West Chester ends skid
Granted, it came against winless Lock Haven, but there was a lot to like about West Chester’s 37-7 PSAC East opener on Saturday evening at Farrell Stadium.
First and foremost, the Golden Rams ended a frustrating twogame losing skid, and head into next weekend’s road clash at Kutztown with a 2-2 overall mark. And although there were more than a few missed opportunities, WCU rolled up a 503-242 edge in total offense, while quarterback Andrew Derr put together the most complete outing of his career.
“There were a lot of positives,” West Chester head coach Bill Zwaan said. “I feel good about a lot of things, but I am still frustrated with the penalties. I don’t know if I’ve been more frustrated with a football team than I am now with us and all of the penalties.”
It was a not so subtle jab at his team for last weekend’s mistake-
filled 54-51 double overtime setback at Edinboro, a squad that went 0-11 a year ago. It was so disheartening, that senior safety and captain Kevin Malone called a player’s only meeting on Sept. 18th.
“We asked ourselves what we really want to do with this season,” Malone recalled. “Edinboro was a good team but we are much better than that. We talked about everybody being ore personally accountable.”
Zwaan added: “Kevin came to me and said, ‘coach, we need to talk about some things as a team.’ I said, ‘fine, go talk.’ So he called the meeting and they aired some things out.
“There are things that happen that the coaches don’t know or hear about, so they wanted to deal with those issues. They took care of it and it helped.”
Although WCU responded with a dominating performance in front of a Family Day crowd of 3,680, the Rams, once again, committed 10 penalties for 105 yards.
“That has to get solved,” Zwaan said. “If not, we will lose another game that we shouldn’t lose.”
A junior who missed all of last season due to off the field woes, Derr accounted for 344 total yards on Saturday and was responsible for five TDs, including a pair of scoring tosses to emerging sophomore wideout Jordan Banks, and two more on the ground.
“Our offensive line was
outstanding, and that gave me time to sit in the pocket, and once I can get comfortable, I can either run or make throws, and those guys got open for me as well,” Derr said.
In all, Banks grabbed five passes for 113 yards, and fellow wideout Tyler Karpinski added eight catches for 75 yards. On the ground, Jarel Elder chipped in with 87 yards on 18 carries.
“It’s long overdue for us to get a big win,” said Banks, a speedster from Harrisburg. “We are starting to trust each other, and play as a unit.
“As a receiving corps, we are still dropping some passes, myself included, but I think we are improving offensively.”
Defensively, the Rams shut down the Bald Eagles running game, limited Lock Haven to just 4-for-12 on third down, and forced five fumbles, even though nthey pounced on just one.
“If we stop getting penalties and helping the other team, we are playing good defense,” Zwaan said pointedly.
Derr missed some throws early, including a wide open Karpinski in the end zone. But he did find Eerin Young on a 4-yard toss for the game’s first TD early in the second quarter, to culminate a 12-play, 63-yard march.
The Rams’ Brendan Paulison, however, missed the extra point, but the sophomore kicker did get WCU on the board with a chip-shot field goal on the Rams first series. The Rams wound up having a 260-79 edge in total yards at the half but only led 16-0 following a 38-yard strike from Derr to Jordan Banks.
The Derr-Banks connection yielded another touchdown in the third quarter, this time on a 19-yard pass, and soon thereafter Derr found Young on a 45-yarder that set up his own 1-yard keeper that made it 30-0 early in the final period.
“We are definitely on the same page now,” Banks said, when asked about all of the connections with Derr. “We know each other and he can just throw it and he knows I will be there.”
The West Chester defense lost the shutout in the following possession that included an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Rams (much to Zwaan’s dismay). But the Rams got it back almost immediately when Derr capped off the ensuing series with his second rushing touchdown, this time on a 4-yarder.
“This is the playoffs for us. We’ve already lost two and we don’t want to lose another game,” Derr said.
“Andrew made some really good throws,” Zwaan added. “We are still not hitting on all cylinders, but we controlled the football.”
Overall, the Rams had 15 minute edge in time of possession. And due to mounting injuries -- and the questionable level of the opposition -- a total of 53 players saw the field for WCU.
“We’d like to get more guys in, but we were playing a lot of guys because we are dinged. Luckily some of the guys are stepping up and playing well for us,” Zwaan said.
NOTES: Starting inside linebacker Ralph Reeves did not dress for the game due to a stinger suffered in last weekend’s loss at Edinboro. The senior was the team’s No. 2 tackler through three games. He was replaced in the lineup by junior Justice Smith, who made his first career start … The grandson of former WCU head coach Bob Mitten (1965-71), Phil Mitten, saw the first action of his career for the Rams, mostly on special teams … long-snapper, Shane Griffin, continues to receive playing time on defense, and the redshirt freshman notched a sack and two total tackles.