The Golden Rams clinched at least a share of the PSAC East division championship Saturday night at Farrell Stadium, beating East Stroudsburg 30-15 in a heated affair that saw sparks fly before kickoff.
As the Golden Rams were stretching as a team, the East Stroudsburg Warriors entered the field through the West Chester tunnel. Rather then making the trek to their sidelines, the Warriors proceeded to huddle up and break down along the goal line. Later, they gathered on the Golden Rams bench and proceeded to jump on the Ram logo at midfield, raising the fire of West Chester players and coaches alike.
It would be the Golden Rams though who laughed first and last once the ball was teed up.
On West Chester’s first play from scrimmage, Bill Zwaan Jr. dropped back and connected with Mike Washington over the middle of the field for a 62-yard touchdown.
“[East Stroudsburg] does that every year,” Zwaan Jr. said of the Warriors pre-game antics. “They talk through the whole game and their fans talk. We just wanted to show them up on the first play of the game, and that play was a great momentum booster for us to start the game.”
Washington went on to add three more catches and 106 yards against the Warriors. Zwaan Jr. meanwhile threw for three touchdowns and 243 yards on just 11-24 passing.
In place of starting halfback Osagie Osunde, who sat out with a quadriceps injury, was a running back by committee that didn’t skip a beat.
Lee Hopkins led all rushers with 90 yards on eight carries, and added an exclamation point with a fourth quarter touchdown for the Golden Rams.
Also chipping in on the ground were Dean Millard and Brandon Hargrose. Millard chipped in 77 yards on 12 carries. Hargrose meanwhile added 53 yards on 10 carries and was instrumental as usual run blocking schemes as well.
“We’re a team,” Hargrose said. “When someone goes down, their backup needs to step up and do their part.”
Despite the offense putting 30 points on the board Saturday evening, it was the defense that stole the show.
For the second consecutive game, the Golden Rams did not allow a touchdown defensively, and forced two turnovers as well.
When the game still hung firmly in the balance late in the fourth quarter, Kevin Garland fumbled a Nick Krut punt that was recovered by ESU’s Bill Buis at the West Chester 16-yard line, a precarious position for any defense. But the Golden Rams held, stopping Warrior running back Joe Partridge for a seven yard loss after a perfect form tackle by Anthony Gallop. Then, Vlad Garbovsky and Greg Smith combined to sack quarterback Tim Roken. On third down, Mike Mignogno made a drive-ending stop just short of the first down at the 10-yard line. After starting at the Golden Ram 16-yard line, the Warriors were forced to settle for Greg Knauss’s fifth field goal of the game.
“They did a tremendous job after the fumbled punt,” head coach Bill Zwaan said. “Just a great job there, [the defense] goes on the field with a great sense of urgency under those circumstances.”
The defense extended its streak to 10 quarters without allowing a touchdown, dating back to the club’s 42-14 win over Millersville on Oct. 6 and including a shutout against Kutztown on October 13.
Saturday’s win gives West Chester its first division championship since the 2004 season, and is the second in Zwaan’s tenure.
The 2007 PSAC East division champion Golden Rams welcome St. Joseph’s (Ind.) to Farrell Stadium for the first time Saturday, for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff. The game is a non-conference contest.
The game can be heard live and exclusively on 91.7 FM WCUR and worldwide online at www.redzonemedia.org.
Matt Lombardo is a third year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at ML606516@wcupa.edu