At the beginning of August, the Bloomsburg University Huskies and the West Chester University Golden Rams were selected to finish first and second in the PSAC East, respectively. Two and a half months later, Bloomsburg has looked like the team picked to finish at the top of the division, despite their one-loss record. The Golden Rams on the other hand, have hit a couple of bumps in the road heading towards this bitter matchup.This Saturday, the Huskies arrive at Farrell Stadium coming off their first loss of the season, one of the top quarterbacks in the country and one of the best defenses in the country. Even though a playoff spot will not be on the line, West Chester has a lot to fight for, and will do whatever they need to do to defeat their bitter rivals.
“It’s pride for us,” senior quarterback Joe Wright said. “We’re not making the playoffs we know that, everybody is disappointed. We think about it every day. We have Bloomsburg this week and if you can’t get up for that one then you shouldn’t come out on the field. For us seniors we have two more games left, we have to come out and fight hard and try to win every game.”
“Definitely pride,” senior wide receiver Steve Miller said. “No one wants to go out a loser, these are going to be the last two games of my life, and I don’t want to lose a game at all.”
The Golden Rams are coming off a 59-0 rout of cross-town rival Cheyney, while Bloomsburg fell in a heartbreaker at home to Shippensburg University 28-27.
Last November, when the Huskies were undefeated and ranked No. 4 in the country, the Golden Rams traveled to Bloomsburg and stunned their PSAC East rivals 24-21 to claim the division championship for the second consecutive year.
In that game, Wright scored a touchdown on 4th-and-inches with 2:26 left in the game to give West Chester the lead for good. Mike Washington finished with five catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.
However, the Huskies got the last laugh three weeks later as the Golden Rams made the trek back to Bloomsburg in the second round of the playoffs. West Chester fell to the Huskies 28-21. With the game knotted at 14, Bloomsburg’s Jesse Cooper intercepted Wright and scampered 62 yards to give the Huskies the lead that they would never relinquish.
Both games last year were hard fought battles that were not decided until the very end. This year’s game should be no different.
Not only does this weekend’s game mean a lot to the players, it means a lot to the Golden Rams football program. Head coach Bill Zwaan recruits players for the fact that they play for division championships and contend for conference championships. Winning a game of this nature against a very good Bloomsburg team will turn the fortunes of the program for the remaining of this year and for years to come.
“It’s a West Chester football pride thing,” Zwaan said. “[Bloom and West Chester] have been battling for the last few years and we’ve had some great battles. And I’m hoping this one will be very similar. For us, we still have stuff to play for. Playoffs are one thing but there’s a lot of program stuff that’s important. We have to come back and play hard in a game without a playoff spot on the line. And we have to push towards next year and finish off this year for the seniors.”
“It’s going to be a great game,” Wright said. “They are one of the top teams in the country and it’s going to be a battle and we’re going to come out fighting. We owe them from last year.”
And for the seniors on this year’s team, they have one more opportunity to knock of their biggest rivals at home.
“Quite honestly,” Miller said. “I hate Bloom with a passion. It has been like that. Playoffs or no playoffs, we’re going to go out there and sell out because it’s our home field, it’s Halloween night. Regardless of if we’re in the playoff picture or not, we’re going to put 110 percent effort into the game.”
“Plus it’s Bloom,” Zwaan added. “And that’s always special.”
LJ Harrell is a fourth-year student majoring in Marketing. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.