Hawks Defeat Lehigh for Third Win

The Hawks’ football team edged the Leigh University Mountain Hawks 28-21, on Sept. 27 at Goodman Stadium. The win pushes MU’s record to 3-1 while Lehigh falls to 0-4 for the season.

“We knew it was going to be tough game, a game that would go the full 60 minutes and it was, coming right down to the final seconds,” said head coach Kevin Callahan. “Our defense got a stop when it needed to and ended up blocking a field goal which was huge. Then our offense took the field and put on a very impressive 74-yard drive to go down the field and score a touchdown. It was a game in which our guys showed a lot of heart, a lot of desire and made plays when we had to.”

With the score tied 21-21 and only 3:49 remaining in the game, Lehigh lined up to attempt a 32-yard field goal, but redshirt freshman DJ Martin blocked the kick giving the ball back to the Hawks’ offense.

The offense proceeded to move quickly down the field, highlighted by a 15-yard late hit penalty on Lehigh, and a 15-yard reception by senior wider receiver Neal Sterling. The drive culminated with senior quarterback Brandon Hill‘s 19-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Eric Sumlin with only 12 seconds left in the game.

“We were just running the plays that we were running all game. We knew the matchups we had,” explained Hill. “We knew we had that play in the arsenal so we just waited on it and at the end of the game it was there.”

MU was led by their tandem of seniors Hill and Sterling, who both had career days. Hill completed 33 of 44 passes for a career-high 390 yards while also adding three passing touchdowns. His 33 completions and 44 attempts were both also career highs. Sterling completed his day with 11 receptions for a career-high 183 yards and a touchdown.

The Hawks started the game quickly, scoring on their first possession. Just 1:47 into the game, Hill hit Sterling with a pass that he quickly turned up field for a 59-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.

Lehigh would answer with a touchdown on their first possession when sophomore quarterback Nick Shafnisky connected with junior wide receiver Stefan Sanson on a 33-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at seven. The score capped off a 10-play 78-yard drive that took just under four minutes.

The Mountain Hawks would take the lead with 9:06 left in second quarter with another long drive, this one being 10-plays for 79-yards. Shafnisky executed a quarterback designed run from the 4-yard line to put Leigh on top 14 -7.

MU answered back right before the half when sophomore running back Lavon Chaney ran for a 7-yard touchdown with 2:53 remaining in the half.

The teams would exchange scoring drives in the third quarter to keep the game tied, 21-21, entering the fourth quarter.

Lehigh scored first after halftime, as they capitalized Hill’s interception, when senior running back Rich Sodeke ran for a six-yard touchdown to take a 21-14 lead.

MU would answer before the fourth quarter when Hill hit Chaney for a four-yard touchdown reception.

Chaney led the Hawks on the ground with 18 carries for 93 yards, an average of five yards per carry.

Chaney didn’t do all his damage on the ground, however, as he racked up a total of 205 all-purpose yards. This increased his already Big South leading 159 yards per game. Fifth year senior Kwabena Asante pitched in to the rushing attack with 54 yards on only six carries, a nine yard per carry average.

The Mountain Hawks were led by Sodeke who finished with 119 yards on 22 carries and Shafnisky who completed 14 of 22 passed for 193 yards and one touchdown.

The win marks the first time the Hawks have been able to defeat Lehigh in six games played against them.

Callahan believes the win could propel the Hawks in their future games. “Anytime you beat a team that you haven’t beaten before, it’s got to be a good win for the team. I don’t know if I would use the word landmark, but it’s a big win,” Callahan said. “How we did it I think is the most important thing. I think this game should give our guys a lot of confidence and a lot of belief that they can come at the end of the game and do what we have to do across the board, offense, defense, and special teams to win.”

For their efforts in the win, MU sophomore DJ Martin has been named Big South Conference Special Teams Player of the Week and freshman Mike Basile was awarded his second CRONS Brand Freshman of the Week honor.

The Hawks will travel to Joe Walton Stadium on Oct. 4 to take on former Northeast Conference foe Robert Morris. The team will look to duplicate last years result against RMU, when they dominated the Colonials in a 35-9 win.

With a win the Hawks would improve to 4-1 for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

They will then return to Kessler Field on Oct. 11 to play in the University’s Homecoming game against Columbia University.

PHOTO COURTESY of Taylor Jackson