Is this the year? Lafayette football one win away from first league title since 2006

Is this the year? Lafayette football one win away from first league title since 2006

Michael Kelley

Photos courtesy of patriotleauge.org, Athletic Communications and by Aaron Levenson ‘15

If Lafayette football defeats Colgate tomorrow, it will clinch at least a share of the Patriot League Championship for the first time since 2006. Combine that with a Lehigh loss and Lafayette would win the outright league title for the first time since 1994.

Allow that to sink in.

The years have passed and the opportunities have accumulated but have seemingly always slipped away. Once again Lafayette is knocking on the championship door and in its way is the reigning league champion Raiders.

Will this be the year Lafayette returns to championship form?

“They are the defending champions. They have the trophy. We want it. We have to go out and earn it,” Head Coach Frank Tavani said at Tuesday’s media luncheon.

“This will be a battle royale I’m sure.”

Fans that flock to Fisher Field tomorrow are in store for quite the quarterback dual – Lafayette’s Drew Reed versus Colgate’s Gavin McCarney. Freshman versus senior.

Reed has shined thus far in his young career. In just five halves of football, Reed has completed 56 of 68 passes (82.4%) for 793 yards and 11 touchdown passes to just one interception. Two straight league wins and two Patriot League Rookie of the Week awards have followed.

McCarney, on the other hand, is the established veteran. He recently became just the third player in FCS history to throw for more than 5,000 yards and rush for more than 2,500 yards in a career. Through nine games this season, McCarney has passed for 1,380 yards and ten touchdowns while rushing for 526 yards and three touchdowns.

He is the definition of a dual threat quarterback.

“With this quarterback, he has caused concern for everyone,” Tavani said.

To guage just how devastating McCarney can be, Lafayette need not look farther than its game against Colgate on November 3 of last year. The Raiders amassed a league record 755 yards, 531 rushing, en route to a 65-41 victory that derailed the Leopards’ championship aspirations. McCarney himself accounted for 512 of those yards and almost outgained the Lafayette offense (542) by himself.

“Last year, everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” senior linebacker Mike Boles said. “It would be huge for us to get revenge. It’s going to be great to see how our defense responds.”

The Lafayette defense has indeed played well as of late and one reporter at Tuesday’s media luncheon even classified them as “relentless” the past two weekends. Lafayette forced five interceptions combined against Holy Cross and Georgetown and those turnovers rapidly turned into points at the hands of Reed.

Reed has proved to be a catalyst for a Lafayette team which once found itself 1-5 and in a severe quarterback dilemma with its season at a crossroads.

Now Lafayette, both offensively and defensively, is operating much more smoothly and much of that can be accredited to the immediate success of Reed.

Nine different receivers caught passes last weekend against Georgetown. Each of his four touchdown passes was to a different target. Those varying options coupled with the ground game has opposing defensive coordinators spinning.

“It’s just the game plan and part of the progressions,” Reed said of finding different receivers. “Guys did a good job of getting open. The upperclassmen and the coaches have done a good job of just settling me in and keeping me composed through it.”

Asked what it would be like to lead Lafayette to at least a share of the league title in just his fourth game and third as a starter, Reed replied, “I mainly just want to do it for the seniors. They have had some disappointing years and they have worked real hard.”

So who will it be tomorrow? Will Lafayette outgun high-powered Colgate and add another year to its championship banners? Or will it again knock at the championship door to hear no answer back?

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. tomorrow afternoon at Fisher Field.