WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) — The 2010 season was a rarity for the Division II West Chester Golden Rams. Their 4-7 record represented the first time the Golden Rams finished under .500 since 2002.
It was also the first losing season in Bill Zwaan’s 14 years as a collegiate head coach. Needless to say, every effort is being made to make sure that 2011 writes a much different story.
“I think there is no question that there’s a lot of pride in our program and where we have had this program,” Zwaan says. “What happened last year, we’re looking at it as a blip on our program, certainly not a trend or anything like that. But I think to a certain extent our players were embarrassed by the way they played last year, or by the way that it turned out last year. They made their minds up that it wasn’t going to happen again. So I don’t think there is any question there is a chip on some guys’ shoulders, and there is a focus and a goal and something they want to make happen.”
The Rams play in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, one of the premier Division II conferences in the country, and Zwaan (wearing black jacket in photo) expects it to be a grind once again.
“It never seems to get easier, that’s for sure. Kutztown had a really good year last year, and they’ve got a lot of their guys back. Bloomsburg, of course, had a great year last year again, and they’ve got a good football team. CW Post is good every single year. There’s no easy weeks, it seems anymore, and that’s the way it should be. That’s what a good league is.”
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One of the main focuses of camp has been the quarterback position, where Mike Mattei and Sean McCartney both took snaps last year. Those two have been battling for the starting job this summer, with additional competition from transfers Matt Carroll and Bret Gillespie.
McCartney is listed as the number one quarterback on the depth chart for Saturday’s season opener.
Zwaan says some other aspects of the offense have the chance to be pretty special this season:
“Two really good running backs, Jackson Fagan and Rondell White. And then the offensive line — five senior starters, four of which have played a lot in the past. So I really feel like that that group is coming together as good as they’ve been. They’ve looked really good.”
On defense, Zwaan says they needed to improve the way they played as a unit.
“I didn’t think we played physical like we have in the past, especially up front on defense. So we moved Kyle O’Neill over to defensive line, which helped us get bigger right away. (O’Neill is 6’1″, 325 lbs.) And then we’ve got a couple of young linebackers who played a lot for us last year, and now are going to play a lot more. I think with a year under their belt they are ready to take that next step.”
Special teams, specifically the kicking game, is a place where the Golden Rams will most likely have an advantage over their opponents nearly every week.
“All-conference punter and kicker in Chris Hill and Shawn Leo. Chris is over 40 yards a punt, Sean Leo as a freshman last year had a great year for us (9-10 in field goals). So the two kickers we feel really good about. And because we feel like we are pretty deep, especially at linebacker and the secondary, that will help our special teams in general. I think we have a couple of good returners, so it could be a really positive phase of our team.”
West Chester opens the 2011 season on Saturday afternoon at New Haven.
Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060