Bloomsburg, Pa.- Lateef Ferguson was too overwhelmed with emotion and could barely speak. Brent Steinmetz had the look of a man who just witnessed a horrific car accident and did not know the proper way to react. David Montgomery put it best when he noted that “An athlete dies two deaths in his lifetime.” As he described his feelings about the end of his collegiate football career, “I feel like part of me just died today.” Not only did last Saturday mark the final page in the football chapter in the lives of 12 young men who hung up the purple and gold for the final time, but it brought to a close one of the most memorable seasons in the program’s history. West Chester clawed their way to six consecutive victories just to clinch a playoff berth and accumulated over 400 yards of total offense in what became the season finale against the Bloomsburg Huskies.
The two teams engaged in a back and forth battle of attrition early in the game, trading touchdowns in the first two possessions. Brent Steinmetz opened the scoring with a 41-yard scamper through the heart of the Husky defense. The senior tailback would account for 148 yards rushing on 22 carries in his final collegiate contest.
West Chester would hold a 14-7 lead when time expired in the first quarter following Bill Zwaan Jr.’s four yard touchdown strike to Mike Washington. The Huskies though would counter much as they did all day long when Dan Latorre spotted Brahin Bilal, who was the Husky’s star the last time these teams met, for a 22-yard touchdown strike.
The two teams would once again climb the seesaw when Zwaan Jr. pitched the ball to Dean Millard who fired a strike to Cody Clark for a 21-yard touchdown. West Chester held a 20-14 lead on the favored Huskies.
It would be the final time the Golden Rams would be on top this season.
On the ensuing drive, Bloomsburg’s Bilal would haunt West Chester one final time with just over a minute remaining in the game, He hauled in another Lattore touchdown pass, giving the Husky’s what would prove to be a decisive 21-20 advantage over the Golden Rams.
The second half turned into the ultimate defensive struggle with neither team being able to garner any momentum. With just under two minutes remaining in the game Bloomsburg’s Head Coach Danny Hail elected to go for it on fourth and goal, rather then kick a field goal that would force the Golden Rams to score a touchdown to win the game. Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Defensive Player of The Year Lateef Ferguson and company made the crucial stop, giving the offense one final try at winning the game.
Zwaan Jr. and company marched 72 yards down the field to the Husky 24, putting the team in position for a 41-yard Alex Walsh field goal with the season at stake. The ball was partially blocked and the Husky’s escaped with the victory.
When Walsh’s field goal fell just short of the crossbar after being partially blocked at the line of scrimmage, West Chester’s season came to a screeching halt. It didn’t need to come to that point. Bad bounces in the second half and lapses in the secondary which have plagued this team since that rainy day at Farrell Stadium against Edinboro, did this team in. But that’s a story for another day.
Last Saturday represented something bigger. When the final gun sounded on the Golden Rams 21-20 loss to the Huskies, the 2006 campaign came to a close. This loss hurts. There’s no question about it, but once the scars begin to close rational thinking people will realize that the future is very, very bright for this club. Twenty-two starters will be returning to this team in 2007, and players like Mike Dell who stepped in late in the season can take away many positive lessons from this year’s playoff run. While Bloomsburg sits two wins shy of a National Championship, the Golden Rams find themselves reeling from a playoff loss, yet on the cusp of greatness in 2007.