Going to a college football game is an experience you’ll never forget, especially if it's the Lehigh Mountain Hawks taking on the Lafayette Leopards in the 158th meeting of The Rivalry. From the energy of the game itself, to exploring Lehigh Valley, we’ve curated this game weekend itinerary to help you plan a fantastic visit.
How to Prepare
Be sure to book your accommodations and restaurant reservations in advance. Football games draw a crowd and booking early ensures you secure the location of your choice. Remember to check the list of items you are and are NOT allowed to bring into the stadium; you don’t want to be caught unawares.
Check into your accommodations, settle in, and get ready for dinner. Head to downtown Easton restaurants or peruse Lehigh's footprint in Bethlehem, pending what colors you don; Brown and White or Maroon and White? Leopards or Mountain Hawks (or Engineers)?
Leopard fans can’t go wrong with a reservation and burger at Pearly Bakers. Get the Centre Square Burger (cheddar cheese and bacon jam) and be sure to specify that you want local grass-fed beef, because helping the environment is worth the extra two dollars that it costs. Also, this is not a place you want to leave without having dessert. Their peanut butter stuffed brownie is every bit as good as it sounds. You'll want to return to College Hill Tavern and recall your college nights, complete with a juke box and drinks and reconnect with alumni classmates.
Mountain Hawks fans can enjoy Southside eats with Roasted for innovative, locally-sourced diner fare. Reservations at Zest offer SteelStacks views worthy of the cocktails and menu selects. The Northside offers a step back in the region's history with iconic alumni favorites such as the Historic Hotel Bethlehem's 1741 on the Terrace or the Tap Room, plus the Tavern at the Sun Inn and McCarthy's Red Stag Pub and Whiskey Bar.
These spots don’t even scratch the surface of Lehigh Valley's dining or libations scene. Get more dining ideas here. After dinner head over the college bookstores to pick up all your game day apparel and accessories.
Time to pull on your Lehigh or Lafayette gear, grab those tickets, and head to the game. Leave a little early and enjoy coffee and a pastry at one of the many coffee shops. If you’re driving to the game, be sure to leave enough time for parking and tailgating. Find parking in lots near the stadium, street parking, as well as paid spots in locals’ yards. Time to line up to get into Fisher Stadium. Once inside, stop at the concession stand for a hot dog or other classic game day foods.
After the game head to dinner or back to your hotel for a quick power nap before going out on the town. Local pubs and bars will be celebrating the matchup, whether you're on the winning or losing side.
There is nothing like a post-game day brunch. If you're downtown Bethlehem, you'll want to check out the musical brunch at Hotel Bethlehem. Easton's fires up tons of choices on the brunch and breakfast menu, be sure to order the infamous Bloody Mary. Want to venture over to Allentown before wrapping up your Lehigh Valley weekend? Pair a mimosa flight with crab cake benedict at Union and Finch.
About the Rivalry
Lehigh vs. Lafayette is "The Rivalry", and it is no secret any more. The rest of the country and perhaps the world are now aware of our contribution to the great rivalries of college athletics; like Ohio State vs. Michigan, Alabama vs. Auburn, Harvard vs. Yale, Duke vs. North Carolina, Lehigh vs. Lafayette belongs in the conversation because it's on par with the rest.
In 2014, "The Rivalry" was shared with New York City, with Yankee Stadium hosting the game marking the first time the game has ever left the borders of Pennsylvania. However it was not the first time the game has left Lehigh Valley. Back in 1891, coincidentally the only year in which three games were played, one of the games was a neutral site game played in Wilkes-Barre, where legend has it the fans were so loud, they scared some of the locals.
But let's go back into the history of "The Rivalry;" where and when did it begin? And who started it?
Lafayette began its football program in 1882. In 1883 the rules of football were standardized and Lafayette’s manager approached Lehigh offering to play them. Lehigh responded by forming its first team and in 1884 "The Rivalry" began on the football field. But that's not really where it all started.
Although football may be the central sport around which The Rivalry now occurs, it has permeated every other sport, but the seed of “intense competition” that lies between the two schools actually predates football.
The first time the two schools met on an athletic field was for baseball in 1869, but for the passion that now exists, it appears (not to point fingers) Lafayette College started it. Back in May 1881, when Lehigh decisively won the first joint Track & Field event held between the two schools, Lafayette's student journalists had something to say.
Following the loss, the Lafayette College Journal said “defeat in our recent contest with Lehigh University, -a defeat, too, doubly humiliating, coming, as it did, from an adversary in every other respect our inferior.” Now, this was 1881, so I'm not sure how scathing a "burn" that is, but it seems harsh and it seems to have fanned the flames.
Although the teams saw each other often on the gridiron, 1902 started the modern era of one game per year, solidifying the game as an annual Lehigh Valley event, not to be missed. Due to wartime travel restrictions imposed from World War II, they played each other twice in 1943 and 1944, to fill out their schedules.
This Rivalry, and this football game is a part of Lehigh Valley as much as it is a part of either school. Despite two games not being at “home” for both team, and even having students form ad hoc teams to keep The Rivalry going in some years "The Rivalry" continues on.
The history of The Rivalry on the gridiron is like the history of football. Since 1896, the last time there was a year with no game, football has changed and The Rivalry has adapted.
Lafayette's Aaron Crane threw the first ever touchdown pass in the series in a Lafayette victory in 1909. Three years later Lehigh's Pat Pazzetti threw the first ever touchdown pass in the series for Lehigh, which led to an Engineers victory.
Aside from the many "firsts" that have occurred in the series, three games stand out from the rest. In 1964, the 100th meeting of The Rivalry was a tie that included missed extra points to achieve a 6-6 final. It remains the last tie in the series.
The next moment comes from 1995 with "The Catch." With no lights at Goodman Stadium, the second and final overtime was played at the scoreboard end of the field. The scoreboard lights were brightened to give as much illumination to the players on the field as possible. With little light Aylsworth completed a pass to Klingerman to not only win Lehigh the game but also the Patriot League Championship!
Ten years later it was Lafayette’s turn for last moment heroics. With 38 seconds remaining in regulation on a 4th-and-10 Davis completed a pass to Hurt, that not only was a first down it was the game-winning touchdown for the Leopards. Like 1995, the pass didn't just win the game, it won the Patriot League.
But it isn't always about the championship. Yes, Lehigh and Lafayette have been stalwarts at the top of the Patriot League, with at least one of them vying for the Patriot League Title every year, but what makes this "The Rivalry" is that whether or not the Patriot League or Playoff Implications are on the line, this IS a championship.
You throw out the records when Lehigh and Lafayette take to the field against each other. Throw them out, seriously, things are about to get heated and records mean nothing when there is this much passion in a Rivalry!
I’m not kidding, when I say that because three times in this series a winless team has won in The Rivalry and each time that one victory made the team's season a success because they beat the one team that matters most, their rival!
In 1945 Lafayette was 1-7-1, their lone win a 7-0 win at Lehigh. In 1963 Lehigh was 1-8-0, their lone win a 15-8 win at home. In 1965 Lehigh was 1-8-0, their lone win a 20-14 win at home.
And the ways in which we fans of this Rivalry, regardless of side, indulge in the annual tradition has changed as well. It's no longer required to be in the stadium, although it is something that you should do at least once. In 1981, for the 117th Edition of the game, The Rivalry was first broadcast on television and it's been on at least local TV ever since.
Twelve years later was the first national telecast of The Rivalry as the first college football game ever televised on ESPN2, which had only been on air for less than two months, having just launched in October of 1993.
Three years after the first national telecast The Rivalry went digital with the first internet streamed game in 1996. And then finally, 10 years after The Rivalry went digital, the first edition of the game to be played on turf and use lights took place in 2006 at Lafayette’s newly renovated Fischer Stadium.
That progress is something to be celebrated by both sides. The technology around the game has grown up and so has The Rivalry, but it hasn't staled.
The passion of Lehigh celebrating its first ever win over Lafayette in football during the 1887 season by setting fire to the stands, their own stands, is something that is now just part of the legend.
And I have to mention the old tradition of tearing down the goalposts which was as much a part of the game as the kickoff or the tailgate. That is until 1991, when goalpost "technology" changed. In fact, in 1975, three minutes into the third quarter both goal posts were torn down, that’s how much tearing them down meant to the students… They couldn’t even wait for the game to finish!
Lafayette has 11 more wins in the series than Lehigh and since they only play each other once a year these days, it may take a while for Lehigh to level the records. This is a rivalry in the truest sense of the word. Both sides have a passion to beat the other and both sides have the ability to do just that.
Sure, there have been blowouts and streaks, but to have played 157 games and be separated by only 11 wins (Lafayette has 80, Lehigh 71, 5 ties), that shows you how equally matched these two teams are.
With all that said, all of the passion, pride, history, and tradition, what does it all mean? It doesn't depend at all on where you went to school; you get caught up in it just being in Lehigh Valley the Saturday before Thanksgiving, like every year since 1884 with just that one exception.