Football loses home opener, but Shoemaker shines with school record total yards

Freshman quarterback Keegan Shoemaker (17) uses a stiff arm to fend off the Sacred Heart defender. (Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications)

The Lafayette football team had their home opener this past Saturday, falling to Sacred Heart University 56-40.

Despite scoring the most points in a game in over five years, the Leopards were downed by big plays in the third quarter. Lafayette took a 24-14 lead in the second quarter and the score was 24-21 at halftime, but Sacred Heart scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to open up a 15-point lead. 

Well it was pretty obvious,” head coach John Garrett said of what shifted the game’s momentum. “You know, the big plays. Just look at it: 65-yard touchdown, 37-yard touchdown, 24-yard pass at the end of the half. When you give up those explosive plays, they’re really hard to overcome.” 

Freshman quarterback Keegan Shoemaker got his second start of the season, and first at home. His 545 total yards of offense (411 passing and 134 rushing) are a Lafayette record, and the 400 passing yards are the first time the team has eclipsed that number since the 2011 season.

Although Shoemaker threw two interceptions, he also scored four touchdowns, with two passing and two rushing. 

We really put it all out there on the field,” Shoemaker said. “But we still have some stuff to clean up, obviously. We’re definitely making a step forward, and we’re excited to see what comes.”

Shoemaker’s rushing led the team, as he ran 23 of the team’s 41 rushes and racked up 134 of the team’s 212 yards on the ground. His performance earned him STATS National Freshman of the Week honors, as well as being named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week, and the Patriot League Rookie of the Week for the second consecutive week. 

“I would say less than a handful [of] those [were] designed runs, but I think a lot of them were scrambles,” Shoemaker said. “The coaches really helped me out if I get out in the open field, nothing’s open, just take off. Just listen to the coaching.”

“The main thing is if we can stay ahead of the chains, that’s a good thing,” he added. “If I can get us ahead of the chains that really helps.”

Freshman wide receiver Joe Gillette caught five passes for 103 yards, and added a 44-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. Senior wide receivers Nick Pearson and Julian Spigner caught both touchdown passes by Shoemaker, and Pearson’s 142 receiving yards led the team. 

The Lafayette defense gave up 56 points, although one of the touchdowns was set up by an interception return that came five yards short of a pick-six. The defense was also handicapped by missing three defensive linemen, junior Harrison Greenhill and sophomore Ian Grayson, who did not play, and sophomore Malik Hamm, who was ejected. 

“Well, you didn’t really see anything,” Garrett said of the play where Hamm was ejected. “[…] everybody was all together. [The referee] said to me [Hamm] performed a personal foul.”

“That’s what we were told,” he added. “We just have to abide by what the officials told us.”

The Leopards will look to get in the win column tomorrow when they visit the University of Albany for a 3:30 p.m. matchup. 

Andrew Hollander ’21 contributed reporting. 

About AJ Traub

AJ Traub '20 is the assistant sports editor of The Lafayette. He studies geology and French.

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