College football is finally back in full swing! On Sept. 3, for the first time in 650 days, West Chester University’s football team took the field in a regular season match-up against Bentley University. It was a long time coming and while the end result was not in our favor, it is great to see the football team back on the field and the return of college sports.
Despite the loss at the hands of the Falcons, there were some bright spots for the Golden Rams. Ja’den Mckenzie, the team’s starting running back, led the offensive unit with 87 yards and a touchdown. Michael Alexander, a redshirt freshman defensive back, also had a touchdown as well on a late punt return.
It has been a long two years for college sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spring sports were cancelled in March of 2019 due to the shutdown of schools, and while they did resume last spring, fall sports did not have the chance to play due to the uptick in cases. This left many players’ futures up in the air. Many wondered whether their playing days were over and when they would get the chance to see the field again. The decision to play sports last spring was a battle, as West Chester originally announced that no sports would take place. However, after a petition gained widespread publicity on the internet, the University decided to backtrack on its decision and let the athletes get back on the field. Now, sports are back in action for the fall semester and it is great to see our players doing what they love. Spectators are back in the stands, which is a return to normalcy, considering that for a while sporting events around the world at all levels were taking place with little to no attendance.
“It feels really good to be back on the field,” says Mckenzie, a returning offensive starter who in 2019 ran for 917 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. “I missed seeing my family, friends and fans in the stands cheering on the team. I don’t think anything in the world can beat that feeling as athletes, that’s the best thing about sports. Another thing that is exciting is to be able to compete every weekend with teams and put in the preparation in practice to be successful on Saturdays” When asked about his expectations for this season, McKenzie said that he expects this team to win the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) championship and eventually the National championship.
In order to play this season, the team has to abide by strict COVID-19 protocols, including mandatory testing three times a week, the requirement of masks in meetings, weight room, locker room and on busses when traveling. That is the unfortunate reality of playing sports during a pandemic, but these players are committed to doing whatever it takes to stay ready for action.
The Golden Rams bounced back to steamroll Mercyhurst University on Sept. 11 with a score of 56 to 10. They return home on Sept. 18 where they will take on Edinboro at 12 p.m. at Farrell Stadium. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Box Office located in Sykes Student Union. Tickets cost $10 for family, or friends and $7 for students. For more information on the game and the football team, visit the West Chester University athletics website. Welcome back, college football!
Erick Klambara is a first-year Media & Culture major with a minor in Journalism. EK924666@wcupa.edu