By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In 2012, Division II West Chester University bounced back from back-to-back losing seasons, putting together a solid 7-4 campaign. However, the Golden Rams were literally a couple of plays away from a couple of more wins and a return to the post-season.
“The whole offseason that’s what a lot of guys have been talking about is that one or two plays make such a big difference and how we don’t want to let that slip away from us anymore,” West Chester head coach Bill Zwaan tells KYW Newsradio. “We’ve got a lot of older kids who have played a lot of football, they have not been to the playoffs and they want to get there bad. They definitely want to turn this thing around right now and I like the way they are approaching it.”
With a talented and experienced roster, West Chester looks to be in position for an outstanding season in the rugged Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Right at the top of the list of talent and experience is West Chester’s outstanding senior running back Rondell White.
“He’s going to get a lot of touches,” Zwaan says. “He led the country in (all purpose) yardage last year (200.2 yards/game) and I think he’ll do that again because every time we turn around we find another way to get him the ball. We just have to be careful about keeping him healthy, we’ve got a couple of good guys sitting behind him that can go in there and give him a rest every once in awhile. But when the game is on the line, the ball is going to be in his hands. He’s the guy that’s going to carry us.”
“I’m very excited,” White tells KYW Newsradio. “My senior season, got a great group of guys to be going into my last campaign with. I know there’s a lot of hungry guys, ready for the season.”
White set West Chester’s single-season rushing record last season with 1,548 yards and he has a chance to rewrite some career records at West Chester, but the Rustin High School in West Chester product says they need everyone to make plays to get where they want to go.
“The big guys up front, they keep opening up the holes, I’ll be running through them, creating plays for my team,” White says. “Hopefully, I can create enough plays and the receivers and the other guys behind me can create enough plays where we can come out victorious.”
Under center, the Golden Rams have junior Sean McCartney, an Archbishop Wood graduate, running the show. He won the starting job last year, but broke his leg in a season opening loss to Delaware.
“Sean McCartney had a really, really good spring, coming off his injury last year,” Zwaan says. “Had a good spring last year, had a great camp right now. Sean can really add another dimension, especially with the run game going the way it is, it makes our passing game so much better. And we really have some skill guys out there at wide receiver. So we look like a team that can be potent offensively.”
Up front, Zwaan says the offensive line needs to stay healthy.
“We’re young after the first eight guys,” Zwaan says. “The rest of those guys are young guys, so we can’t get too many injuries there. They’ve got to stay intact. If they do, I think we have a good o-line.”
Defensively, Zwaan thinks his unit will be a formidable one.
“Our defensive front looks pretty tough right now,” Zwaan says.
The heart of the defense is probably junior linebacker Ronell Williams. The Chester High School product is coming off a sophomore season which saw him earn first team All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association.
“He’s not only a great player, he’s a great leader, he’s a great young man,” Zwaan says. “The kids love playing with him. He keeps them fired up. He stays on top of them, he’s like another coach on the field and he makes tons of plays. He’s a great guy to have in the middle of our defense. Both him and Mike Labor, our two inside linebackers, are really special football players and they can disrupt offenses and we’re expecting big plays out of them.”
One place the Golden Rams are looking to fill some holes is in the defensive secondary.
“We’ve got a couple young guys trying to replace some seniors who played a lot of football for us and did a nice job,” Zwaan says. “So there’s always going to be a drop-off, but we’re expecting those young guys to step up and play well.”
The Golden Rams are also ahead of the curve on special teams. They have one of the nation’s top place-kickers in senior Shawn Leo. He was 13 of 15 on field goals last season, banging home a long of 48 yards. Junior punter Rich Bruno averaged 36.6 yards a boot and only had five punts against him returned in 2012.
Add it all up, and it looks like it could be a special season for the Golden Rams. Needless to say, they are ready to go.
“It’s right around the corner, we can’t wait,” White says. “We’re ready. We’re hungry.”
West Chester opens the campaign on Saturday, September 7th, at home against the University of New Haven.
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