Going into Saturday’s PSAC Eastern opener against the Millersville University Marauders, the West Chester University Golden Rams football team looked to show the rest of the conference that they are here to defend their division title. After the coaches selected Bloomsburg to win the East in the preseason, the Golden Rams (2-2, 1-0 PSAC East) took their first step towards a three-peat with a 63-10 pounding of the Marauders.”There is no question that we want to defend our championship,” head coach Bill Zwaan said. “Every East game is really important to us. The No. 1 thing is we want to win that PSAC East Championship and once we start playing in the East I think our kids focus more and really get fired up, they like playing against the East, it’s important to them.”
The offense for West Chester, which struggled throughout the early parts of the season, finally seemed to break out of their mishaps.
The West Chester offense wasted little time getting into rhythm. Three plays into their opening drive, senior quarterback Joe Wright hit wide receiver Dan DePalma for a 58-yard catch and run for a touchdown,opening the scoring.
The Golden Rams defense, which entered the game ranked second in the PSAC and No. 18 nationally, continued their phenomenal play in the early parts of the season. Millersville did not record a first down until the latter portion of the first quarter.
The West Chester special teams also contributed throughout the game. Senior defensive back Kevin Garland helped the offense out by returning the first of 12 punts by John Banzhof of Millersville to the 24-yard line. Junior running back D’Andre Webb scored his first of two touchdowns from two yards out to increase the West Chester lead.
“It feels real good,” Webb said. “It felt great to come out here and execute. We are trying to defend out PSAC East title the way we know how to.”
On their next offensive possession, the Golden Rams struck quickly again. Wright hit senior wide receiver Steve Miller in stride for a 43-yard touchdown to give West Chester a three touchdown lead.
After Millersville had to give the ball back to the Golden Rams, the offense again struck. Sophomore wide receiver Will Gardner took a pass from Wright on a screen and outran the Marauders defense for 69 yards to give West Chester their fourth touchdown of the first quarter. This marked Gardner’s first career touchdown.
In the second quarter, Millersville finally sustained a drive. The Marauders gained five first downs to get inside the West Chester 10-yard line, but they had to settle for a field goal.
The West Chester offense took the field and lightening struck again. Webb took the handoff from Wright off of right tackle and sprinted 62 yards for his second touchdown of the game. In his last two games against Millersville, Webb has rushed for 432 yards and six touchdowns.
“It’s a good scheme,” Webb said of his big rushing performances against Millersville. “This is what happens when we execute. It’s not that we pick on Millersville, we come out here and try to execute against any team. When we execute this is the turnout.”
“I think we caught [Millersville] in the wrong look,” Zwaan said. “With D’Andre’s speed, if he can split the line of scrimmage, he’s got a chance to make it a big play. Once he breaks into the open field it’s hard to catch up to him.”
The offensive statistics were in favor of West Chester at halftime. The Golden Rams gained 401 yards of total offense compared to 95 for Millersville. Webb had 114 yards rushing on only four carries. Wright had 249 yards passing with three touchdowns, but threw two interceptions. The receivers (Miller, DePalma and Gardner) came into this game with one combined touchdown reception (DePalma against Lock Haven). But in the first half, all three caught a touchdown pass.
The West Chester defense forced Millersville into a three-and-out to start the third quarter and the Golden Rams offense trotted back onto the field. The Marauders got a full dose of senior running back Lee Hopkins. Hopkins ran the ball four times for 23 yards, with the last, an 8-yard rush, resulting in a touchdown.
Sophomore quarterback Jared Jorgensen entered the game in the third quarter and the offense did not skip a beat. Jorgensen completed a 17-yard pass to Sean Beahan and five plays later sophomore running back Jackson Fagan scored from 11 yards out to give West Chester a 49-3 lead.
On the next Millersville possession, the defense put the final nail into the Marauders’ coffin. Millersville quarterback Bill Shirk dropped back at midfield and was hit by defensive back Zach Wood. Shirk fumbled the football and junior outside linebacker Ronnie Koons scooped up the ball and raced 42 yards down the sideline for his first career touchdown.
Fagan finished off the scoring for West Chester in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard plunge up the middle with nine minutes remaining in the game. Millersville scored their only touchdown of the game when Shirk hit wide receiver Andrew Downs for a 19-yard score.
“We thought that defensively they were a pretty good football team,” Zwaan said. “I thought we were going to be in for a real tough battle today. I was surprised we got a couple things.”
Wright finished with 253 yards passing on the afternoon. West Chester rushed for 231 yards, led by Webb’s 126 yards. Miller finished with three receptions, 101 yards and a touchdown. Senior linebacker Sam Scott led the Golden Rams with nine tackles, one sack and a blocked punt. Mike Holland, Andrew Sheehan and Jason Hunt finished with six tackles each. James Thorpe, Lucas Fickel, Travis Ford-Bey and Will Davis also recorded a portion of a sack.
Millersville rushed for a total of 92 yards, led by Akeem Johnson’s 46 yards. Shirk finished 17-34 for 135 yards and a touchdown.
“The one thing is I think we are starting to get our legs back,” Zwaan said. “I think we’ve just been banged up the past couple of weeks and its hurt us a little bit. We’ve got almost everyone back playing and practicing now and I think that shows. We’ve got some things to clean up. I think we can still play better and we got big games ahead of us. I’m very satisfied with the way we played today.”
Next week, the Golden Rams host the Kutztown University Golden Bears at 6 p.m. in the annual battle for Golden Glory. West Chester defeated Kutztown 49-8 last year. All the action can be heard live and exclusively on 91.7 WCUR-FM.
“Kutztown is a tough, good football team,” Zwaan said. “We hit a couple big plays on them last year and scored points on them but really most of the year they played everybody tough. I think this is going to be a real tough football game for us. We have to have a good practice week, and we have to clean up some of the mistakes before we play them.”
West Chester has won 17 consecutive PSAC East games, and 32 straight PSAC East games against opponents other than Bloomsburg . West Chester has won seven straight games against Millersville . West Chester leads the all-time series with Millersville 60-17 . This marked the fourth time in the series that West Chester scored over 60 points . The 63 points scored by West Chester is their most since 2005 against Mansfield
LJ Harrell is a fourth-year student majoring in Business. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.