Friday, September 4, 2015

Game Report - Lenoir-Rhyne 41 - West Chester 28

The Golden Rams (0-1) dropped their season opening game to visiting Lenoir-Rhyne (1-0) by a score of 41-28 on a long night at Farrell Stadium.

There’s generally a handful of “keys to the game” that apply to every opponent, but they get magnified when the opponent is of high quality – get off to a good start, limit turnovers, take advantage of opportunities, minimize penalties, control the clock. Take care of those areas and there’s a good chance that it will be a ball game near the final whistle. Otherwise, the game might be out of hand before the fourth quarter. So how did the Golden Rams stack up those five areas?

Well it took only until the opening kickoff return for Shawn Driggins to get his first 15-yard, unsportsmanlike penalty of the season. Then on the second snap from scrimmage, sophomore QB Pat Moriarty threw an interception. West Chester’s third and fourth possessions also ended on turnovers, another interception and a fumble by Brandon Monk. Trailing 21-0, the Golden Rams had a first and goal at the ten by virtue of a Lenoir-Rhyne pass interference penalty. When the drive stalled at the six, Ben Solis’ chip shot field goal hooked wide right. Off to a good start? How about the first five possessions totaled 52 yards and ended in three turnovers and two punts.

On the drive that ended in a missed field goal, Moriarty looked like a veteran as he sprayed completions to Adam Dempsey, Tyler Karpinski, Jim Hurley, and Eddie Elliott. Moriarty and Shannon Mayer struggled to connect most of the evening. Some faulted the quarterback while others blamed the receiver, when, truth be told, it was probably a combination of the two. They did finally connect late in the first half on a 15-yard touchdown in the back corner of the end zone for the first West Chester points of the season.

With Lenoir-Rhyne leading 21-7 and 20 seconds left in the first half, lightning could be seen in the distance. However, officials let the Bears run two plays to end the period. The teams went to their locker rooms, fans went to their cars and the band went under the stands where everyone, except the television broadcast, would wait out lightning and heavy rain for almost two hours.

The third quarter was much of the same. A three-and-out and an interception for the West Chester offense and three touchdown runs for Lenoir-Rhyne quarterback Evin Sims. Sims finished the night with 161 yards rushing on 14 carries to go along with a six-yard completion on two pass attempts. Overall, the Bears ran 55 times for 442 yards, an 8.0 yard average per carry. They busted seven runs for 20+ including Calvin Edwards’ 72-yard touchdown run.

Despite the game being out of reach at 41-7, the Golden Ram first team offense stayed on the field for some much needed work. And it paid off. Monk and Jarel Elder each picked up first down runs before Eerin Young made a nice diving catch of a Moriarty 20-yard pass. After a 16-yard completion to Hurley, Moriarty capped the drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to A.J. DePietro for his first collegiate reception.

On West Chester’s next possession, Moriarty completed a 39-yard dart to Elliott, scrambled for 30 yards, and completed a 19-yard pass to Dempsey before Monk scooted into the end zone from four yards out. Trailing 41-20, West Chester inserted Alec Werner on their last possession with two and a half minutes left. Werner quickly completed a 10-yard pass to Young, and a 20-yarder to Hurley. Werner then scrambled and although he didn’t gain any yards, he did manage to get out of bounds and stop the clock. A catchable pass to Hurley fell incomplete setting up third and ten. Werner recognized he was going to take a big hit, but found DePietro in one-on-one coverage and completed the 45-yard touchdown catch and run.

The defense was led by Ralph Reeves (10 total tackles), Andrew Cohen (7 total tackles) and Kevin Duggan (6 total tackles). Lenoir-Rhyne attempted four pass plays: one was completed for six yards, one was broken up by Kevin Malone and the Reeves and Cohen registered sacks on the other two.

Notes – Although the total yards in the game was fairly even (Lenoir-Rhyne had a 448-442 edge), West Chester gained 237 yards on their final three possessions after the Bears had the game in control….The Golden Rams had four turnovers, the Bears none…With Vince Lostracco not dressed due to a knee injury, left tackle Doug Gilbert moved to left guard, tackle Michael Unger moved from the right side to the left side, and Evyn Stadulis played right tackle. That is, until Stadulis’ body rejected his efforts to hydrate which forced him to sit out a couple of series...On his first collegiate play, true freshman Zack Hockman made a solo tackle for no gain.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Club News - September 2 Meeting

The Golden Ram Football Club will be meeting on Wednesday at 7:30pm at Timothy's in the Parkway Shopping Center in West Chester. Head coach Bill Zwaan will preview the upcoming season and specifically Thursday's game against Lenoir-Rhyne. Hear about his plans as the Golden Rams prepare for a third straight NCAA playoff appearance.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Game Preview - Lenoir-Rhyne

The #23 Golden Rams open the 2015 season Thursday evening when they host the #10 Lenoir-Rhyne Bears, the pre-season favorite to win the South Atlantic Conference. The game will be a rematch of the 2013 national semi-finals that was played in Hickory, NC and won by the hosts by a score of 42-14. Kickoff is set for 6:00 pm and the game will be televised live on ESPN3 and The Comcast Network.

Series History:

West Chester holds a 2-1 lead in the series with the Bears. The Golden Rams' two wins came as part of a home-and-home series in 1969 and 1970, while the Bears won the playoff game in 2013.

Last Meeting:


12/14/2013 Lenoir-Rhyne 42 - West Chester 14

In a freezing cold, drenching rain that left the field of Helen and Leonard Moretz Stadium several inches deep in mud, the Bears advanced to the Division II National Championship by a score of 42-14. The Bears officially did not attempt a pass in the game - their one incomplete attempt was negated by a West Chester penalty - and rolled up 451 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, the Golden Ram offense managed only 213 yards of total offense and had just three significant plays: a Brandon Monk 75-yard kickoff return which set up a nine-yard touchdown catch by Tim Brown to open the game, and a 60-yard catch and run by Rondell White. Brown finished with two catches for 30 yards and Adam Dempsey had three catches for 19 yards. Defensively, Brandon Pepper had six tackles, five of which were solo, and Drew Formica had four solo stops.

Scouting the Opponent:
Last season, Lenoir-Rhyne won the SAC and finished the regular season 11-0, capturing the top seed in Super Region Two. Head Coach Ian Shields was named SAC Coach of the Year. However, like the Golden Rams, they fell in the second round of the Division II playoffs. The Bears set an NCAA Division II record with 416 yards rushing per game last season. Of the nine players that were named First Team All-SAC, only right tackle Joe Ray returns, however the 6'1" 270lb Ray was a unanimous All-American. Statistically, their top returning offensive players are Michael Patrick (788 yards, 9 TD's) and Victor Brannan (21 catches, 421 yards, 3 TD's).

Among Lenoir-Rhyne's 16 returning starters, three were named Second Team All-SAC on defense. Free safety Marcus Kincaid (77 total tackles, 1 interception), linebacker Rodney Singleton (63 total tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss, 6 passes defended), and nose guard Chris Green (44 total tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 5 QB hurries) are expected to lead the way. Michael Destephens averaged 39.8 yards on 34 punts and landed 12 inside the 20 which earned him second team all-league honors. Overall the Bears are looking to replace seven All-Super Region Two players, including placekicker Justin Powell.

Analysis:
It would be hard to believe that Lenoir-Rhyne won't throw one single pass like the 2013 game, however, their spread option offense is still very much run oriented. Can West Chester trust their corners to play one-on-one so that maximum attention can be placed on the Bears' running game? Hopefully, or it could be a long day on defense. Offensively, we'll finally get to see if this team can move the ball down the field in a consistent fashion and put points on the scoreboard. While it's "only one game", this first game will set the tone for the remainder of the season. Does it get any better than Thursday night on television? It does if it's a Golden Ram win.

Atomic Football is predicting a 27-25 Lenoir-Rhyne victory in what they are expecting to be the most difficult game of the year for both teams. As one of Hero Sports' five featured games for this weekend, they are predicting a six-point win for the Bears.

Game Coverage:

Live Stats   Audio   ESPN3  

D2football - PSAC Columnist - PSAC Week One Preview
D2football - National Columnist - Bob Eblen - National Columnist

Monday, August 31, 2015

Team News - 2015 Season Preview

Youth is Served

While the end of every school year means that a group of players exhaust their playing eligibility, the 2015 Golden Rams will be one of the youngest teams in recent history. The preseason roster showed only ten seniors and the 2015 PSAC Preseason Football Notes indicated that West Chester lost more starters than any other team in the conference. Several of last year's games ended with a wide margin on the scoreboard, so plenty of guys received significant minutes. The primary adjustment for them will be shouldering a bulk of the load this season.

Defense

While last year’s defense struggled against the run (148 yards/game), the passing defense was tops in the PSAC (183 yards/game) and they kept opponents off the scoreboard, yielding 20 point per contest. Departed are five of the top seven tacklers from last season, including the two four-year linebackers who topped the list.

After a stellar season which earned him all-conference honors at defensive end, senior captain Andrew Cohen (65 tackles, 20.0 TFL's, 10.5 sacks) returns to tackle where he started all of the 2013 season. He's second on the West Chester career sack list with 20.0, only 2.0 shy from breaking the school record of 21.5 set by Doug Jacobs from 1980-83. Cohen's 35.0 career tackles for loss is tied for fourth on the school list. He'll line up next to senior Barry Lyons (31 tackles, 2.0 TFL's). Backing them up will be sophomores Josh Ganzelli (19 tackles, 3 TFL's) and Indiana (PA) transfer Dominic Toney who redshirted last season. Redshirt freshmen Sean Boylan and Ben Smith will be looking for their first collegiate action.

After missing most of last season with an injury, junior Byron Cooper (6 tackles, 1 TFL) moves from shark to one defensive end spot. Cooper will rotate with sophomore George Shipp (15 tackles, 3.0 TFL's) who played in every game last year. Also seeing plenty of time in 2014 is the other projected starting end John Dubyk (18 tackles, 2.0 sacks). Redshirt freshman Ch'aim Smith is expected to support Dubyk.

One of the biggest changes will come at the second level of the defense. Mike Labor and Ronell Williams are two 300+ career tacklers but are gone to graduation. This means junior Ralph Reeves (28 tackles, 2.5 TFL's) will become a full time starter after receiving three starts last season while Williams was injured. Also due to Williams' injury, Sean Steinmetz (18 tackles, 2.5 TFL's) saw his playing time increase as a true freshman last season. Dan Sherry (20 tackles, 2.0 TFL's) also was getting increased playing time last year prior to having his season cut short due to an injury. Among the other linebackers listed - Justice Smith, Steven Denby, Steve Marrazzo, and Zack Hockman - none registered a tackle for the Golden Rams last season.

Senior captain Brandon Pepper (39 tackles, 4 pass breakups) moves from free safety to shark this season. Redshirt freshman Nydair Rouse is listed as a shark and this is where Kevin Duggan (1 tackle, 1 TFL) will likely fit as well. Look for speedy Rouse in passing situations and Duggan as a run stopper.

While the most noticeable absence in the secondary is cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz who is vying for a spot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, keep in mind that the four projected starters played in every game last season, and there is only one senior among them. Strong safety Drew Formica (67 tackles, 4.5 TFL's, 2 interceptions) is the Golden Rams' top returning tackler and started every game last season as did junior cornerback Blaise Schieler (23 tackles, 2 interceptions, 5 pass breakups). Junior Pete Galiano (37 tackles, 3.0 TFL's) is expected to be the starting free safety while junior Ted Patton (5 tackles) will man the other corner after primarily playing on special teams last season. Juniors Kevin Malone (32 tackles) and Kyle Keyser (24 tackles) provide depth at the safety positions while redshirt freshmen Corey Kelley and Jaishan Thornton seek their first collegiate action at cornerback. It will be interesting to see if Shaquil James or true freshman Jarey Elder will contribute this season. The entire unit will have to rely on speed and not height. The tallest among them is Formica who, at 6', brings the average height of the secondary up to 5'9".

Offense

The strength of last year's team was its prolific offense - 500 yards per game, the highest ever in the Bill Zwaan era. While there is a stable of running backs, the passing game is almost a complete unknown as two-thirds of last year's receiving yards and 100% of the passing yards are no longer on the roster. Add a young offensive line on top of that and the concern of putting up points grows.

Running back is clearly the most deep part of the offense. Senior captain Brandon Monk (1,296 yards and 9 TD's rushing, 278 yards and 2 TD's receiving) was first team All-PSAC East and an honorable mention All-American last season and is expected to carry a bulk of the load this year. Sophomore Jarel Elder (452 yards and 3 TD's) will provide relief as will redshirt freshman Mike Class. While Eddie Elliott (639 yards and 5 TD's rushing, 328 yards and 1 TD receiving) earned second team All-PSAC East honors last season, expect him and Rhode Island transfer Eerin Young to line up as a slot receiver. They both may get some carries on speed sweeps, but a little dump pass means they get a five-yard head start downfield. Sophomore Anthony Brown saw a lot of late-game action last season and redshirt freshman Mark Dukes has been explosive in scrimmages.

Four of last season's offensive linemen received all-conference honors, but left tackle Doug Gilbert is the only one of those four returning. The junior started every game last season and was named first team All-PSAC East and second team Super Region One. Sophomore Vince Lostracco was also a starter last season at right tackle and was expected to be at left guard this year, but his status is unknown after suffering an injury in the team's final scrimmage of summer camp. Center Devan LaBau, right guard Tyler Drob and right tackle Michael Unger all got plenty of playing time last year as redshirt freshman, but will now be asked to shoulder the load. Sophomore Alex Host is the most likely replacement at left guard and redshirt freshmen Jake Duncan and Eric Morrison along with sophomore Evyn Stadulis will rotate on the offense line.

Last year's quarterback - Sean McCartney - was a sixth-year senior who led the country in touchdown passes with 42 and finished fifth in the Harlon Hill Award ballot as the best player in Division II football. This year's quarterback has yet to throw a pass as a Golden Ram. After last season, it was expected that Andrew Derr would quarterback the Golden Rams in 2015 and 2016, but after an off field incident in the spring, his name does not appear on the roster as of the end of August. Sophomore Pat Moriarty finished five of West Chester's blowout wins last season, including the first-round playoff victory over Slippery Rock, but didn't throw a pass in those contests. Junior Alec Werner started six games as a true freshman for Kutztown in 2013, throwing for 1,804 yards and 13 TD's, before transferring to West Chester prior to last season. Werner didn't play for the Golden Rams last year for what would be considered a redshirt season. Both Moriarty and Werner have seen plenty of playing time through camp and it will be interesting to see how the quarterback situation plays out between these two this season. Behind them are true freshmen Paul Dooley and Jordan Sadusky.

Besides quarterback, another unexpected void this year will be at tight end. Many might think, "it's only a tight end", but Tim Brown wasn't "only a tight end". He happened to be third in the country in receiving touchdowns last year with 17 to go along with his 1,059 receiving yards. He received numerous All-American honors after last season and more prior to this year. But the NCAA has since ruled he is ineligible to play further college football. While Shawn Driggins (6 catches, 69 yards, 3 TD's) is a senior, he is mostly used as a run blocker or as a receiver on short-yardage situations, not the downfield receiving threat that Brown was. Sophomore Bill Ford played in eleven games last year and sophomore Connor McGrath will be seeking his first collegiate playing time. Sophomore Brandon Spatz has been converted from a linebacker/defensive back to an H-back.

Among last year's pass catchers, the top two returnees are the aforementioned Elliott and Monk. Returning at the wide receiver position are junior Shannon Mayer (25 catches, 247 yards, 3 TD's), senior Adam Dempsey (21 catches, 171 yards, 1 TD), junior Jim Hurley (10 catches, 143 yards) and junior Dion Shaw (6 catches, 54 yards). Temple transfer Tyler Karpinski had two great performances in the scrimmages, and looks to be a dependable target. Junior A.J. DePietro and sophomores Marcus Sydnor and Danny Jackson are seeking their first collegiate reception.

Special Teams

Senior Charles Kuklinski is about to embark on his final season for West Chester, serving as the team's long snapper for the past three years. Like last year, Monk, Elliott, and Elder will serve as return men, although Anthony Brown has shown that he's a capable returner as well.

The direction of the kicking game wasn't obvious after the second scrimmage, but it looks like Ben Solis and/or Brendan Paulison will do the place kicking and Paulison or Connor Foley will do the punting.

Conclusion

The Golden Rams have incurred a lot of change in the off season for a variety of reasons. The players need to look around the locker room and come to grips that this is the 2015 team and go after it. There's a lot of youth and inexperience on this team, but plenty of talent. If they can come together and realize their potential, the outcome could turn out quite well.


Here's a summary of where the Golden Rams are ranked in the national preseason polls and rating services:

Ratings Service
Rank
Lindy’s
16
Hero Sports
21
AFCA
23
Massey
29
D2Football.com
22
Sporting News
18
ComputerRatings.com
24

D2Football - PSAC Columnist - PSAC East #2: West Chester

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Alumni News - Buccaneers Waive Shabazz

The Tamp Bay Buccaneers waived former Golden Ram cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz on Sunday. Hajj was among ten players released by the Buccaneers prior to the September 1st date when all NFL teams must trim their rosters to 75 players.

Buccaneers.com - Buccaneers Waive 10 Players

Team News - Roster Update

Now that camp has come to a close, there have been some updates to the 2015 Golden Rams' roster. As expected, tight end Tim Brown is no longer listed due to the recent ineligibility ruling by the NCAA. Also no longer listed is junior quarterback Andrew Derr, nor his brother John Derr who was expected to play tight end. With Tim Brown and John Derr both gone, sophomore Brandon Spatz has been moved from shark to H-back.

Spatz being moved to the offensive side of the ball and sophomore Dan Sherry not being dressed for either scrimmage has created a void at one of the inside linebacker positions. Ralph Reeves will occupy the one spot, but the other will likely be shared among Delaware transfer Justice Smith, true sophomore Sean Steinmetz or true freshman Zack Hockman.

It's unknown how severe the injury to left guard Vince Lostracco is, but it's expected that Alex Host will move into the starting spot if LoStracco can't play. However, this further highlights the youth and depth issues at both guard spots.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Team News - 2015 Second Scrimmage Report

On a perfect evening for football, the Golden Rams held their second and final scrimmage of the 2015 season before approximately 200 fans. Overall and as expected, play was much improved from last week. Here are some general observations:
  • Just like last week, Pat Moriarty started the game with the first team offense, but Alec Werner played with the first unit as well. It's not clear if West Chester will merely have a well-prepared backup or if they're planning a two-headed quarterback.
  • Regardless of which QB was throwing, Tyler Karpinski was catching. The Temple transfer showed a knack for getting open, reliable hands and the speed to gain yards after the catch.
  • Left guard Vince Lostracco left the scrimmage with an apparent injury to his right knee and did not return.
  • Cornerback Blaise Schieler sat out and redshirt freshman Corey Kelley took his place.
  • Defensive end Byron Cooper did not play in last week's scrimmage, but looked very quick around the edge. His aggressiveness did draw at least one offside penalty however.
  • Mark Dukes ripped off another long touchdown run.
  • True freshman Quinten Cheyney stayed in pass coverage deep down the field and made a nice interception.
  • Redshirt freshman Mike Class showed he can get positive yards both running and receiving.

Eddie Elliott running free in space (Photo Bert Garbutt)

Nydair Rouse maintained good position to make this interception in the end zone (Photo Bert Garbutt)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Player News - NCAA Rules Tim Brown Ineligible

The NCAA has reportedly ruled senior tight end Tim Brown ineligible from playing collegiate football any further. Brown had an All-American season in 2014 and performed very well in 2013 despite missing five games due to an injury. He appeared on West Chester's 2012 roster but did not see game action. He first appeared on a college football roster as a linebacker in 2009 at nearby Albright College and was enrolled at Delaware County Community college prior transferring to West Chester.

Earlier this month, Brown received preseason All-American honors from both D2Football.com and HERO Sports. In June, he was rated the number one small school (non FBS) tight end in the 2016 NFL draft. Last season, Brown led the Golden Rams in all receiving categories with 53 catches for 1,059 yards and 17 scores. His receiving yards and touchdowns were tops in the country among tight ends. Brown was named first team All-PSAC East, first team Super Region One by Daktronics, first team Super Region One by Beyond Sports Network, first team Super Region One by Don Hansen Football Gazette, second team All-American by Daktronics and Beyond Sports Network, and first team All-American by Don Hansen Football Gazette. In 2013, Brown snared 20 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns with three of those touchdowns coming in the NCAA Division II playoffs.


West Chester Athletic Site - Tim Brown Declared Ineligible By NCAA

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Player News - Brown Lands Another Preseason All-American Nod

Senior tight end Tim Brown received yet another honor as he was recognized as a first team preseason All-American by D2Football.com. Last week he was selected as a preseason All-American by HERO Sports.

Last season, Brown led the Golden Rams in all receiving categories with 53 catches for 1,059 yards and 17 scores. His receiving yards and touchdowns were tops in the country among tight ends. Brown was named first team All-PSAC East, first team Super Region One by Daktronics, first team Super Region One by Beyond Sports Network, first team Super Region One by Don Hansen Football Gazette, second team All-American by Daktronics and Beyond Sports Network, and first team All-American by Don Hansen Football Gazette.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Team News - Golden Rams #22 in D2Football.com Preseason Poll

After finishing 11-2 and reaching the NCAA playoffs for the second consecutive season, West Chester is ranked #22 in the D2Football.com preseason poll. West Chester opens the 2015 season on September 3 when they host #10 Lenoir-Rhyne.