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Princeton football defeats Lehigh 29–17 in home opener

<h5>The Tigers faced a rigid Lehigh defense in the first half, but pulled away late.</h5>
<h6>Courtesy of <a href="https://twitter.com/PrincetonFTBL/status/1573843728258797568?s=20&amp;t=rNHi4F_xKyjwj0P8E0u2FQ" target="_self">@princetonftbl/Twitter</a>.</h6>
The Tigers faced a rigid Lehigh defense in the first half, but pulled away late.
Courtesy of @princetonftbl/Twitter.

In their first home game of the season, the Princeton Tigers football team (2–0 overall, 0–0 Ivy League) defeated the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (1–3 overall, 1–0 Patriot League) with a 29–17 win on Powers Field in a highly physical contest.

While the Tigers came off a 39–14 victory over Stetson, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks arrived with memories of their recent 30–6 defeat to Richmond and last year’s 32–0 home loss to Princeton. Looking to avenge last season’s defeat, Lehigh came out with a heavy-hitting style of play in the first half that kept the game close. In the second half, however, Princeton’s defense dominated by forcing three turnovers, which ultimately led to an easy Tigers victory.

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Led by junior quarterback Blake Stenstrom, Princeton started the first quarter with a drive right down the field. The 11-play drive culminated in a three-yard rushing touchdown by first-year running back Ryan Butler. Lehigh immediately responded with a 51-yard kickoff return that set them up for a quick five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dante Perri to wide receiver Eric Johnson in the back of the end zone, tying the game.

The Tigers would make their only major mistake of the game on their next offensive possession. After Stenstrom converted a critical fourth down to sustain the drive, Lehigh defensive back Tygee Leach intercepted the ball on the Mountain Hawks 32 yard-line. This ended a productive Princeton drive and led to a Lehigh field goal, with the Mountain Hawks now leading 10–7. 

Down by 3, the Tigers once again easily drove the ball down the field on a porous Lehigh defense to tie the game at 10 points each with a 44-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Jeffrey Sexton, Lehigh and Princeton would go on to exchange multiple punts before going into the half tied.

The Princeton defense came out firing in the second half, and Lehigh’s offense struggled to adjust. Tigers junior defensive back Nicholas Sanker began the third quarter by intercepting Perri on the third play of Lehigh’s opening drive, giving the Tigers offense possession at the Lehigh 28-yard line. Sophomore running back John Volker went on to score a two-yard rush touchdown to put Princeton up 17–10.  


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The Tigers’ defense snuffed Lehigh on their next drive. After the Mountain Hawks went three and out, sophomore tight end Connor Hulstein made an incredible special teams play when he blocked Lehigh’s punt. Princeton recovered the blocked punt and once again had the ball inside Lehigh territory. After a few productive plays on the ensuing drive, Sexton kicked a 38-yard field goal to extend the Tigers lead, making the score 20–10.

Princeton’s defense continued to suffocate Lehigh’s offense for the remainder of the game. On the Mountain Hawks very next drive, sophomore linebacker Jackson Ford recorded an interception giving the Tigers the ball at the Lehigh 40-yard line. On the following Lehigh drive, Princeton forced a fumble, recording their third forced turnover of the second half.

The Tigers would put the game away in the fourth quarter on a 65-yard Stenstrom touchdown pass to senior wideout Andrei Iosivas, creating an insurmountable 29–10 lead.

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Princeton would go on to win the game 29–17, moving to 2–0 on the season. The Tigers hope to bring this early season momentum into next week’s Ivy League opener against Columbia in New York City.

Akshay Swani is a staff writer for the Sports and News sections at the 'Prince.' He can be reached at ns9735@princeton.edu.

Nishka Bahl is a contributor to the Sports section at the 'Prince.' She can be reached at nishkabahl@princeton.edu or on instagram @nishkabahl.

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