West Chester readies for D2 playoff opener

Matt Leon
November 22, 2019 - 10:14 am
Senior defensive back Jarey Elder leads the West Chester University defense

West Chester University Athletics

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The West Chester University Golden Rams are headed back to the playoffs.

This will be the third straight year that has seen West Chester in the NCAA Division II field, and they will open things up on Saturday with a first-round road game against Notre Dame College (OH).

West Chester brings a 9-2 record into the postseason, and the ninth win, which helped seal their entry into the field, came with quite the dramatic flair. The Golden Rams beat California University of Pennsylvania this past Saturday, 20-19. The Vulcans actually scored a touchdown as time expired and decided to go for two and the win, but the Golden Rams turned them away to grab the victory.

"In a way it kind of makes the victory a little bit better, winning that way, because our kids were so fired up when we stopped them," West Chester head coach Bill Zwaan told KYW Newsradio. "I think it kind of made our kids really savor it a lot more. But you know, your whole season is in the balance on one play, I've been around a lot and these are games that you remember, that make-or-break game. Luckily, we got it done and now we're in the playoffs, so pretty happy with how it all ended."

Making this season even more satisfying for West Chester is the fact they have had success while leaning on a good number of young players.

"I think in August, we weren't really counting on this many young guys playing for us," Zwaan said. "So as we got to the middle of the season and we saw how it was playing out, to be honest, I think we've got to be pretty happy with where we're at. Somebody told me the other day that we have 75 players that are sophomores and below (true freshmen and redshirt freshmen) on the team. So we got a ton of young guys, so the team is going to be good in the future for sure. But to get the young guys a chance to play in some big games like they had to do Saturday and win a big game, and then of course now get a chance to see what the playoffs are all about. I think that's really going to bode well for those young guys as they go forward now."

This will be the first ever meeting between West Chester and Notre Dame College. The Falcons are 10-1, and this season they won their second straight Mountain East Conference title.

"They are very good," Zwaan said. "Last year they got to the Final Four (of the playoffs)." 

The Falcons feature an explosive offense that scores 41.2 points per game.

"They have a great running back (sophomore Jaleel McLaughlin) who is a returning first-team All American from last year," Zwaan said. "Really quick, not real big, but quick, strong. Reminds us of a couple running backs that we played against over the years, some really good ones. They've got a good offensive plan. Their offensive line averages over 300 pounds, so they are big up front. They just get in front of people and then let that running back pick and choose where he wants to go."

McLaughlin has rushed for 1,982 yards and 27 touchdowns this season. He averages 7.2 yards a carry.

Saturday's game kicks off at noon.

Follow Matt on Twitter @Mattleon1060.