LOCAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Bloomsburg U. clinches PSAC East title
WEST CHESTER - Defensive backs need to have short memories to have success over the long haul.
It also helps when they play with a chip on their shoulder.
Saturday, faced with the opportunity to win the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East title, Bloomsburg University's football team responded like a champion. And just nine days after its defense in general and secondary in particular had its most disappointing performance of the season, that unit played a major role in defeating previously undefeated West Chester 31-28 and put the Huskies into the championship game this Saturday in a 12:30 p.m. kickoff against West champion Slippery Rock at Redman Stadium.
By defeating West Chester, the 16th-ranked Huskies (9-1 overall, 6-1 PSAC) finish the season in a three-way tie for first place in the East with West Chester (9-1, 6-1) and Shippensburg (7-3, 6-1). Bloomsburg, which was coming off a 34-18 loss to Shippensburg, was awarded the title through the PSAC tie-breaking formula and was ultimately helped by West Chester's 32-29 victory at Shippensburg.
Clinging to a 24-14 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Huskies faced the challenge of stopping a fourth-and-1 play at their 44. It seemed certain the Golden Rams would send senior running back Rondell White into or around the line for that year - and more.
Fortunately for the Huskies, safety Jonathon Patrick understands there are no certainties in football and had a feeling quarterback Sean McCartney would look to complete a pass and go for the big play. That is what the Rams tried, and when a receiver slipped, Patrick stepped in front of the pass, intercepted the ball and returned it 45 yards for a 31-14 lead that allowed the Huskies to hang on at the end.
"Even though they just needed one yard, we wanted to put pressure on the quarterback because we thought they might try for the big play," Patrick said. "When my man cut, he slipped, but I kept my coverage and was able to make a play on the ball."
Although the Rams scored all four of their touchdowns on passes, including two in the fourth quarter that covered 71 yards to Tim Keyser and 18 to Eddie Elliott, their only lead was 7-3 early in the second quarter on a 51-yard pass to Elliott.
In addition to trying to win the East outright, the Rams were attempting to finish the season 10-0 for the first time since 1967. They never got their offense untracked, however, as White was limited to 88 yards on 21 carries, and three sacks resulted in minus-18 yards to give them 70 yards rushing as a team.
Franklyn Quiteh shook off the ankle injury he had against Shippensburg to carry 30 times for 154 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put the Huskies ahead to stay at 10-7, and makes him the No. 2 all-time rushing leader in Division II with 7,084. That touchdown gives him the overall PSAC record with 86, is his 82nd rushing to move within one of the PSAC record held by former Husky Jamar Brittingham and gives him the PSAC record of 520 points.
"As a senior, there was no way I would miss this game," Quiteh said. "You've got to take advantage of your chances and today the defense responded and a lot of people stepped up and made big play."
Some of those people were fullback Matt Wenrich of Selinsgrove, who scored his second touchdown of the season on a 6-yard run for a 17-7 lead; reserve running back Joe Parsnik, whose three carries for 72 yards was highlighted by a 62-yard run on third-and-5 to set up Wenrich's touchdown; wide receiver Tony Peregrin, who had five receptions for 52 yards; and tight end Aaron Allison, who had two receptions for 35 yards.
"It was certainly great to see the way the team came back and responded," Bloomsburg coach Paul Darragh said. "We got contributions from every area."
Of course, the Huskies got some big-time performances from several primetime players. And, by making four extra-point kicks, the dependable Dan Fisher - who opened the scoring by extending his PSAC record to 56 field goals - now has the PSAC record of 180 placement kicks.
Defensively, senior tri-captain and middle linebacker Justin Shirk had a game-high 16 tackles, including nine solo. In the secondary, D.J. Robinson led with six tackles, Gary Postell had five and Patrick had four.
Also bouncing back was quarterback Tim Kelly, who completed 16-of-27 passes for 262 yards, converting 8-of-17 third downs. His most dramatic play, however, was a 32-yard touchdown run on third-and-3 to make the score 24-14 early in the third quarter.
"We've been keeping that one in the play book," Kelly said. "We were just waiting for the right time."
And, Saturday, the time was right for the Huskies.