It’s hard to believe but the 2016 Patriot League football season came to an end last weekend. The 31st season of Patriot League football belonged to Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks finished up the regular season by capturing the outright league title with a dominating win over archrival Lafayette. Lehigh now heads to the University of New Hampshire this Saturday for a first round FCS playoff game. Lafayette finishes the season at 2-9. Fordham who had hoped to join Lehigh in the FCS playoffs concluded the year with an impressive 14 point win over a tough Bucknell team. Unfortunately, it turned out the 2 TD win wasn’t enough to get the Rams through the playoff door for a 4th straight year. While Bucknell finished the year with a disappointing 4-7 record, the Bison proved to be a tough out all year. Another team that caused opponents fits all season was Colgate. The Raiders whacked Georgetown 38-10 to wrap up a glass half full 5-5 record on the year. Georgetown on the other hand ends the 2016 season on an 8 game losing streak.
#15 Lehigh 45 Lafayette 21
Lehigh (9-2, 6-0) wrapped up the outright Patriot League title with a dominating win over Lafayette (2-9, 1-5) in the 152nd installment of college football’s most played rivalry. It’s the Mountain Hawks 11th league title which is the most all-time. Colgate has the second most with 8 while Lafayette comes in third with 7. Lehigh was picked 3rd in the preseason poll but were considered serious challengers to Colgate and Fordham with what they had returning on offense and the fact the Raiders and Rams had to travel to Goodman Stadium. The key ultimately for Lehigh was going to be their defense. Well, third year defensive coordinator Joe Bottiglieri did a fantastic job putting together one of the top units in the league. Their 23.5 ppg ended up being 3rd best in the league but really could have been better had opponents not racked up several garbage time touchdowns. As a frame of reference, last year the Brown and White defense allowed 35 ppg. The defense was aided by a first quarter fumble recovery and interception against the Leopards on Saturday which really helped to set the tone for the game.
Lafayette received the ball to start the game and had a promising drive going. That was until QB Drew Reed’s (20-29 259 yards 2 TD 1 INT) and RB DeShaun Brown’s botched handoff ended up in the hands of Lehigh’s LaQuan Lambert at the Mountain Hawk’s 21 yard line. Following the turnover, Lehigh marched the ball to the Lafayette 29 before the Leopard “D” stopped the Mountain Hawks on 4th and 12. Four plays later Reed was intercepted by Lehigh’s Riley O’Neil who returned it to the Lafayette 45 yard line. This time Lehigh would make the Leopards pay for their mistake. Nick Shafnisky hit Troy Pelletier (8 rec 92 yard 2 TDs) for 16 yard TD on a beautifully executed post pattern by the junior WR to give Lehigh a 7-0 lead with 2:49 left in the 1st quarter.
Following a Lafayette 3 and out the Mountain Hawk offense struck again. This time Shafnisky found Gatlin Casey (5 rec 79 yards 1 TD) in the corner of the end zone for a 15 yard TD with 14:53 left in the 2nd quarter. After another Lafayette 3 and out Lehigh FG kicker Ed Mish connected on a 30 yarder to extend the lead to 17-0. The Leopards offense would finally wake up on their next possession. On the third play of the drive Drew Reed hit talented TE Dylan Wadsworth (4 rec 97 yards 1 TD) down the seam for a 56 yard TD to cut the Lehigh lead to 10 with 9:30 left before half time. It wouldn’t take Lehigh long to answer. Gatlin Casey’s 54 yard kickoff return set the Mountain Hawks at the Leopard 42 yard line. Four plays later Shafnisky danced his way into the end zone from 4 yards out to give Lehigh a 24-7 lead.
Lehigh’s defense would once again come up big on Lafayette’s next possession. This time they stopped DeShaun Brown (14 carries 42 yards 1 TD) on a 4th and 2 at the Mountain Hawk 47 yard line. Following the turnover on downs, Lehigh’s offense would go on a grinding 12 play 51 yard touchdown drive. Lehigh RB Dominic Bragalone (19 carries 112 yards 1 TD) finished off the drive with a 3 yard plunge into the end zone. Now down 31-7, Lafayette would mount one last charge before half but Lehigh’s Pierce Ripanti sacked Drew Reed on 3rd and goal as time ran out in the 2nd quarter.
Lehigh got the ball to start the second half and picked right up where the left off in the first 30 minutes. Shafnisky connected with Casey on a short 4 yard TD pass to cap a balanced 9 play 67 yard drive. The Mountains Hawks offense would continue to dominate the next time they touched the ball. This time it was Nana Amankwah-Ayeh who found pay dirt from 2 yards out to give Lehigh a commanding 45-7 lead 4:42 left in the 3rd quarter. The Leopards would tack on two TDs to close out the scoring in the game. Lehigh QB Nick Shafnisky was awarded the MVP Trophy for his performance (19-29 268 yards 3 TDs, 7 carries 13 yards 1 TD)
After the game, Lafayette head coach Frank Tavani proclaimed that he would be returning for an 18th season. The embattled coach has a career 84-107 record on College Hill and the Leopards just concluded their seventh straight losing season. The last two years, 1-10 in 2015 and 2-9 this year, have been especially disastrous. With a roster that is devoid of athleticism/difference makers things don’t figure to get much better in 2017. It’s a shame for Lafayette and the Patriot League because the potential is there to be a yearly contender. The facilities are excellent and there’s plenty of high school talent within a stone’s throw of the school.
Postseason League Superlatives: Lafayette
First Team All-League : TE Dylan Wadsworth (JR)
Second Team All-League: WR Matt Mrazek (JR), DB Jerry Powe (SO)
Postseason League Superlatives: Lehigh
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Nick Shafnisky (Sr)
Head Coach of the Year: Andy Coen
First Team All-League: QB Nick Shafnisky (Sr), RB Dominic Bragalone (So), WR Troy Pelletier (Jr), WR Gatlin Casey (Jr), OL Zach Duffy (Sr), LB Colton Caslow (SR), PK Ed Mish (So), Return Specialist Gatlin Casey (Jr)
Second Team All-League: OL Tim O’Hara (Sr), OL Brandon Short (Sr), DL Tyler Cavenas (Jr), DB Brandon Leaks (Sr)
Up Next: Lehigh heads to New Hampshire for a first round playoff game with the Wildcats. Game time is set for 2 P.M. in Durham. The game will be streamed on ESPN3.
Fordham 36 Bucknell 22
Fordham (8-3, 5-1) earned their 8th win of the season with an impressive 14 point win over Bucknell (4-7, 3-3) in Lewisburg Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately for the Rams, the decisive win to close out the year, the 8-3 record and solo second place finish in the Patriot League weren’t good enough to earn an at-large bid into to the FCS playoffs. Fordham received at large bids in 2013 and 2015 but came up just short according to the selection committee this year. They along with Albany were the first two teams left out. Despite not making it into the playoffs, first year head coach Andrew Breiner and Co. have a lot to be proud of. Chase Edmonds finished the regular season ranked #1 in FCS in rushing with 1,799 yards. The 5th straight winning season is Fordham’s best run of success since reeling off 14 straight from 1929 through 1942. The biggest question for the Rams heading into the offseason will be if Chase Edmonds decides to stay or if he’ll forego his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft ala Towson’s Terrance West. While Edmonds might bolt, talented SR QB Kevin Anderson is expected to use his 5th year of eligibility and return.
It didn’t take long for the above mentioned Anderson to get things going against the Bison. A few plays after Jihaad Pretlow returned the opening kickoff 56 yards, Anderson hooked up with Austin Longi for a 5 yard TD pass with 13:03 left in the opening quarter. Things got turned upside down the next time Fordham got the ball when Anderson was pick sixed by Bucknell’s Bret Berg. The Bison defensive score tied the game at 7 with just over 9 minutes left in the 1st quarter. After an eventful first few minutes the game would settle in. The Rams offense continued to have success but weren’t able to put points on the board. Makay Redd’s two missed field goals (45 yd, 27 yd) helped bail out the Bucknell defense. Fordham finally got broke through again with 8:32 left in 2nd quarter on Chase Edmonds 4 yard TD run. The Rams next possession would not go nearly as well. Following a perfectly executed pooch punt that was downed at the 1, Kevin Anderson couldn’t handle a bad snap in the end zone and stumbled into a safety to make the score 14-9 with 2:51 left in the half. The Ram defense stepped up following the safety by forcing a quick 3 and out. Fordham’s offense would take full advantage of the extra opportunity. On second down, Anderson found Robbi Cantelli down the seam for a 74 yard TD strike with 90 second left before half time to give Fordham a 21-9 lead. The Bison were held to 99 first half yards.
The Bucknell offense faced near disaster twice (two Chad Freshnock fumbles) on their first possession of the second half but ultimately produced their first TD of game. Freshnocks second fumble of the drive luckily ended up in fellow Bison Andrew Podbielski’s hands in the end zone. The fortuitous bounce cut the Ram lead to 21-15 (blocked XP) with 11:17 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Fordham’s offense would get back in the end zone of their third possession of the second half. Chase Edmonds found pay dirt from a yard out to cap an impressive 9 play 81 yard drive.
Trailing 29-15, Bucknell put together a touchdown drive late in 4th quarter to cut the deficit to 7 points. However, their onside kick attempt failed and Fordham would deliver one last knockout punch. Edmonds accounted for all 50 yards on the Rams final scoring drive that sealed the 36-22 victory.
The loss meant Bucknell finished all alone in 3rd place in the Patriot League final standings. Senior QB RJ Nitti (2-6 17 yards) started the game against Colgate but John Chiarolanzio (14-32 140 yards) played most of the game under center for the Bison. RB Joey DeFloria, who entered the week second in the Patriot in rushing (1,070 yards) did not play in the season finale due to injury.
After an 8-3 season in 2014 Bucknell has posted back-to-back losing seasons. The Bison must find some more offense in 2017 if they want to post another winning season. QB R.J. Nitti and WR Will Carter (all-time BU leader in receiving yards) will be tough to replace but it won’t be impossible. Nitti’s inconsistency and propensity to throw bad INTs hurt the Bison offense at times. Carter showed flashes of brilliance at times during the year but injuries limited his overall production. There are reasons to be optimistic about the offense moving forward. The RB combo of Joey DeFloria and Chad Freshnock might be the best in the league next year. The key will be generating more explosive plays downfield. The defense should once again be very stout.
Postseason Superlatives: Bucknell
First Team All-League: OL Julie’n Davenport (Sr), DL Abdullah Anderson (Jr), LB Ben Richard (Jr), DB Bryan Marine (So)
Second Team All-League: RB Joey DeFloria (Jr), OL Griffin Barth (Sr), LB Mark Pyles (Jr)
Postseason Superlatives: Fordham
First Team All-League: RB Chase Edmonds (Jr), OL Anthony Coyle (Jr), DL Justin Vaughn (Sr)
Second Team All-League: QB Kevin Anderson (Sr), FB/HB Isaiah Seawright (So), Austin Longi (So), OL Ben Hartman (Jr), Return Specialist Jihaad Pretlow (Sr), LB George Dawson (Jr), DB Jihaad Pretlow (Sr)
Colgate 38 Georgetown 10
Colgate (5-5, 4-2) reached the .500 mark on the season with a thorough beating of Georgetown (3-8, 0-6) on a balmy afternoon in Central New York. When the season started a 5-5 record would have seen rather fetched for the defending Patriot League champions. However, a tough early season slate of games and a couple of key injuries (including preseason 1st team RB James Holland suffering a season ending injury in the fourth game of the year) helped to derail early season expectations. One aspect of the team that surpassed expectations was the dominant run defense. Colgate finished ranked 3rd in FCS against the run (69.4 ypg allowed). The Raiders exceeded their average against the Hoyas by giving up a grand total of 35 yards on the day. As for the offense, senior QB Jake Melville also finished the season on a high note by racking up 306 yards of total offense (245 passing, 71 rushing) and 2 TDs. Melville struggled at times during the season with his accuracy and turnovers which obviously hampered the offense. But the duel threat QB could always rely on his running abilities throughout the season (830 yards 7 TDs). The elusive signal caller helped propel the offense to 31.1 ppg (3rd in PL).
The Raider offense didn’t exactly get off to a blazing start against a stingy Hoya defense (23 ppg allowed, 1st in PL). Colgate went in reverse (-4 yards) on their first two possessions of the game before special teams provided a much need spark. Adam Bridgeforth blocked Harry McCollum’s punt then picked it up and ran it in from 4 yards out to give Colgate a 7-0 lead with 9:17 left in the 1st quarter. After Georgetown managed to mount an 18 yard drive that that took 5:30 off the clock the Raider offense finally awoke. Colgate went on an 8 play 80 yard TD drive to extend their lead to 14-0 early in the 2nd quarter. Melville’s 23 yard TD strike to Owen Rockett (2 rec 39 yards 1 TD) finished off a balanced Raider drive.
Following Georgetown’s fourth punt of the first half the Colgate offense put together another 8 play 80 yard TD drive. This time it was Mellville (17-31 245 yards 2 TDs 1 INT) to John Maddaluna (7 rec 83 yards 1 TD) from 11 yards out that put the exclamation point on the possession. The senior WR had 3 receptions for 40 yards on the TD drive. The Hoya offense finally got things going, relatively speaking, on their final possession of the first half. Following a short Chris Puzzi kickoff and a personal foul penalty against Colgate on the return, Georgetown started the drive at midfield. The Hoyas would get to the Colgate 26 yard line before having to settle for a 43 yard Henry Darmstadter FG on 4th and 6 with 11 seconds left in the 2nd quarter.
Colgate was able to build upon their 21-3 half time lead on their first drive of the 3rd quarter. The Raiders rushed for 61 yards on an 8 play 75 yard TD drive that extended the lead to 28-3. RB Kenyon Washington (11 carries 77 yards 1 TD) finished off the drive with a 15 yard scamper into the end zone. Colgate’s Jonah Bowman’s 32 yard FG late in the 3rd quarter pushed the lead to 31-3. The Raiders and Georgetown would each tack on late 4th quarter touchdowns to close out the scoring for the day.
While the Georgetown defense didn’t bring their “A” game, the offense once again was the biggest issue in the loss. The Hoyas managed just 147 yards (112 passing, 35 rushing) of total offense and 11 first downs. QB Clay Norris (20-31 112 yards 1 INT) continued to struggle passing the ball. His longest pass play of the day was a modest 18 yard completion to Justin Hill. Without any threat of a rushing attack all year, the subpar passing game created a perfect storm of ineptness on offense. The Hoya’s averaged less than 10 points in conference play which is the main reason they finished 0-6 and all alone in last place in the final Patriot League standings. The lack of scholarships certainly aren’t helping but it’s not like Georgetown was lighting up the scoreboard during the need base Patriot League era. Until the Hoyas can get solid production from their quarterback and acquire some playmakers at the skill positions they’ll continue to struggle on offense. Even with a very stout defense, it’s hard to foresee Georgetown breaking out of the Patriot League basement anytime soon with the current state of affairs on “O”.
Postseason Superlatives: Colgate
Defensive Player of the Year: DL Pat Afriyie (Jr)
First Team All-League: FB/HB John Wilkins (Sr), OL Jordi Dalmau (Sr), OL Ryan Paulish (Jr), DL Pat Afriyie (Jr), LB Kyler Diener (Sr), DB Chris Morgan (Jr)
Second Team All-League: RB Keyon Washington (Jr), WR John Maddaluna III (Sr), TE Nick Martinsen (So), DL Alex Campbell (JR), DL Brett Field (Sr), LB Charles Cairnie (Sr), DB Tyler Castillo (So), Joe Figueroa (Sr)
Postseason Superlatives: Georgetown
First Team All-League: Special Teams Hunter Kiselick (Sr)
Second Team All-League: PK Henry Darmstadter (Sr), DL Hunter Kiselick (Sr), LB J’V’on Butler (So), LB Leo Loughrey (Sr), P Harry McCollum (Sr), Special Teams Khristain Tate (Fr)
Holy Cross – idle
The Crusaders (4-7, 2-4) concluded their season last week with a disappointing 54-14 loss to Fordham at Yankee Stadium. Following the loss there was much speculation surrounding the future of head coach Tom Gilmore (70-76 overall record, 14 seasons). Athletic Director Nate Pine announced a few days after the embarrassing loss that Gilmore would indeed be returning for another season on Mount St. James. Holy Cross was expected to compete for the Patriot League title this year but the injury to preseason first team QB Peter Pujals early in the year caused the season to head sideways. Outside of a midseason win over a then ranked Harvard team there wasn’t much to cheer about. The loss of Pujals certainly hurt but outside of a few players (WRs Brendan Flaherty and Jake Wieczorek, LB Nick McBeath, DL Dewayne Cameron) there were very few standout players on the roster. Athleticism and depth still seem to be lacking in Worcester. In order for the Gilmore and Co. to stem the tide there needs to be an influx of talent at Holy Cross. The return of Peter Pujals for a 5th year is certainly a great start but that alone won’t be enough to challenge Lehigh, Fordham and Colgate for Patriot League supremacy moving forward.
Postseason Superlatives: Holy Cross
First Team All-League: WR Brendan Flaherty (Sr), DL Dwayne Cameron (Sr), LB Nick McBeath (Jr),
Second Team All-League: TE Lucas Nikolaisen (Sr), OL James Murray (Sr)
Final Power Rankings
- Holy Cross