Football to square-off against #24 West Chester

Published by The Rocket, Author: Stephen Cukovich - Assistant Sports Editor, Date: September 3, 2017
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SRU football (1-0) will play host to the West Chester Golden Rams (1-0) this Saturday, who are ranked #24 in the  AFCA coaches poll this week.

Kick-off will be at 6:00 p.m. at Mihalik-Thompson Stadium, as The Rock looks to keep the momentum going from last weeks win at Kentucky State in their home opener this weekend.  The last meeting between the two teams came last year when The Rock won 36-28 at West Chester.

The Green and White have been dominate at home, posting a 22-1 overall record at home since the beggining of the 2013 season.  Since 2003, the year artificial turf was installed in the stadium, The Rock have put up 57-20 record and are 53-13 in home games since 2005.  Head coach Shawn Lutz mentioned how playing at home is a big advantage for his football team.

“It is great to be home,” Lutz said.  “I think you’re going to have a heck of a crowd and we really do talk about the familiarity of being at home because you gotta win your home games.”

The Rock was dominate last week, but did a majority of their damage through the air, with redshirt senior Tanner Garry posting big numbers earning him Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) offensive player of the week awards their 42-21 win last week at Kentucky.  Garry threw for 390 yards last week for five touchdowns and no interceptions.

Last week, the Golden Rams overwhelmed Bentley University with a 51-9 win last Thursday at home.  They’re offense was balanced all day, posting 265 yards through the air and 213 yards on the ground, while the defense stuffed Bentley in the running game holding them to just 34 rushing yards and 213 total yards.

“Let me say this, West Chester this year will be one of the best teams we play this season,” Lutz said.  “They’re basically the same team from last year, but better.”

Coming into the season, West Chester was the unanimous pick to win the PSAC East in the Preseason Coaches Poll.  Sophomore quarterback Paul Dooley put up an all around performance last week, throwing for 183 yards and three scores with no picks.

Senior running back Jarel Elder, who was fifth in the PSAC in rushing yards last season, rushed for 1,013 yards, on 202 carries and 11 rushing touchdowns in 2016.  Last week, he gained 68 yards for one touchdown on 13 carries.

“This kid is good,” Lutz said.  “They got these huge offensive linemen, and he (Elder) just hides behind those guys and all of a sudden he gets through there and the kid never stops his feet.”

For The Rock, senior defensive end Marcus Martin needs just five tackles for losses and five sacks to take the all-time records for both categories in Division II football going into this weekend.  Right now Martin is third all-time in tackles for losses with 72 and currently ranks fifth in career sacks with 41.5.  Martin is the anchor for the Green and White defense, which hasn’t allowed teams to rush for an average of 100 yards or more per game since Martin began starting three years ago.

One of the troubles last week for The Rock was running the football after redshirt freshman Chacar Berry, who won the starting job over redshirt senior Isiah Neely in camp, fumbled twice in his first colligate start last week.  Between the two running backs, the ground game posted 84 yards, but the conditions on Kentucky’s natural grass was surly a factor.  Coach Lutz said Neely will be the starter this week, but mentioned the running game will feature both backs.

“We still feel we got good running backs,” Lutz said.  “Again its football, I mean you can’t fumble the ball twice and Chacar is still gonna get his carries, but Isiah will be the starter in this upcoming game.”

At halftime of this weeks game, SRU will welcome seven new members to the university Hall of Fame, which includes football standout Brian Polk from the class of 2001.

This week’s match-up will be televised regionally on WPNT-22 Pittsburgh, and on the SportsFever Network.  The game will also stream nationwide on ESPN 3 and the ESPN app.  Also former Rock football head coach George Mihalik will join the broadcast team as a color commentator for the game.

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