Luke Anthony ’23
The Holy Cross football team (5-4 overall, 3-0 Patriot League) sits atop the Patriot League standings through Week 9 following back-to-back wins versus Colgate and Saturday’s victory at Lehigh. Following a 31-0 blowout over Colgate, the Crusaders went on the road to Bethlehem, Penn., to take on Lehigh for an important conference matchup. Lehigh came into Saturday’s game riding a four-game win streak after taking down Merrimack, Colgate, Fordham, and Georgetown.
The key for HC would be to gain momentum early by getting on the board first, and they did just that. In their second possession of the game, the Crusaders started from their own nine-yard-line. Senior running back Domenic Cozier took matters into his own hands with an 88-yard burst that brought HC down to the Lehigh three-yard-line. Two plays later, junior quarterback Connor Degenhardt punched it in on a one-yard run to put the Crusaders up 7-0. As Lehigh tried to respond, the Crusader defense stonewalled the Mountain Hawks on fourth down inside their own territory to regain possession heading into the second quarter. Though Degenhardt was intercepted on the ensuing drive, he would strike again before halftime.
A fourth down kick-catching interference call against Lehigh would grant HC favorable field position, starting at the Lehigh 31-yard-line. Once again, Domenic Cozier would string together a pair of great runs, including two that went for 17 and 11 yards respectively, to bring the Crusaders down to the three-yard-line. After being stuffed three times, head coach Bob Chesney elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Lehigh one. Sophomore running back Peter Oliver drove through for a touchdown run to put Holy Cross up 14-0 at the half. Lehigh responded quickly with a one-yard score of their own, topping off a nine play, 75-yard drive. Holy Cross refused to go away while Degenhardt and Cozier led the offense down the field, and put three more points on the board as sophomore kicker Derek Ng nailed a 37-yard field goal to put HC up 17-7.
To keep the momentum alive, sophomore defensive back Terrell Prince forced a fumble on Lehigh running back Zaythan Hill on the first play of the second half. Fellow defensive back junior Kendrick Knight recovered the fumble to set HC up on the opponent’s 33-yard-line. In just six plays, Degenhardt connected with junior wide receiver Tenio Ayeni for his fourth touchdown of the season to put HC up 24-7. Lehigh responded with a 33-yard strike from quarterback Tyler Monaco to wide receiver Devon Bibbens to narrow the lead to 24-14. Following a missed field goal off the upright from Ng, Lehigh made one of their own from 38 yards to again inch closer, making it 24-17.
The Holy Cross defense was charged with stopping a game-winning drive from the Mountain Hawks to preserve the win. After starting from their own 21, Lehigh was able to get down to the Crusader 35-yard-line. Senior defensive back Chris Riley shut down Lehigh’s drive after intercepting Monaco on his own five-yard-line to keep Holy Cross on top of the Patriot League. Cozier’s 190 yards on 22 carries earned him Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week honors. His 88-yard run in the first quarter was also the second-longest in school history.
The Crusaders’ next three weeks will decide which team captures the Patriot League title. They take on Lafayette this Saturday, then travel to the Bronx to face Fordham, and finally return to Worcester for the regular season finale against Georgetown. The last time Holy Cross won the Patriot League was 2009.