It has been awhile since head football coach Bill Zwaan has had a battle at the quarterback position at West Chester University. Since 2005, he has had his son, Bill Zwaan Jr., and Joe Wright at the helm for the Golden Rams. But before starting the 2010 campaign which begins Sept. 2 at the University of Delaware, Zwaan has a decision to make between sophomore Mike Mattei and junior Jared Jorgensen. If Friday night’s spring game has any bearing on who he will pick, Mattei has the advantage right now.
“Knowing what was on the line, I thought they both did a good job,” Zwaan said.
Mattei, who started for the Purple team in the first quarter before switching to the Gold team in the second quarter, finished the night 14-24 for 250 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for 79 yards and one touchdown.
“I definitely did a lot of things that I was expecting myself to do,” Mattei said. “But there were obviously certain plays where I could have made a better throw or a better read, maybe an audible or two. There’s always room for improvement.”
Jorgensen was sluggish to start the game but finished strong with a touchdown pass to star wide receiver Dan DePalma. The lefty finished 6-21 for 82 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.
“I still think it’s going to be hard to make a decision but I am going to try to make it before we leave here for the spring,” Zwaan said. “It’s real important for whoever is the quarterback to get as many reps as he can with the first unit when we get to summer camp because either way, it’s going to be a new guy.”
Both offenses struggled early on in the contest as neither was able to do much against a stout defensive performance. The first points in the game came late in the first quarter when Lucas Fickel blocked a Sean Obermeier punt which he recovered in the end zone to give the Purple team the 7-0 lead.
The biggest offensive play came late in the first quarter when Mattei hit former quarterback turned wide receiver Scott Bradish for 49 yards down the field.
In the second quarter, after Purple quarterback Sean McCartney was intercepted by Josh Davis, Mattei went to work with the first offense for the Gold team. Five plays into the drive, Mattei connected with DePalma for a 60-yard touchdown to tie the game, which ended a 91-yard drive. The scoring play was a flea flicker, where Mattei handed off to Tom Shrader, who gave it to DeAndrea Webb, who then pitched it back to Mattei.
“I was kind of glad to see the offense have some success,” Zwaan said. “I think we’re going to be pretty good defensively. We have some question marks offensively, obviously. I was glad to see that offensively we did some good thing.”
After the Gold team was able to tie the game, McCartney did his best to lead the Purple team to another score. Jackson Fagan was able to start the drive with some impressive runs of 14, 12 and 14 yards. McCartney methodically moved the offense down the field before hitting wide receiver Jim Kelly for a 15-yard touchdown pass to help Purple regain the lead.
Mattei answered right back as he showed his versatility. After completing consecutive passes to DePalma and Tim Keyser to get into Purple territory, Mattei ran his way through defenders into the end zone for a 36-yard run to tie the game up at 14.
“I might not have the fastest forty time but I know I’m athletic enough to gain yards,” Mattei said. “I don’t try to go side to side, I just try to go forward as much as possible and when I got that opportunity I was trying to get as many yards as possible.”
“It was a great run [by Mattei],” senior running back D’Andre Webb said.
“I have to ask him how he did that; maybe he can show me how to run a little bit,” Webb joked.
Jorgensen was able to engineer the only scoring drive of the second half when he hooked up with DePalma for 22 yards with 5:10 left in the game.
Fagan led all rushers with 81 yards on 13 carries. Webb finished with 62 yards on 14 carries. DePalma finished with a game-high 120 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Bradish finished with 73 yards receiving.
“I was surprised I got a lot of touches,” Webb said. “I thought we were going to come out throwing because of our quarterback situation but I am very happy we were running a lot. It kind of set the tone a little bit.”
“He looks like his old self,” Zwaan said of Webb. “I think [the injury] was in his head last year and he never really got going. He ran hard. He looks different now.”
Defensively, Anthony McCloskey led all tacklers with nine stops, including one for a loss. Ronnie Koons, Carl Barnes and Brian Hinderer finished with six tackles apiece. Cordero Newkirk, Kris Scott and Davis each had an interception in the game.
The defense has plenty of players to replace. All four linebackers from last season, Sam Scott, Mike Dell, T.J. Cascio and Mike Holland are leaving due to graduation. James Thorpe, Kevin Garland and Caorey Rhood are also departures from the team due to graduation. It will be up to the likes of Koons, Troy Wasserleben, Newkirk, Scott and Davis to help fill the void.
With the first game of the regular season a little over four months away, questions still need to be answered. But with spring practices coming to a close and summer workouts right around the corner, there is still time. Come Sept. 2 these questions will have to be answered in order for the Golden Rams to get back to the top of the PSAC and back into the NCAA playoffs.
LJ Harrell is a fourth-year student majoring in Marketing. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.