West Chester hosts Gannon Saturday in home opener

West Chester announced its presence with authority last week in its season opener.

Matt Leon
September 07, 2018 - 11:47 am
West Chester head football coach Bill Zwaan

Photo provided by West Chester University Athletics

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- The Division II West Chester University football team will play its home opener on Saturday when the Golden Rams host Gannon.

West Chester announced its presence with authority last week in its season opener, hammering Bentley on the road, 44-6.

"Not many negatives, that's for sure and a lot of positives," West Chester head coach Bill Zwaan says. "You're always waiting to see how you do in that first game, to see if you are the team you think you are and if some of those players will perform the way you hope they do. I think, in general, we got a lot of real positive answers on all of our questions going in."

West Chester redshirt junior quarterback A.J. Long threw for 184 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 54 yards and two more scores. The Golden Rams also got 115 yards rushing and a touchdown from senior running back Mark Dukes.

"He ran the ball hard," Zwaan said of Dukes. "He made some nice plays where he broke a tackle or two and got out in the open field."

Defensively, West Chester was brilliant. The Golden Rams held Bentley to 63 total yards, while sacking quarterback Stephen Sturm seven times. 

"The defensive front was as strong as we had hoped," Zwaan says. "They really couldn't run the ball on us at all and then of course you add the sacks and start adding minus yardage into that. Our secondary played well, had a couple of interceptions. Part of that was because our front was putting so much pressure on the quarterback. Just overall defensively, we looked like I was hoping we would look."

Sophomore linebacker Nate Barnes had 3 1/2 of West Chester's seven sacks.

Gannon is coming into this game 0-1.  The Golden Knights lost their season opener to Southern Connecticut State University, 35-32.

"They have a great running back (senior Marcus Jones)," Zwaan says. "Kid who was All-American last year who gained over 2,000 yards on the ground. Big kid, 215 pounds, quick, agile. Not like great speed, but quick and physical. He's going to run through you as much as he's going to run  around you. So we've got to stop him."

West Chester and Gannon haven't played since 2013 when the Golden rams won 56-41 in Erie.

Saturday's game will kick off at 12 p.m.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @Mattleon1060.