WEST GOSHEN >> The biggest story of spring football training at the University of West Chester is the names that did not participate.
Several weeks of Golden Rams training ended with the annual Purple-Gold Inter-Team Clash on Friday night. And a sizable crowd at Farrell Stadium saw that Gold outperformed Purple, 27-10.
At least half a dozen scheduled starters did not take part in the spring training sessions when they recovered from injuries or were delayed for various other reasons. And a total of 15 players sat through Friday’s bout, including stellar Seth Degres.
In addition, there is a situation with the excellent defensive end of Michael Gabor. In his sophomore year at 21, he was second in the PSAC in loss selections (18.5) and third in bags (10), but instead decided to go to work.
“Michael is going to finish training this spring and got a great job offer that he couldn’t get through,” said head coach Bill Zwaan, who is preparing for his 19th season at the helm.
“But (missing players) gives an opportunity to some young guys, and we’ve seen improvements from the start of spring training to the present,” Zwaan said. “I watch some really good young footballers recover. Now they will go out on the field, and I just feel that everything is moving in the right direction. “
At the top of the list of unavailable players this spring is current defender Shane Dooley. He started nine games a year ago as a freshman and completed 59.7 percent of his assists on 1,719 yards, 20 TDs and nine interceptions. Among others – the main offensive lineman Brendan Ruskovsky, backing Phil Poki and four secondary members: Nim Jones, Shamar Edwards, Ronnie James and Mamoud Dyubat.
“It’s not that I’m worried, it’s just frustrating because they can’t work with everyone else,” Zwaan said. “There is continuity when everyone practices together.”
The coaching staff decided that Dooley should serve the spring ball to recover and have time to focus on academics.
“We’re just trying to give him some time, but he’ll be fine,” Zwaan explained. “We expect it to be our starting point next fall.”
His backup, sophomore Desman Johnson, started on the Gold team, and junior Jahmir Wilkerson started as a Purple defender. Johnson found the final zone twice on Friday, and was 5-on-12 for 76 yards. Wilkerson was 7-on-16 on 114 yards and interception.
“They both sometimes show signs that they can easily be the guys we need,” Zwaan said.
Sixth-year senior Ruskovsky (6 feet 3, 275) is the backbone of a new offensive line that will be younger but also stronger. In addition to returning to juniors Quinton Dera (6-4, 300) and senior central Jacob Colby (6-1, 285), WCU is delighted with the harvest of red T-shirts ready to join, including sophomore Trey Wells (6-5, 280) and Bill Marteton (6-4, 280), as well as freshmen Kahlen Krasley (6-3, 300) and Pat Matley (6-3, 275).
“I think it’s one place where we’re showing great improvement,” Zwaan said. “We weren’t as big as usual last season, but some young guys really intervened.
“They are all great kids with great staff. The most interesting thing is when you play with young guys and they improve, it brings back coaching enthusiasm. ”
Positions of skills in attack are solid, especially 1-2 blows when running back with bruises of junior Ja’Dan Mackenzie and Poki, senior speedster. Mackenzie has twice played in all divisions and was third at PSAC East last season with 980 yards.
“You have a feeling that we could put together something beautiful ahead, and with what we have, it could be a good sign,” Zwaan said.
The junior, Degree headlines a wide-body receiver that also includes senior Marie Wright, junior Isaiah Allen and sophomore D’Shawn Sils, and sophomore Stone Huffman is expected to start in the tight end. Degree made 30 catches for 512 yards and six TDs and became the All-PSA East team’s second pick in 2021.
The strength of the defense in the lineback, where junior Jackson Taylor led the league with 98 selections and was named the best defensive player of the year PSAC East 21. He is joined by sophomore with a red T-shirt Oscar Udom, who was transferred from security to full-back.
“Udom is just a great footballer,” Zwaan said. “With him and Jackson together, I think we’re going to have probably the best linebacker duo we’ve had in a long time.”
Despite only inactive key players in the relegation this spring, Zwaan believes he has a chance to be good and deep next fall. All the juniors, coalbacks Sterlen Bar, Obi Anyatonwa and Isaiah McPherson have starting experience. The same can be said for security features such as Diobate, Jones, Edwards, James, Elijah Beard, Ronnie James and Zach DeMarchis.
“We could be as good as in the second grade,” Zwaan predicted. “We have three corners in which we feel good. And once everyone is back and healthy, we can be really safe. “
Despite Gabor’s loss, senior Zach Ligitt (6-4, 245) proved to be a proven contributor to the defensive end. And freshman with a red T-shirt Dan Hicks (6-5, 260) really came out.
“Hicks has real talent,” Zwaan said.
However, the biggest question mark was in the dream, where the losses in graduation were especially heavy. Junior Noah Calachi (6-1, 265) is back in rotation along with promising newcomers David Blay (6-2, 280) and Tom Burns (6-5, 285), who returned after a miss last season.
“We have young guys playing,” Zwaan said when asked about defensive rebounds. “We see that they are getting a lot better every day, but they have to play well. This is our big question mark. “
Another bright spot is the progress made by second-year kicker Sean Henry. Last season he was only 5-on-10 on goals from the game, with the longest 35 yards.
“He had a wonderful spring,” Zwaan said. “The other day he made 65 yards. He has such a talent. We want him to learn to make those big long goals off the field. “
Thanks to a very strong junior class, West Chester is looking to improve on last season’s 6-5 and take third place in the PSAC East. And so far Zwaan sees many positive signs.
“The juniors are all coming to their senses now,” he said. “Some of these guys are helping and correcting the younger guy right on the field. We haven’t seen this for a long time.
“They’ve been in the program for three years and know what we’re trying to do. They went through the first mistakes and now they are older guys.
“Such things you see in a good team.”

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