” he said. “We’ve taken some big steps forward, but then we’ll have a step or two back. The kids are really dialed in, the effort is there, but we’ve got to have a lot more consistency overall.”

Like every football coach in America, Cahill didn’t see a fully-formed team out their on Murray Goodman Stadium’s field Saturday, and sees his team, who have been picked to finish 5th in the Patriot League, as a work in progress.

And in the spirit of the “work in progress”, when I was there the offense struggled to move the ball or score against the defense in the shortened first half.

But just like it might happen during a game that counts in the fall, the offense went into the locker room at halftime, the Marching 97 “played” (via a recording over the PA system), and coach Cahill and offensive coordinator Dan Hunt went into the locker room and helped them fix issues and make adjustments.

The feeling I get with the team and this staff is that there’s a lot of work to do, and they’re working hard to get there. I also think they realize and understand that a big part of that is an improved, loud home atmosphere at Murray Goodman, and that’s where the fans can come in.

All Lehigh fans know and realize Lehigh/Lafayette is a big-time atmosphere, with a raucous, sellout crowd and a vibe that is unmatched by most bowls. But it’s the other home games where they are looking for the day-to-day boost from the crowd, the Marching 97, and the fans.

You could feel it as the team scrimmaged 3rd down drills, mimicking the crowd’s volume going up on 3rd down to lift the defense to a big stop. You could feel it after a turnover, and the defense ran to the sideline and rang the bell to signal the turnover. It’s that sort of intensity that will help build things back up at Lehigh.

And it feels like they’re hoping to bring that intensity through to the college football season.