Wed. May 29th, 2024

A.J. Long (Bethlehem, Pa./Friendship Christian [Tenn.]) threw for three scores and rushed for another to lead ninth-ranked West Chester University to a 33-10 victory over host Slippery Rock in the PSAC Championship Game at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium Saturday.

West Chester (10-0) earns its first win in the “State Game” since 1971 while picking up its conference-best 19th PSAC championship in the process. Long was named the game’s most outstanding player as a result of his effort on Saturday. Long finished 13-for-21 for 153 yards and three touchdowns without throwing an interception. He also rushed for 135 yards and another score, accounting for four of West Chester’s five touchdowns.

“I’m so happy for this team and these guys,” R-Jr., QB A.J. Long said afterwards. “There is no better way to end the drought than to go 10-0 and win the conference championship.”

West Chester brought a seven-game losing streak into Saturday’s championship game, including its two most recent trips last fall and in 2015. The last shared PSAC football championship for the school came in 2007 when there was no State Game on the final week of the season. The two division winners were declared co-champions between 1988 and 2007. West Chester’s last outright conference crown came in 1971.

“I’m just so excited for this group of guys,” Head Coach Bil Zwaan added. “They are a special group.”

Sr., RB Mike Class (Souderton, Pa./Pennridge) rushed 43 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, and then caught a 17-yard TD pass from Long with 36 seconds left in the first half to answer Slippery Rock’s lone touchdown drive of the game and wrestle back any momentum lost heading into the locker room.

Jarey Elder (Allentown, Pa./Parkland) intercepted two passes on the day to lead the defensive effort. West Chester sacked Slippery Rock’s quarterback five times on day to push their season total to 46. Both Nate Barnes (Carlisle, Pa./Carlisle) and Shaquille Ryder (Philadelphia, Pa./Imhotep Charter) had two. Elder’s two picks gives him seven on the season, marking the most by a Golden Rams’ player in a single season since 1983.

West Chester will play New Haven in the first round of the Division 2 NCAA Tournament on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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