LOCK HAVEN - Featuring the right arm of quarterback Sean McCartney and the legs of tailback Rondell White, the 15th-ranked West Chester Rams defeated Lock Haven, 34-13, before a Hubert Jack Stadium standing room only homecoming crowd Saturday afternoon.
The Rams jumped on the Bald Eagles early as they scored on their first two possessions.
McCartney hit wideout Eric Brundidge with a 39-yard scoring pass before White capped West Chester's second possession with a 2-yard run for a quick 14-0 lead.
Lock?Haven quarterback Caleb Walton looks to pass as West Chester’s Brian Butler tries to evade LHU’s Devante Olive, a Hughesville graduate, blocks Saturday at Jack Stadium.
White racked up 133 yards rushing and two scores in the first half before finishing with 196 yards. White completed his busy day with 85 yards receiving to give him a total of 281 yards total offense.
Although the final margin was 21, the game was much closer than that for much of the 60 minutes.
"Our team is very resilient and honestly that is how we have been," said LHU (2-5, 1-3 PSAC?East)?head coach John Allen. "They did get up on us early, but our guys did a good job of just battling back. Defensively we made them go to the long field and that kept us in the game. Offensively, our no-huddle was working well today and I am pleased with how we executed that. For the most part our kids played hard and that (West Chester) is a good football team. Along with Bloom, they are the two of the best teams in the conference."
Following the pair of Ram scores, George Christas picked off a McCartney pass at the Bald Eagle 6-yard line.
Eight plays and 77 yards later, the drive stalled and LHU kicker Alex Boumerhi drilled a 25-yard field goal to cut the Ram lead to 14-3.
"Getting touchdowns instead of field goals will come along, but even though it was a field goal, you are finishing drives," said Allen. "We are getting points inside the green zone and that is important to us. I want touchdowns as well, but what I really want is for us to keep chipping away."
Following the field goal the Rams (7-0, 4-0)?took the ensuing kickoff and went 75 yards in 11 plays. White ended the drive with a two-yard score.
Leading 21-3, the Rams padded their lead with 63 seconds left before the break when Shawn Leo nailed a 41-yard field goal.
Coming out of the halftime break with a lot of enthusiasm, the Bald Eagles took the kickoff on their own 46. Eight plays later, Matthew Gibson ripped into the end zone from three yards out for the touchdown and a 24-10 deficit.
During the drive, LHU tailback Brandon Brader went down in a heap and never returned. Brader finished with 77 yards on 19 carries.
"You don't like to see those things happen, but we have always subscribed to the 'next man up' theory," said Allen. "(Matt) Gibson went into the game, Jay Jackson went into the game, Beau Swales got into the game and they all did a great job. Caleb (Walton) did a great job and Chris Englar came in and did a good job. You don't like to have the injuries, but they sometimes gives that next man a chance to take advantage of the opportunities and that is what you look for."
During the first 13 minutes of the third period, the Bald Eagle defensive unit was at the top its game as it held the powerful Rams to just three offensive snaps during the span. For the period, LHU battled its way back into the game by outscoring the Rams, 10-0.
"Like I said, our guys really did a great job," beamed Allen. "We wanted to try and put pressure on them to keep that offense off the field. That is about execution and not some gimmick and scheme. We ran no-huddle, we controlled the clock and that helped keep their offense off the field. That gave us a chance to give the defense a blow and make some adjustments. We had a chance to put some more points on the board in the third and fourth quarters and that is all you can ask for."
Although there were many positives, one real bright spot in the game for LHU was the first-ever start for redshirt freshman quarterback Caleb Walton.
Walton completed 14 of 23 attempts for 186 yards. his favorite target was James Wilbern who caught seven balls for 118 yards.
"He (Walton) did a great job," said Allen. "He made a couple of mistakes here and there, but he settled, was in control throughout the entire game and he made some real good decisions. He is growing up and I like what I am seeing from him."
If there was a down side for the Bald Eagles other than the loss, it was in the injury department that made the LHU sideline resemble a mash unit.
Christas was on the bike, return specialist Bernard Smack was sporting a pair of crutches, Brader was on the training table and never returned to the game and there were several other bumps and bruises that kept the LHU training staff busy.