After being pushed to the spring and then postponed once again due to COVID-19 cases, Lafayette celebrated its 156th rivalry meeting last Saturday, welcoming some first-year spectators for the first time side-by-side with seniors who left the stadium bleachers nostalgically for their last Lafayette-Lehigh game.
“Going into it, I didn’t really know how it was going to be or how much spirit the students actually put into it, especially during COVID,” said freshman Abby Skidmore. “When we first got there it was very calm, and then a lot of people started showing up, and it started to feel like high school football energy, which was very fun.”
“It was definitely really special that we got to view it in person because being on campus this semester, a lot of people don’t have those in-person experiences. It’s nice that we got to keep one of those traditions alive and in person this year,” junior Gillian MacDonald said.
Many first-years were grateful to have the opportunity to spend time with each other as a group in-person for the first time.
“We were around a bunch of kids from my class and it just felt great to finally have a big event that a bunch of people from the class of 2024 were at, because we’ve really never had that before,” Skidmore said.
Turnout was limited by the college, but students still turned out in droves to cheer on the Leopards.
“I’d say we saw a lot less people in the stands compared to what we’ve seen prior, but it still felt like a big rivalry game, and was probably the closest thing we could have even done to simulating what it would have looked like in November,” said junior Koby Acheampong, who commentated the game on the WJRH radio station. “I thought it surpassed all expectations of what a football game would look like at Lafayette during a pandemic.”
Acheampong said he enjoyed being live for the whole game and that he hopes to continue the tradition of live-commentating the game for the radio.
And for some students, the spring rivalry game had its perks. Senior Edgar Dacto said that even though students had to stick to smaller cohorts in order to maintain safety during the game, it was actually nice to be around a more close-knit group.
“I wasn’t able to see everyone that I usually would, or have that experience of meeting and just talking to a bunch of different people all at once,” he said, “but at the same time, I kind of honed in on the people that I actually love to spend time with and so it just made the experience much more enjoyable.”
“There were security guards coming around and telling people to separate a bit, so they were being very cautious. I give the whole experience a thumbs up in terms of being cautious about COVID,” Dacto added.
There were other aspects of watching the game in the spring that were more enjoyable than previous years as well, such as the sunny spring weather.
“It was really fun to have a football game in the spring. It felt weird at first, but it was nice to have good weather and be able to wear spring clothes,” Sofia Khalek ’22 agreed.
Most students expressed that, besides the normal COVID-19 safety practices that have been in place on campus this semester, the game kept that timeless rivalry energy it is known for.
“Besides the fact that we had to wear a mask at the game and had to see less people, it was pretty much the same. Everyone was still excited and amped up to see the game,” Dacto said.
“The energy for when we won was really cool. From my vantage point, I saw the wave of the whole student section standing up for all of those defensive plays on the last drive of the game,” Acheampong said. “Thinking about it from the perspective of the pandemic, the reaction is never going to be the exact same, but for the situation we were in, I think it was amazing, and it was a great atmosphere.”
“I think for me as a senior, it’s just one more piece of normalcy that we haven’t been able to have for the last year. I kind of looked around at the end of the game and realized this is the last time I’ll ever probably sit in these bleachers,” Dacto reflected.
Overall, this game is one that will be remembered by the Lafayette community for years to come.
“I remember watching the photographer going around taking everyone’s photo, and I was just thinking about how when people look back on this game, it’ll be remembered as the ‘COVID game,’” MacDonald said. “People will look back at photos of students in the stands wearing masks, and I think we made history going to this game.”