The Central Connecticut football team scored a late touchdown, but were unable to erase an early deficit and fell to Lehigh in a 20-14 loss on Friday night at Arute Field. The Blue Devils managed to get within six points late, but the Mountain Hawks held on for the win in the opener.
Lehigh took a 20-7 lead to open the third quarter after taking the opening kickoff and driving 67 yards. A 46-yard pass from Nick Shafnisky to Dom Bragalone for 46 yards highlighted the drive and was capped off with a 27-yard field goal by Ed Mish.
The Blue Devils started their rally after getting a stop on a 4th-and-2 to take over with 6:25 to play on their own 30-yard line. Central proceeded to drive down the field, including a 15-yard completion from Pauldo to classmate Jose Garcia on a 3rd-and-6. From the Lehigh 35, sophomore Devon Lofton broke off a 26 yard run to pset up first-and goal. On second down, Pauldo found junior Dan Hebert in the corner of the endzone to make it 20-14.
The Blue Devils kicked it deep on the ensuing kickoff with 3:47 to play, but Lehigh managed to pick up three first downs and run out the clock for the win.
Central’s defense had a promising start to the night, forcing a pair of turnovers on Lehigh’s first two possessions of the game. Sophomore Najae Brown picked off Shafnisky at the CCSU 47-yard line on the Mountain Hawks’ opening drive. After getting the ball back following a CCSU punt, the Mountain Hawks drove 80 yards in 14 plays, but the drive ended when Shafnisky fumbled into the endzone after taking off on a scramble and was hit by junior Jevon Elmore who knocked the ball loose and senior Brandon Hollomon recovered.
The Mountain Hawks’ defense managed to keep the Blue Devils from taking advantage of the turnovers. The Lehigh offense rattled off 17 unanswered points in the second quarter. A 22-yard scramble by Nick Shafnisky capped a five-play, 59-yard drive to open the second period to make it 7-0.
On their next drive, Gatlin Casey hauled in an 11-yard pass from Shafnisky, capping a five-play, 34-yard drive. The first two scoring drives for the Mountain Hawks took just 3:22.
The Mountain Hawks pushed their lead to 17-0 on a 24-yard field goal by Ed Mish. The scoring drive covered 59 yards on 10 plays in a span of 3:43.
The Blue Devils got the ball back with 1:04 in the half and took over on their own 35. A four-yard pass to junior Mike Peterson and a 29-yard run by Pauld moved the ball to the Lehigh 32-yard line. CCSU got on the board just before halftime when a 32-yard pass from Pauldo found sophomore Joey Fields to make it 17-7 with 0:40 left in the half.
Central finished the night with 274 total yards, with Pauldo picking up a team-high 49 net yards on the ground. He finished 11-of-21 for 116 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Lehigh finished with 445 total yards, including 263 yards passing. Shafnisky completed 19-of-27 for 263 yards and a touchdown. He threw one interception. Shafnisky led the russing attack as well with 83 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.
Central returns to action on Saturday, September 12, with a 6:00 p.m. contest at Stony Brook.