On Saturday, in front of a large homecoming crowd at Farrell Stadium, the West Chester University Golden Rams (1-4, 1-1 PSAC East) football team took a step backwards as they fell to the CW Post Pioneers (3-2, 2-0 PSAC East) 39-37 in triple overtime. This was the longest game in West Chester history since a 1989 playoff game against Portland State, which also went into three overtimes.
“I really am just crushed,” head coach Bill Zwaan said. “Every emotion, I ran through them all, it’s so frustrating. I don’t have the answer. We’re going to play overtime games, we’re going to play games where the last play of the game or the last play of the half is going to be huge and we have to be able to handle those situations and we didn’t do a good job of it.”
“We really thought we were coming together as a team and we were going to start rolling,” sophomore quarterback Mike Mattei said. “This game could have gone to midnight and I would have been fine with it as long as we would have won.”
“An overtime loss is always hard to take,” senior wide receiver Dan DePalma said. “They are a good team and we knew that coming in and unfortunately we couldn’t pull this one out.”
For the second time in as many home games, Mattei recovered a fumble in his own end zone for a safety, which ended up being the difference in the game.
“If there was one play I would take back it would definitely be the safety,” Mattei said. “That’s two points they should have never had and it’s all on my shoulders that they had it.”
In the third overtime, CW Post quarterback Erik Anderwkavich found wide receivers Joe Bottie and Darnel Williams to get inside the Golden Rams 10-yard line. Three plays later, running back Anthony Brunetti plowed into the end zone from three yards out to give the Pioneers a six-point lead. On the two-point conversion, Anderwkavich found wide receiver Grayson Laurino to make it 39-31.
When West Chester got the ball back, it looked as if they were going to send it to a fourth overtime. Mattei found junior running back Jackson Fagan for 11 yards to get within the 15-yard line. On third-and-goal from the five-yard line, Mattei found freshman wide receiver Rondell White who took it into the end zone to make it 39-37. On the two-point conversion, Mattei’s pass was broken up in the back of the end zone which ended the game as CW Post began celebrating.
“We tried to get Rondell in the flat,” Mattei said of the two-point conversion play call. “We thought they were going to go with man coverage but they ended up playing zone.”
“We killed ourselves so many times,” Zwaan said. “We deserved a miracle to happen but we just kept killing ourselves. We can’t play like that and expect to win. We can’t turn the ball over, we can’t make stupid, stupid penalties and stupid fumbles. We can’t do it and try to win games; it’s impossible to do.”
In the first quarter, following the safety and a missed field goal by the Pioneers, the Golden Rams offense began moving the ball. Mattei found DePalma on the right sideline for 20 yards to start the drive. Mattei then completed a third down pass to senior running back D’Andre Webb to move the chains. Webb finished off the 11-play, 70-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run to give West Chester a 7-2 lead.
CW Post answered back as Anderwkavich, the leading rusher by quarterbacks in the PSAC, went back to work. Anderwkavich hit Brunetti to start the drive for 11 yards. On third-and-eight, Anderwkavich found Botti for 17 yards for a first down. On the next play, Anderwkavich connected with tight end Andre Davis for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Pioneers the lead 9-7.
The Golden Rams came back onto the field and put together one of their longest drives of the season. Mattei found Fagan three times, including twice on third down, to start the drive. Mattei then connected with DePalma for 13 yards and sophomore tight end Justin Curry for 16 yards to get within the CW Post 20-yard line. After coming up short on third-and-goal from the one-yard line, Mattei scored from one-yard out on fourth down to end the 15-play, 72-yard drive in 9:06 to give West Chester a 14-9 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, defensive back Juma McKenley fumbled for the Pioneers and senior fullback Adam Young recovered for the Golden Rams. Mattei completed passes to White (15 yards) and Webb (10 yards) to convert back-to-back third and longs. Unfortunately for West Chester, a penalty sent the offense back when they were inside the CW Post 10-yard line, and the Golden Rams ended up turning the ball over on downs.
West Chester had 160 yards of total offense in the first half, while the Pioneers had 137 yards. The Golden Rams converted seven of their 10 third-down conversions.
In the second half, CW Post came out firing. Anderwkavich found Williams for eight yards to start the drive. Running back Thomas Beverly ran 10 yards for a first down before Williams caught a pass from Anderwkavich and scampered 47 yards down the field to get deep into West Chester territory.
On fourth-and-goal the Pioneers made a field goal, but a personal foul penalty on the Golden Rams gave CW Post new life and a fresh set of downs. On the next play, Brunetti ended a nine-play, 80-drive with a three-yard plunge into the end zone to give the Pioneers a 16-14 lead.
Mattei led the West Chester offense down the field once again. The quarterback found redshirt freshman wide receiver Tim Keyser for 12 yards to start the drive. On third-and-three, Mattei found White for six yards to move the chains. Mattei then found Fagan for a 24-yard pass completion to get deep into CW Post territory. Redshirt kicker Shawn Leo ended the drive with a 30-yard field goal to help the Golden Rams regain the lead 17-16.
In the fourth quarter, the Pioneers answered back. Anderwkavich hooked up with Williams once again for 14 yards to start the drive. On fourth-and-inches, West Chester was penalized once again as redshirt freshman nose guard Nick Garcia was called offsides, giving CW Post a new set of downs. Following a 13-yard run by Brunetti, Anderwkavich found Botti for a 14-yard touchdown reception. The Pioneers went for a two-point conversion and converted it to make it 24-17.
The Golden Rams had ten minutes to answer the CW Post score. Mattei took what the Pioneers defense gave them as he connected with Fagan on three consecutive plays. On third-and-10, Mattei found Curry for 29 yards to get within Pioneers territory. Mattei found Fagan once again for 13 yards to get into the red zone. On second-and-goal Mattei scrambled around to the right and threw across his body but the pass was intercepted by linebacker Ronnie Modik.
“[Mattei] was up and down all day,” Zwaan said of his quarterback. “He made really poor decisions early and then he made a bad decision late. He made some good plays too, but it wasn’t a step forward and I was hoping we would take steps forward and I think if we did we would win the game.”
After a three-and-out by CW Post, West Chester had another opportunity to tie the game. Starting at the Pioneers 29-yard line, Mattei connected with White for ten yards. On the next play, Mattei found White who was hit from behind and fumbled. The ball ended up in the hands of DePalma who ran into the end zone untouched for the touchdown to tie the game at 24.
“Rondell took a shot and the ball popped out right into my hands and didn’t even hit the ground,” DePalma said. “It surprised me; I just took off with it. No one was even close to me. I took advantage of it.”
Going into the first overtime, CW Post went on offense first. Anderwkavich found Davis for seven yards and then ran for 12 yards before Brunetti scored from one yard out to give the Pioneers a 31-24 lead.
On third-and-10 from the 25-yard line of their first overtime possession, Mattei found DePalma for 18 yards to get within the 10-yard line. On second-and-goal, Faga
n scored from two yards out to tie the score at 31.
In the second overtime, Webb fumbled and defensive lineman Xavier Brown recovered the fumble for CW Post. The Pioneers attempted a 46-yard field goal but it was short as CW Post had to wait until the third overtime to win it.
Mattei finished 30-45 for a career-high 329 yards and two touchdowns. Fagan finished with a career-high 11 receptions for a career-high 112 yards. He also added 30 yards rushing. The offense converted 11 of 18 third-down opportunities and outgained the Pioneers 410 to 391 yards. The Golden Rams had three turnovers and eight penalties for 81 yards in the loss.
“It’s frustrating because I thought we were going to turn the corner and we didn’t,” Zwaan said.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” DePalma said. “But there is nothing we can’t overcome; we can work on that in practice. We learned a lot today and we’re going to build on that and be better next week.”
This week the Golden Rams have a short week of practice as they host the Shippensburg University Red Raiders on Thursday beginning at 8 p.m. at Farrell Stadium.
“It’s going to be tough but everyone will be ready to practice,” Mattei said of the short turnaround between games. “I think everybody will be hungrier than ever after this loss so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Obviously everybody is down, how could you not be down,” Zwaan said of the quick turnaround. “They are kids. They are not grown men and they are not getting paid for it. You have to hope they can pull together somehow. That’s my job as a coach to try to make that happen. It’s going to be a tough road that’s for sure.”
“I think we’re all ready to get back on the field,” DePalma said.
LJ Harrell is a graduate student majoring in communications studies. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.