Four weeks ago the Edinboro Fighting Scots rained on the opening day festivities at Farrell Stadium, coming to West Chester and stealing a win against the Golden Rams in the season opener 28-14. While the defense can only truly be held accountable for 14 of the points scored that dreary Saturday afternoon, to say they took the loss personally would be an understatement. Because of that mentality, this defense is by far the best that West Chester has employed in the last five years. This defense which has gone up against playoff-caliber teams in three of its first four weeks is showcasing itself not only as the backbone of this team, but also one of the best defensive units in recent West Chester history. Since the opening day loss, the Golden Rams have held division I-AA Delaware to under 300 yards of total offense, pitching a shut out in the second half and scoring the club’s only points that evening, forced one turnover against Clarion en route to West Chester’s first win of the season, and shut out Shippensburg after tallying five turnovers and five sacks on the evening.
Behind strong play from the defensive line from the likes of David Montgomery and Michael Walter who each have accounted for one sack and twelve tackles through four games, the Golden Rams have pressured the quarterback early and often in 2006. One needs look no further then Shippensburg Head Coach William Rees to find a believer in this defense “I thought they were harassing and quick” said Rees following his team being dismantled and shut out 24-0 at the hands of the Golden Rams.
The pressure this team has been able to put on the quarterback has led to turnovers. “Our defensive line does a hell of a job getting pressure on the quarterback all day so they don’t feel comfortable in the pocket,” said linebacker Lateef Ferguson. The pressure on the quarterback has led to turnovers which in turn in recent weeks has given the offense the momentum it needs to gain confidence and put points on the board. That aspect of the game was something that was lacking in the opening weeks of the season. In the last two weeks the defense has forced six turnovers and one can argue that those turnovers have been the catalyst for this offense and even more so this collective team.
Coach Zwaan is even gushing over the defense he has assembled this year. “This is probably the best, and most talented defensive team we’ve had, and they play pretty physically with great speed,” The scariest part of this entire scenario is the fact that six of the eleven starters and three of four starting linebackers will be returning to the gridiron in 2007. Therefore, any momentum that this club establishes down the stretch will certainly carry over into next season, and could quite possibly launch this team to a pre-season top ten ranking in all of division II.
As the Golden Rams enter the meat of their schedule with division II powerhouse Bloomsburg lurking on the schedule following the Cheney game, it will be imperative for this club to continue to play defense at the level it has in recent weeks. Because if this team continues to play defense at its current level, it just might be enough to catapult them into post-season play and create momentum for the future.
Matt Lombardo hosts a weekly sports talk show on 91.7 WCUR on Saturday’s from 12:00-2:00 P.M.