The horrendous field conditions at John A. Farrell Stadium proved to be an obstacle course for the West Chester University football team Saturday night, but extending a winning streak on senior night against a division rival might have been the an even tougher task.Consider them successful. The Golden Rams defeated East Stroudsburg University, 18- 17, to move one step closer to clinching a Division II playoff berth for the second time in as many years. WCU is now enjoying a five-game winning streak as they head into the final few weeks of the regular season. The win didn’t come easy for the Golden Rams (7-2, 5-0 PSAC East), who were forced to abandon a potent passing attack in the latter stages of the game, mainly to conserve the football as the rain came down in heavy portions. “Early on we really wanted to throw the ball and we did,” said quarterback Bill Zwaan Jr. “But the focus in the second half was to eat up clock [by running the football]” But when the Golden Rams did pass, it paid off in a bigway.
Quarterback Mark Burdalski, who started the game, found Mike Washington for a 25-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring in the first quarter. It was Burdalski’s eleventh touchdown pass of the season, but it turned out to be his last one of the day, after he left the game due to an injury “It’s his shoulder again,” said Golden Rams head coach Bill Zwaan, regarding the injury. “I don’t know how bad it is right now.” Zwaan’s son, Bill Jr., filled in for Burdalski and made an immediate impact. Zwaan Jr. found Washington on a 36-yard pass to make it a 12-7 game late in the second half. Seconds later, the sophomore quarterback took advantage of an ESU turnover by hitting Brandon Simmons in the endzone to give the Golden Rams a comfortable 18-7 lead at halftime. ESU, however, climbed back into the game to cut it to 18-17 in the fourth quarter. The big play of the second half for the Warriors (6-2, 2-3 PSAC East) came from quarterback Jim Terwilliger, who found Evan Prall in the corner of the endzone. A two-point conversion tied the game.
In the fourth quarter, both teams missed opportunities to put together long drives for some points. It was stingy defense, and maybe Mother Nature, that contributed to the outcome that was in favor of the Golden Rams. “Our defense did a heck of a job,” said Zwaan Jr. “They’ve been playing great all year. Tonight they really stepped it up.”
Both teams combined for three turnovers in the final four minutes of the game, all lost due to fumbles. The weather clearly became a factor in the final minutes of the game. Zwaan was extremely pleased with the effort his defense gave throughout the game. “In conditions like this, the defense needs to play great,” he said. “This group is very resilent. They showed that all night.”
Zwaan Jr. only finished with 49 yards passing, but threw for two touchdowns. The duo of Brent Steinmetz and Brandon Hargrose combined for over 150 rushing yards.
The Golden Rams will visit Bloomsburg next Saturday for a PSAC East game, before closing out the season on Nov. 5 at Shippensburg. Both games will have serious playoff implications, a challenge that Zwaan knows his player are excited to face. “Our number one goal is to win the PSAC East,” he said. “We’ll be ready for next week.