Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

For head coach Bill Zwaan and the Golden Rams, Saturday night’s PSAC East division championship clinching win was a victory three years in the making. The coach even got a Gatorade shower to mark the occasion, courtesy of defensive end Mike Walter. After downing East Stroudsburg 30-15 at Farrell Stadium, the head coach had the look of a proud father watching his children surpass a major life milestone.

“It’s really important,” Zwaan said of the team earning at least a share of the division title. “This group has really done a lot of great things here, and they’ve hung together. They’re a bunch of great kids and we’ve been fighting for this championship the last couple of years, getting towards it each year, and now we’ve gotten over the hump a little bit and for them, personally, I feel great for them. They’re a great bunch of young men, and they’ve really represented this program well.”

This group represents the coach’s first recruiting class, the foundation of the program he set out to build upon taking the job in 2003. The 21 seniors who arrived here at West Chester along with Zwaan four years ago have become the beacons of what this team represents. From captains Lateef Ferguson, Mike Mignnogno and Bill Zwaan Jr., to unsung heroes like Brandon Hargrose and Dean Millard, this group has helped transform the Golden Rams from a mediocre team in the PSAC, to perennial playoff contenders in a matter of four seasons.

Now they are division champions.

The great feeling of pride exuding from Zwaan after the game was surpassed only by sheer jubilation from a core group of players who legitimately grasped the magnitude of what this victory means to the program.

How important is a division championship? Well, just ask one of those seniors, Mike Walter.

“This clinches the East for us. Its been awhile since we’ve won this, it feels great to get it back,” Walter said. “This is the biggest win of my life so far.”

It is fitting that in the biggest game to date in his collegiate career, Walter would tally eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and one fumble recovery. His output on defense against East Stroudsburg was surpassed only by junior defensive back Tyler Downes, who will merit strong consideration as a defensive captain in 2008. Downes notched 11 tackles, nine of which were solo and managed to break up a pass as well.

What makes this Golden Ram team so special is the fact that before the dust had even cleared on a 2006 campaign that ended in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs, this squad had already turned the page towards 2007 and dreams of playing three more games then they had just completed.

It is a testament to the motivational skills of coach Zwaan to get every member of this team on the same page from day one. There were three goals outlined at the club’s season ending banquet last winter.

The first goal, win the PSAC East championship…. Check.

Next: Make the playoffs and then win a NCAA Division II Championship.

Just how do the Golden Rams plan on marking those milestones further on up the road? Well, more Gatorade showers for Coach Zwaan, of course.

It might be time to purchase several shares of Gatorade stock.

Matt Lombardo hosts a weekly sports talk radio show, Saturdays from noon-2 p.m. on 91.7 FM WCUR and is syndicated worldwide online at www.wcur.fm.

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