The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Why Lafayette will win the 159th Rivalry game

The Leopards are looking to kill the Mountain Hawks tomorrow. (Photo by George Varkanis for GoLeopards)

Lafayette will win the 159th rivalry game against Lehigh tomorrow on the heels of one of the Leopards’ most successful seasons in recent memory. 

For one, Lafayette has achieved tremendous success this year under second-year head coach John Troxell, and time after time the team has proven that it can respond to adversity.

Like no other team Lafayette has seen in the last 10 years, the 2023 Leopards have done an incredible job of being a well-rounded machine that avoids making mistakes. Offensive coordinator TJ DiMuzio and defensive coordinator Mike Saint Germain have done a great job in their second years on the job, maturing their sides of the ball to be some of the best position coaches the Leopards have seen. In addition, the special teams unit is unrecognizable from last year’s with the level of success it has achieved.

The offensive unit, led by sophomore quarterback Dean DeNobile, has improved by leaps and bounds since its unspectacular 2022 performance. Sophomore running back Jamar Curtis has not only eclipsed the 1000-yard rushing mark but has been named Patriot League or FCS Player of the Week four different times. Receivers like sophomore Elijah Steward and junior Chris Carasia alongside senior tight end Mason Gilbert make up an incredible receiving core for DeNobile. In addition, the experienced offensive line, led by senior captain Mike Barr, has remained healthy all year and has been a juggernaut up front.

Defensively, the Leopards are led by three-time Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week and the favorite for Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year in sixth-year defensive lineman Billy Shaeffer. He leads a front seven which is getting to the opposing quarterback at a higher rate than any Leopards team since the pandemic era. Alongside Shaeffer stands fellow super senior Marco Olivas, who cleans up all tackles in the middle of the field and has a motor that is impossible to stop. Junior captain Saiku White locks down the third level and is coming into this game as the Leopards’ leading tackler. 

Lastly, the Leopards’ special teams unit, which has underperformed in recent years, has made a complete 180, making field goals and extra points with ease and setting up both its offense and defense with great field position.

Overall, this team has had a miracle season and it looks like it is achieving sustainable success. In all facets of the game, the team looks better and more confident compared to last year — and Lafayette still pulled out the win in 2022.

This comes as Lehigh has continued to underperform under first-year coach Kevin Cahill. Realistically, on paper, this game should not be close. However, if this season has shown us anything, is that any team can win on any week, regardless of what the odds or the numbers say.

The Leopards are in line to win their first Patriot League championship in 10 years and all they have to do is win over their most bitter rival. Every year, this game is incredibly close — sometimes closer than it needs to be. However, the Leopards have the talent and the composure to get this last win and achieve the ultimate prize in the Patriot League.

Hopefully, we will see the Leopards take home not one, but two trophies on Saturday.

Score prediction: Lafayette 28, Lehigh 24

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About the Contributor
Charlie Berman
Charlie Berman, Sports Editor

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