This Saturday, college football’s most-played Rivalry will contest its 157th meeting between the Lafayette Leopards (3-7) and Lehigh Mountain Hawks (2-8), and the hope is that it will be, well, normal.
In terms of the Lehigh/Lafayette Rivalry, however, which resumes this weekend in the 157th meeting between these two schools, for Leopard and Mountain Hawk fans, I think, college football seemed to end on that day on November 23rd, 2019, and never really quite seemed to get back to the college football that fans once knew before they learned what COVID was and how it was to impact their lives.
No matter when the game is played, when Lafayette and Lehigh get together on the gridiron, it almost always seems to be close and come down to a few plays.
This April, the same weekend as The Masters, Lehigh and Lafayette will be playing the first-ever Rivalry football game in the spring, a most atypical 156th meeting in the most-played college football game that’s simply called “The Rivalry”.
“I’ve been very impressed with the enthusiasm and attitude across the board,” Lehigh head coach Tom Gilmore told me. “Getting the opportunity to be on the field and to be working towards competitive opportunities has really motivated everyone. It just feels different out there this semester. There’s an excitement in the air whenever we’re on the field.”
Today, the Patriot League was the final FCS football conference to unveil their spring competition schedule to the public, as a part of their release announcing the schedules of twenty-two different sports being contested in the spring.
At the campuses at Lehigh and Lafayette, and the communities that surround them, there is a void in the third week in November, that most are trying to fill with virtual Rivalry activities and hope for a spring football season, making it not a cancelling of The Rivalry, but merely a delay to contest the game when it’s safer to have a more normal gameday experience.
Hope is not a strategy, and the truth is any form of national strategy has failed in an effort to have college football this fall. In a community like the Lehigh Valley, it’s a crushing loss to the coronavirus.
In the past, college football has survived through outbreaks of disease and mass disruptions, and how the sport handled those circumstances provide a possible roadmap to a late post-COVID-19 football season. Looking to the past, how could we adapt that to today?
It is rare that the MVP of the Lehigh/Lafayette game is a kicker, but that’s exactly what happened this afternoon at Murray Goodman Stadium as the Leopards beat their bitter Mountain Hawk rivals for the first time in five years in a 17-16 win.
This season, though, there isn’t the same feeling of continuity that permeated many of these other games. Part of that comes from the fact that, unusually for The Rivalry, both teams are packed with young underclassmen, many of them playing in their first Rivalry ever. Normally, The Rivalry is filled with narratives. This season, it feels like the master narrative is waiting to be written with two teams that, even at this late date, have unknowns.
Christmas isn’t for another month, but for a day, people associated with the Lehigh football program felt like they’d received a bunch of presents. The first present from the gods of football might have been the one that set the tone the best for Lehigh’s 34-3 win over their archrivals in the 154th meeting between […]