Home Field Advantage: Myth or Truth?

Drew Friedman

Every college student who’s ever had to survive on Top Ramen and Hot Pockets appreciates the value of home cooking. But the Lafayette football team has come to value it more than anyone else.

At home, the football squad is invincible, displaying a spotless 3-0 record. On the road, the team is winless with four losses. It’s not unusual for a club to fare better at home than on the road, no matter the sport, but the discrepancy is seldom so black and white.

“Dorothy said it all back in Kansas. There is no place like home,”head football coach Frank Tavani said.

The Maroon and White has had to face Sacred Heart, Fordham, and Harvard, all of which are ranked in the top-25 tier of Division I-AA. That alone goes a long way toward explaining the Leopards’ troubles away from home.

But it may not be the whole story. “Longer travel, I believe, is an issue,” sophomore safety Dennis Bencsko said, one of the team leaders in tackles. “A five-hour trip to Harvard, a six-hour trip to William and Mary…when we stay on the bus longer it just makes it harder overall.”

Tavani agrees. “The trip we took at the end of last season was hard. As a host team they were supposed to have a hotel for us, and we had to stay fifty minutes away,” he said. “Those things can affect your play.”

The players downplay crowd noise as a reason for their road losses. “Noise is not really a concern because we get our calls from the sideline,” Bencsko pointed out.

“Once the game is kicked off, everything is blocked out and nothing else matters besides what’s on the field,” Draeland James, the team’s other starting safety, added.

The lone exception, the players agree, is when they play Lehigh. “Lehigh is is the toughest in terms of crowd noise being a factor,” sophomore quarterback Blake Searfoss said. “We always get the biggest crowd for that game so it is tougher to communicate on the field.”

At Harvard Stadium last Saturday, Searfoss completed 23 of 42 passes for 274 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions and senior running back Ross Scheuerman put together more than two hundred all-purpose yards, but it wasn’t enough as Lafayette lost 24-14. The Leopards outplayed the Crimson in the second half but couldn’t overcome an early 17-0 Harvard advantage.

The key play for the home team came with Harvard on their own 22, facing a daunting third-and-20. Encouraged by the partisan crowd, Crimson quarterback Scott Hosch engineered a 78-yard pass play for a touchdown.

With three of its last four games on the road, Lafayette is determined to buck the trend. “We’re battle tested and we will close out the regular season strongly,” Bencskosaid .

Playing at home, getting up out of your own bed, minimizing travel is big, but you’ve got to play between the lines,” Tavani said, “and perform regardless.”

“If everyone is tuned in to his assignment and does his job on the field, it’ll lead to success,” Searfoss said.