On Saturday, in front of a packed house on homecoming weekend at Farrell Stadium, the West Chester University Golden Rams fell to the East Stroudsburg University Warriors 21-20 in a heartbreaker. A year after West Chester spoiled East Stroudsburg’s homecoming, the Warriors returned the favor. The loss broke a six-game winning streak for the Golden Rams against East Stroudsburg.”We had a great crowd,” senior quarterback Joe Wright said. “Everybody was all hyped and ready to go but we didn’t play our best and that’s what happens when you don’t; you lose. Give [East Stroudsburg] all the credit in the world. They fought hard for four quarters and they outplayed us today.”
“We gave it away,” head coach Bill Zwaan said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Stroudsburg. They did a great job and made the plays they had to make but we didn’t make plays we needed to make. We had opportunities; we didn’t do the job.”
The Golden Rams (3-3, 2-1 PSAC East) lost their first PSAC East game since Oct. 7, 2006 when Bloomsburg defeated West Chester 30-27. The Warriors (5-1, 2-1 PSAC East) defeated the Golden Rams for the first time since 2003, and for the first time at West Chester since 2000.
In a matchup many pundits thought would be an offensive onslaught, the game started as a defensive struggle for both offenses.
West Chester started fast on their opening possession as Wright moved his offense into East Stroudsburg territory following a 20-yard pass completion to junior wide receiver Dan DePalma. On a fourth down play, Wright was sacked by outside linebacker Mark Kalo, which forced Wright to fumble and gave the ball to the Warriors.
East Stroudsburg came out with a pass heavy offense which was expected. But following a 39-yard pass play to running back Zach Krise from quarterback Matt Marshall, the Warriors went to the ground game. Following four consecutive runs by Krise, fullback Brent Jones plowed in from 1-yard out to put the first points on the board.
“I was surprised they ran the ball the way they did,” Zwaan said. “You figured they would throw the ball because that’s what they do, but I was surprised they ran the ball as well as they did. I thought we were a little bit soft, maybe that’s because we were expecting pass.”
The West Chester offense continued to drive the ball on the East Stroudsburg offense, but Wright was intercepted by cornerback David Castillo at the Warriors 1-yard line to end a promising drive.
In the second quarter, the Golden Rams offense finally got going. Wright completed passes to running back Lee Hopkins (10 and 13 yards), tight end Ryan Paulson (14 yards) and DePalma (11 yards). Wright then hit wide receiver Steve Miller for 24 yards to the East Stroudsburg 6-yard line. Two plays later, fullback Matt McLaughlin plowed his way into the end zone for a score. Chris Hill missed the extra point, which would come back to hurt West Chester.
The second half started fast for West Chester. The defense forced the Warriors into consecutive three-and-outs that allowed the offense to put some points on the board.
Three plays into their first second half possession, Wright hit DePalma in stride down the middle of the field for a 54-yard touchdown pass. On their next possession, the Golden Rams took time off the clock before scoring once again.
Wright hit Hopkins for 13 yards to put the ball at midfield. Seven plays later, Wright found DePalma for 18 yards before McLaughlin scored his second touchdown of the game; this time from four yards out, to make it 20-7 West Chester.
East Stroudsburg went to the hurry up offense to put the West Chester defense back on their heels. Marshall ran twice for 29 yards and completed five passes, including a 34-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jeff Giglio who made a West Chester defender miss before scoring.
In the fourth quarter, holding a six point lead, West Chester junior running back D’Andre Webb fumbled the ball after catching a pass from Wright on a screen. Kalo forced the fumble on Webb, which was recovered by Webb’s high school teammate Shawnte Carroll.
On the ensuing offensive possession for East Stroudsburg, running back Kendrick Williams became the focal point. Williams rushed for 50 yards on six carries, including a 30-yard rush on 4th and one. Marshall found wide receiver Jordan Hallman for a 5-yard touchdown, to give the Warriors the lead for good.
“If we want to beat a good team like East Stroudsburg we can’t have all the mental mistakes we had,” Wright said. “We just didn’t play West Chester football and when you don’t play your style of football you’re going to lose the game and that’s what happened here today.”
“There are going to be times when we have to play perfect football in the second half to win,” senior linebacker Mike Dell said. “We just didn’t play perfect football. A couple missed opportunities to get off the field on third down and you know, it happens.”
West Chester had a chance to regain control of the game after the East Stroudsburg score but Wright, who tried to scramble away from pressure, was sacked by defensive tackle Keith Galinsky and fumbled for the second time of the afternoon.
After the defense forced the Warriors to punt, the Golden Rams offense tried once more to come away with the victory. With less than five minutes remaining in the game, Wright led his team down the field through the air and on the ground.
Wright found DePalma for 19 yards to begin the drive. Five plays later, Wright hit Miller for 23 yards to the Warriors 13-yard line. Following three consecutive incomplete passes, Hill had a chance to redeem himself, but pushed a field goal wide right from 35 yards out with one minute remaining in the game.
“I told him that we’re going to need him the rest of the year,” Wright said about what he told Hill. “A lot of pressure on him, first year kicker, that’s what happens. You’re not going to make every field goal. Can’t get down on yourself after one game.”
“We have to count on Chris,” Zwaan said. “He’s our kicker and he’s made kicks all year.”
West Chester finished with 420 yards of total offense, 323 through the air and 97 on the ground. East Stroudsburg gained 354 yards of total offense on a Golden Rams defense that came into the game allowing 240.8 yards per game, good for fifth in the country.
Wright finished 20-33 for 323 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Webb led the Golden Rams with 33 yards on the ground. DePalma finished for 122 yards on five receptions and a touchdown. Dell led all tacklers with 11 stops.
Marshall finished 21-32 for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Williams finished with a game high 50 yards rushing. Hallman and Giglio each finished with a touchdown reception.
“We’ll see what we’re made of,” Zwaan said. “Certainly there are a lot of things we can play for but our backs are against the wall there’s no questions about that. So we’ll see how we come out.”
“This is just a bump in the road,” Wright said. “We’re ready to go, we’re going to come back and win the East and go to the playoffs. It stinks but what can you do. This is how you show your character, you rebound from this and you move forward. You’re going to see a different West Chester team from here on out. You’re going to see what type of character this team has.”
“We’ll be back,” Dell said. “It’s bound to happen sometimes; it’s a long season. We’re West Chester football, it’s going to happen. All of us are winners; we’re going to win.”
West Chester returns to the road this Saturday to face C.W. Post at 1 p.m. The game can be heard live on 91.7 WCUR or www.wcur.fm.
West Chester leads the overall series with East Stroudsburg 53-21 . For the first time since 2006 West Chester has lost a PSAC Eastern Division game . West Chester had eight penalties for 60 yards . West Ch
ester had scored 49 first quarter points in the last two weeks before not scoring in the first period on Saturday.
LJ Harrell is a fourth-year student majoring in Marketing. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.