Monday, September 1, 2014

Team News - Preseason Depth Chart Update

As usual, there were very few changes on the depth chart as a result of training camp. On offense, the preseason depth chart showed Shawn Driggins as the top tight end and Tim Brown as the H-back and after camp, those two have switched places. Although minor, this change lends itself to each player’s strength, which is Brown as a pass catcher and Driggins as a lead blocker/pass protector.

There are a few more defensive changes, but nothing that was unexpected. Senior Mike Culbreath is now officially listed as one of the starting defensive ends with John Dubyk now being a backup. With Mike Labor and Ronell Williams rarely leaving the field, it’s the most likely way that Culbreath will see playing time this year and it also fills a void on the defensive line. Although Culbreath has spent his career at linebacker, he does know the system and will be an asset as an outside pass rusher. Jamiel Sims moves from backup end to backup tackle, but with the amount of rotation that the front four typically receives, playing first or second string is merely a notation in the game program. With Culbreath moving to defensive end and Drew Persa no longer on the roster, sophomore Ralph Reeves and R-Fr Dan Sherry assume the backup linebacker roles.

The previously unnamed holder spot will now be filled by wide receiver Mike Doty. Although Doty does not appear on the depth chart as a receiver, based on his preseason performance, he is sure to get plenty of playing time in that position.

West Chester Athletic Site - End of Camp Depth Chart

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Game Preview - New Haven

The West Chester University Golden Rams travel to West Haven, CT on Saturday to open their 2014 campaign against the New Haven Chargers of the Northeast-10 Conference. It marks the second consecutive season that West Chester will open the season against New Haven. Kickoff on the blue turf in Ralph F. DellaCamera Stadium is set for 1:00 pm. New Haven was picked to finish second in the NE10 by the conference coaches while the Golden Rams were picked to finish first in the PSAC East.


Series History:

Overall, New Haven leads the series 8-5-1, including the last tie in West Chester history in 1995. Head coach Bill Zwaan is 2-1 against New Haven having defeated the Chargers 28-17 in West Haven, CT in his first game at the helm of the Golden Rams in 2003. For New Haven head coach Chris Pincince, Saturday will mark his first game as a head coach after serving as offensive coordinator at several programs, including Elon, Rhode Island, Holy Cross as well as New Haven. After leading the Chargers to three consecutive NE-10 championships and two NCAA Division II playoff appearances, former head coach Pete Rossomando took the same position at Central Connecticut after last year's 8-3 finish.

Last 10 Meetings:

Year
H/A
W/L
Score
Year
H/A
W/L
Score
1995
Home
Tie
36-36
2001
Away
Loss
32-28
1996
Away
Win
24-17
2002
Home
Loss
28-19
1997
Home
Loss
32-26
2003
Away
Win
28-17
1998
Away
Win
33-27 (OT)
2011
Away
Loss
35-32 (OT)
2000
Home
Loss
7-0
2013
Home
Win
45-14

Last Meeting:


09/07/2013 West Chester 45 - New Haven 14

In a game that was not as close as the score indicates, the Golden Rams trounced the Chargers, who were ranked #12 in the country at the time, by a score of 45-14 at Farrell Stadium to open the 2013 season. West Chester scored on five of its first six possessions, electing to forego a chip shot field goal on fourth and goal from the one.

The balanced Golden Ram offense rolled up 515 total yards - 225 rushing and 290 passing - and were forced to punt only twice with both of those coming within New Haven territory. Quarterback Sean McCartney had a rating of 208.7 for the contest and the offensive line did not yield a sack. Senior running back Rondell White had 96 yards rushing and 94 yards receiving, while running backs Eddie Elliott and Brandon Monk combined for 102 yards on the ground. Wide receiver Erick Brundidge hauled in four catches for 79 yards including a 46-yard touchdown.

Meanwhile, the West Chester defense held New Haven's offense to under 300 total yards and kept preseason All-American running back Mike DeCaro to just 56 yards rushing and 25 yards receiving. Safety Shawn Krautzel had an interception to go along with his eight tackles while linebacker Mike Labor led the Golden Rams with ten tackles. Defensive end Chris DiValentino had three total tackles, including a 9-yard sack on fourth down to give the Golden Rams possession.

Scouting the Chargers:
Although the Chargers list 24 seniors on their roster, not many of them have significant experience playing for New Haven. All-purpose player and leading ground gainer Mike DeCaro (135 carries, 937 yards, 10 TD's; 27 catches, 407 yards, 3 TD's; 11 punt returns, 127 yards, 1 TD; 29 kickoff returns, 818 yards, 1 TD) is gone to graduation. So is quarterback Ronnie Nelson (167-274, 2,721 yards, 29 TD's, 7 int's; 121 carries, 635 yards, 9 TD's) who was their second leading rusher.

The more experienced of New Haven's two running backs is Trevor Officer (45 carries, 254 yards, 113 of which came against 1-10 St Anselm, 3 TD's). Their top returning receivers are Ty Headen (22 catches, 346 yards, 4 TD's) and Roshawn Wilson (11 catches, 145 yards, 1 TD). Among the seven senior offensive linemen, only two started last year against West Chester - Zach Guy and Zach Voytek. Both were All-Northeast 10 selections. University of North Dakota transfer Joey Bradley (4-9, 54 yards, 2 TD's) is likely to get the nod at quarterback.

Defensively, the Chargers' leading tackler from last season was cornerback Najae Brown (78 total tackles, 3 interceptions, 9 pass breakups) who was named NE10 Rookie of the Year and Division II National Freshman of the Year. But he is no longer on the roster. Key returning defenders are strong safety Sherwood Jonathas (55 tackles, 3 TFL's), linebacker Herbens Antenor (51 tackles, 5 pass breakups) and free safety David Nooks (54 tackles, 7 pass breakups).


Analysis:
With a new head coach and a lot of new regulars including all of the offensive skill positions, New Haven has many questions that need to be answered. Meanwhile, West Chester mainly has only one question that needs to be addressed - does this team have the same wherewithall now that the best all around player in Golden Ram history, Rondell White, has moved on? They certainly have the talent, senior leadership and an experienced coaching staff. This opening game on the road against a traditionally quality opponent will be a good test to get that question answered.

Game Coverage:


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Team News - 2014 Second Scrimmage Report

The depth issue that was feared in the season preview was on full display in the Golden Rams' final scrimmage of the summer. Even though there were several players not dressed, the play should have been cleaner. Absent from the field of play were Erick Brundidge, A.J. DePietro, Shannon Mayer, Jim Hurley, Ralph Reeves and Cory Scott. Although the offense moved the ball fairly well, they were hampered by penalties and a fumble. And there was a mishandled snap on a PAT attempt. And even though the miscues may have been made by players not expected to start, those guys are one injury away from being "the" guy. Some observations:
  • R-Fr Jarel Elder showed his speed throughout the session with the most notable play being a leaping grab over the middle followed by separation from the defensive secondary.
  • Freshman Ch'aim Smith will likely be redshirted this season, but he demonstrated that he's 6'4" multiple times.
  • With the influx of defensive backs, John McGilligan was playing wide receiver before suffering an apparent should injury.
  • Freshman Mike Class showed that he's a between-the-tackles kind of running back.
  • The biggest offensive play of the day was a long completion from Alec Werner to Marcus Sydnor
  • Besides showing his quickness around the corner, on one play, running back Eddie Elliott bounced off a group of tacklers in the backfield and turned it into a gain.
  • The crowd erupted when transfer wide receiver Dion Shaw made a catch off the back of cornerback Ted Patton.



Friday, August 29, 2014

Team News - 2014 Season Preview

Encore?

Heading into last season, expectations were high that the Golden Rams would return to the NCAA playoffs. They exceeded those expectations by finishing the regular season 10-1 and then advanced to the national semi-finals for the second time in school history and first time since 2004. Is it fair for fans to anticipate an encore? With so many key players lost to graduation, it’s certainly a tall order. This 2014 squad seems to have the talent, but they are unproven in so many areas, so it will be a matter of how well that talent is realized and how quickly they can come together.

Offense

Last year’s offense was 32nd best in the country at 461 yards per game. With 6,922 yards on the season, they crushed the West Chester single season record of 5,555 set by 1994’s playoff team. Some would argue that the high total was due to playing 15 games, but it could be equally argued that playing 15 games was due to the high offensive output. This year’s offense will have to overcome the loss of last season’s top rusher and receiver, both which came in the form of Harlon Hill finalist Rondell White (406 carries, 1,989 yards, 21 touchdowns; 75 catches, 843 yards, 3 touchdowns). Graduation has also affected an offensive line that saw all five of its members garner all-conference honors.

Returning at the quarterback position will be Sean McCartney (242-384, 3,569 yards, 34 TD’s, 14 int’s) who was granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA for the 2012 season after he broke his leg in the season opener at Delaware. Everyone saw the composure of Big Red in 2010 when the then redshirt freshman started his first collegiate game on national television and threw for 444 yards and five touchdowns in the double overtime victory against Shippensburg. In 2013, he had one of the best seasons ever by a Golden Ram quarterback and, no doubt, benefited from an offensive line that yielded only 15 sacks and paved the way for almost 2,800 yards rushing. Support from the line and the running game will be critical for success in the passing game. Backing up McCartney will be Andrew Derr (20-34, 398 yards, 4 TD’s). Although Derr has yet to throw a pass at Farrell Stadium, the sophomore led the fourth quarter comeback victory at Shippensburg and started in the thrashing of Cheyney. Pushing for time will be R-Fr. Pat Moriarty and transfer Alec Werner.

West Chester has a stable of talented of running backs, although none has been tested over a full season. Junior Brandon Monk (66 carries, 495 yards, 4 TD’s) has seen most of his time as a return man, but had carries in a dozen games last season. Junior Eddie Elliott (14 carries, 171 yards, 2 TD’s) has been more effective when he gets out in space as is evidence by his receiving numbers (20 catches, 345 yards, 3 TD’s). After last year’s summer camp and this past spring, fans are also excited to see diminutive R-Fr. Jarel Elder make his electric moves in a regular game. It’s quite possible that all three will be required to fill the shoes of White. Expect Camille Max to fill the role of lead blocker coming out of the backfield.

The tight end position has noticeable talent returning. Junior Tim Brown (20 catches, 429 yards, 5 TD’s) missed five games in the middle of last season, but was mainly used as a receiver, while junior Shawn Driggins (4 catches, 17 yards, 3 TD’s) was used primarily for his blocking ability on running plays. The coaches need to either break the predictability of their participation, or they need to be so good at what they do that it doesn’t matter that everyone knows it. Pushing for playing time will be R-Fr. Bill Ford who spent the spring catching for the Golden Ram baseball team.

The line is the biggest question on this 2014 offense. Three of the five starters from last season’s record setting offense are gone. Returning is senior center Derek Schatz and senior guard James Colivas. Of the rest of the O-line, senior Antoine Bland played in every game and sophomore Doug Gilbert saw action in eight games primarily in the jumbo package. The final starter and all of the backups will consist of redshirt freshmen – Michael Unger, Alex Host, Vince Lostracco, Tyler Drob, Evyn Stadulis, and Devan LaBau. While the capability and the durability of last year’s unit preserved redshirt seasons for these five guys, it has the side effect of inexperience this season.

One thing that is almost certain is that if a player lines up as an eligible receiver for West Chester, he is likely to catch a ball. Last year, 13 different guys caught passes, including running backs Monk, Elliott, and Max, and tight ends Brown and Driggins. Among the returning wideouts, senior Erick Brundidge (46 catches, 759 yards, 10 TD’s) is the top deep threat while junior Adam Dempsey (37 catches, 526 yards, 4 TD’s) is known for his ability to make the tough catches over the middle. Sophomores Shannon Mayer (14 catches, 195 yards, 1 TD) and Jim Hurley (3 catches, 83 yards, 1 TD) are almost guaranteed to have more opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities this season. Sophomore A.J. DePietro, R-Fr. Jordan Banks and transfer Mike Doty have yet to register a collegiate catch, but all are big targets for McCartney.


Special Teams

For the first time in several years, the coaching staff has to make some decisions in the kicking game. The best place kicker is school history, Shawn Leo, is gone to graduation. Rich Bruno was an All-Super Region 1 punter last season (39.5 avg, 12 fair catches, 15 inside the 20, 7 50+) and has been reliable in the kickoff game (59.2 avg, 4 touch backs). Although he’s a capable placekicker, he hasn't attempted a collegiate point. And performing all of the kicking duties – kickoff, punting, scoring – is a tall order for any one player. So training camp will be a time to see how Bruno’s role and that of one of the three recruited kickers pans out for the team. While fans may be nervous about a freshman kicker, remember that Leo only missed three kicks – two PAT’s and a 48-yard field goal – in his first season in a West Chester uniform. Junior Charles Kuklinski will serve as a reliable snapper. And don’t expect significant changes in the return game with Monk (22 returns, 654 yards, 1 TD) and Elliott (4 returns, 49 yards) handling kickoff returns and Monk (16 returns, 199 yards) and Elder fielding punts.


Defense

Last year’s defense was definitely a pleasant surprise for the Golden Rams and it propelled them into the postseason. The second half of the season took its toll on the team’s statistical rankings as opponents with strong rushing attacks dropped the Golden Rams from 6th to 60th in rushing yards and from 19th to 45th in total yards. However, the most important aspect is the scoreboard and points allowed stayed fairly even from mid-October until the end of the season with 21.7 points per game.

There’s no secret that West Chester has two of the best linebackers in the conference. Senior captain Ronell Williams (110 tackles, 9.5 TFL’s, 2 interceptions) has received plenty of national attention throughout his career in purple and gold. Fellow captain Mike Labor (105 tackles, 13.0 TFL’s, 1 interception in 14 games) is every bit as good as Williams if not better, but is often unfortunately overlooked perhaps due to his mild mannered demeanor. After last year, Williams received the ECAC Division II Defensive Player of the Year award and was All-Super Region I selection while Labor only eked out second team All-PSAC honors. Awards and recognition aside, they’re both great players and provide a wealth of senior leadership. Fortunately Golden Rams fans will have the pleasure of watching these two work the middle of the field for one final season. Backing up these two will be senior Mike Culbreath (22 tackles, 3.5 TFL’s) and sophomore Ralph Reeves (10 tackles) who both might see time at outside pass rusher. Junior Drew Formica (63 tackles, 6 PBU’s) will be the primary shark/outside linebacker with support from sophomore Byron Cooper (12 tackles, 1 TFL, blocked punt against New Haven) who is back after an injury shortened season.

Long-time fans know the secondary is historically the vulnerable area of the West Chester defense, but this season appears to be a different story. Senior captain Al-Hajj Shabazz (53 tackles, 4 interceptions) received three preseason All-American nods. Sophomore Blaise Schieler (72 tackles, 8 PBU’s) was fifth on the team in tackles last year. Junior Dante Devine (33 tackles, 4 PBU’s in 2012) is back after taking last season off. And transfer graduate students DeOliver Davis and Cory Scott add significant depth in the secondary. Sophomore Kevin Malone (10 tackles) looks to be the starter at strong safety after an injury shortened season last year. He’ll be alongside junior Brandon Pepper (53 tackles, team-high 5 interceptions). Sophomore Pete Galiano (13 tackles) and Holy Cross transfer Kyle Keyser will backup the safety spots.

With a lot of personnel lost from last season, the front four looks to be the biggest question mark on defense. Junior Andrew Cohen (41 tackles, 8.5 TFL’s) was second team All-PSAC last season, but he’s the only current lineman that has started a game. He’s expected to move from tackle to end and be backed up R-Fr. George Shipp. Junior Barry Lyons (11 tackles), sophomore Shaquil Ryder (11 tackles, 2.0 TFL’s, 1 interception) and R-Fr. Josh Ganzelli are on the depth chart as the tackles. The other end will be occupied by R-Fr. John Dubyk and graduate student Jamiel Sims (11 tackles, 2.5 TFL’s).

Conclusion

It's hard to summarize this team in one thought. There's certainly significant senior leadership and plenty of talent at the skill positions, but there are also unknowns and depth concerns at other positions. The schedule is interesting in that New Haven and Mercyhurst provide two good tests, but are certainly winnable games. The next four games provide a bit of a respite to make any necessary adjustments. Then four of the final five games are brutal with three of those on the road. If all goes right, a return to the postseason is a reasonable expectation.


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

Ratings Service
Rank
Lindy’s
8
Beyond Sports Network
4
AFCA
10
Massey
19
D2Football.com
11
Sporting News
6
ComputerRatings.com
14

D2Football - PSAC Columnist - PSAC East #3: West Chester

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Team News - Rally With the Rams

Saturday marks the second and final scrimmage as the Golden Rams prepare for the 2014 season. Come out and catch the action, meet the players, get an autograph and take some pictures. The game starts at 10:00 am. Hope to see you there!!!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Player News - Shabazz, Williams Earn Preseason Accolades

Senior co-captains Al-Hajj Shabazz and Ronell Williams have been named to the 2014 D2Football.com Preseason All-America Team.

Last season, cornerback Shabazz had 53 total tackles and four interceptions, including a 76-yard touchdown return in the Super Region I championship game, while linebacker Williams led the Golden Rams in tackles with 110, while registering 9.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, four quarterback hurries, and a fumble recovery.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Team News - Golden Rams #11 in D2Football.com Preseason Poll

After reaching the national semi-finals last season, West Chester is ranked #11 in the D2Football.com preseason poll. The Golden Rams return a dozen starters from last year's team that finished 13-2.

West Chester opens the 2014 season on September 6 at New Haven in West Haven, CT.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Alumni News - Gersbach to ChesCo Sports Hall of Fame

Former Golden Ram football player Carl Gersbach has been named to the 2014 Inductee Class of the Chester County Sports Hall of Fame. Gersbach was a two time All-PSAC linebacker for the Golden Rams, earning second team honors in 1968 and first team honors for the PSCAC Championship team in 1969. He then logged three interceptions in 76 NFL games over seven seasons while playing for the Eagles, Vikings, Chargers, Bears and Cardinals. Gersbach served as President of the Conestoga Gridiron Club and on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Special Olympics. He was inducted into the Killinger Hall of Fame in 1985.

Also among the inductees is Phil Donley who started the athletic training program at West Chester University and was inducted into the Killinger Hall of Distinction in 2012.

The 2014 Annual Induction Banquet will be held on Saturday, November 8th at the Downingtown Country Club.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Team News - 2014 First Scrimmage Report


Erick Brundidge holds his block as Eddie Elliott turns the corner
(Photo Ray Doyle)


Brandon Monk catches a pass in the flat (Photo Ray Doyle)


Mike Class looks for running room on the right side (Photo Ray Doyle)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Team News - Golden Rams #10 in AFCA Preseason Poll

After reaching the national semi-finals last season, West Chester is ranked #10 in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II preseason poll. The Golden Rams return a dozen starters from last year's team that finished 13-2.

West Chester opens the 2014 season on September 6 at New Haven in West Haven, CT.

American Football Coaches Association - Division II Coaches’ Poll – August 18, 2014