Donald Liotine expected that he and his fellow backfield teammates would have a breakout performance in Stony Brook’s first postseason football game since 2012, but even he couldn’t have predicted what was to follow.
“We knew that we were going to have a big game,” said Liotine, a junior running back from Medford and graduate of the Stony Brook School. “But nobody expects for all of us to almost go for 100 [yards].”
The Seawolves rushed for 354 yards with four players rushing for touchdowns and had 622 total yards as Stony Brook defeated Lehigh, 59-29, at LaValle Stadium in the opening round of the FCS playoffs.
Stony Brook (10-2) will play at No. 1 James Madison, the defending national champions, in the second round of the playoffs at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Liotine led the ground game with 133 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Stacey Bedell added 82 yards on 11 rushes and a touchdown and Jordan Gowins had 59 yards on 10 rushes with two scores. Sherman Alston Jr. had a 47-yard touchdown for the final of Stony Brook’s six rushing scores.
“We wanted to use our athletic guys on the edge and just run physical like Stony Brook always does,” Liotine said. “We knew if we just got the ball downhill, one-and-one in space, we’d be able to create those opportunities.”
But Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore admitted that nearly 24 hours before kickoff, the Seawolves didn’t even know if Bedell or Gowins would be able to play because of lingering injuries. Priore credited the training staff and was thankful to have his full trio available to contribute.
“I think when you have more than one, it’s obviously tough for them, but I think they’ve accepted their role because they’re good teammates and they’re all friends,” Priore said. “And I think for our team it’s really helpful because we have fresh legs in there all the time.”
After a scoreless opening quarter, Stony Brook, ranked No. 10 in the FCS STATS rankings and No. 11 in the Coaches Poll, took a 24-14 lead into halftime with Liotine, Bedell and Gowins all rushing for touchdowns.
“Give the ball to [Liotine], Stacey, Jordan, Sherman, anyone and every single play has a potential to be a big play,” said quarterback Joe Carbone, who passed for 268 yards and had his 10th multi-touchdown game of the season. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Stony Brook wasted little time in the second half as Bedell rattled off a 30-yard run followed by Carbone finding a wide open Cal Daniels in the middle of the field for a 40-yard touchdown to take a 31-14 lead 44 seconds into the half. Liotine rushed for his second score of the game — a 12-yard run — to take a 38-14 lead with 12:03 remaining in the third quarter. Harrison Jackson added a 76-yard touchdown reception.
“Just trusting what our game plan was and keep running the ball,” Carbone said. “And we knew eventually one was going to pop and they all started to pop and all started to click once the third quarter hit.”
Lehigh (5-7), despite its offense entering the contest scoring at least 34 points in each of its last six contests and recording 452 total yards Saturday, couldn’t pull the score any closer than 16 points after Stony Brook’s first touchdown of the second half.
“To be able to win a playoff game and win it in the fashion we won it is exciting,” Priore said. “And a credit to how hard these guys have worked.”
Stony Brook tied a school record with 10 wins, last done in 2012 — the last time the Seawolves reached the postseason. Stony Brook improved to 3-2 in its three postseason trips, including 3-0 in home contests.
And with a matchup against the top-ranked team in the FCS waiting for Stony Brook in James Madison (11-0) coming off a bye, the Seawolves are wasting little time celebrating the opening victory.
“We’re going to enjoy this win tonight, then tomorrow we’ll come back ready to practice,” Carbone said. “We know James Madison is the No. 1 team in the nation, [lost one] game in two years and it’s going to be a game on Saturday.”