Goals still in sight for Cal U Vulcans
There's good news and bad news for the Cal U football team.
The good news is that the loss Saturday to visiting West Chester does little to affect the long-term goals the team set for itself early this season.
“Our first goal was to win the PSAC West. There's nothing that happened Saturday that say's we can't do that. We're still in line to do that as long as we take care of business,” Cal U Coach Mike Kellar said. “Even when Coach (John) Luckhardt was still here, we looked at our first five games and said that coming out of them 4-1 would still give us one hell of a season. Of course, I'd like to be 5-0 right now, but I'll take 4-1. We played some really tough football teams. West Chester, along with Bloomsburg, they've been one of the two top teams in the east.
The loss leaves the Vulcans (4-1, 2-0) tied for first-place in the West with Mercyhurst with a 2-0 conference record. The two teams will meet Nov. 3 in Erie. Mercyhurst must travel to Indiana to take on IUP on Oct. 20. If the Vulcans handle Mercyhurst and end the season tied with IUP, the Vulcans would clinch the PSAC West's berth in the PSAC Championship based on their win over the Crimson Hawks Sept. 22.
Then there's the bad news for the Vulcans.
For the second straight game, the Cal U defense allowed an opposing rusher to run for 200 yards.
Golden Rams running back Rondell White carried the ball 36 times for 200 yards against the Vulcans.
“I told the football team that we aren't going to win football games if we can't run the ball or stop the run. The reason we won the Edinboro game is because we ran for over 200 yards. We need to be healthy...we need to get Darnell (Harding) back...I'd like to see Jason Kates get a play. We can't outnumber them any more than we are. We just have to stop them. If you can't run the ball or stop it, you're not going to do any good.”
Harding was carried off the field on a stretcher against IUP and was transported by medical helicopter to a Pittsburgh hospital as a precaution. He was on the sidelines for Saturday's game.
“Darnell was out there running around a little bit with the guys,” Kellar said. “Hopefully, we can get him back real soon.”
The Vulcans also played without one of their talented linebackers against the Golden Rams. Belle Vernon Area graduate Spencer Lynn missed the game with an undisclosed illness.
“The thing is with the run game is that we've been chasing the last couple games,” Kellar added. “Teams are throwing blitzes at us because we've thrown the ball so well, so if we have runs called, we check out of them to get the ball out quick.”
On Saturday, the Vulcans found themselves trailing early on, and were down 27-13 at halftime.
Vulcans quarterback Peter Lalich threw for 342 yards on 29-of-47 attempts with wide receiver Trey Johnson catching 11 of those balls for 120 yards and two touchdowns as the Vulcans were able to tie the game at 27-27 heading into the fourth quarter against the Golden Rams.
The Golden Rams got a 43-yard field goal from kicker Shawn Leo and a 1-yard touchdown run from White to pull ahead by 10 with 3:21 remaining in the game.
The Vulcans looked to emulate their performance against IUP as Lalich led the Vulcans right down the field, hitting four straight passes, the last of which was a 15-yard scoring strike to Johnson in the back of the end zone to pull the Vulcans within three at 37-34. The five-play, 78-yard drive only took 58 seconds and including a dazzling catch by Vulcans' receiver Kowan Scott, who leaped for a pass, had it hit his chest and bounce in the air, and came down with it as he was falling to the turf.
The Golden Rams recovered the ensuing onside-kick attempt but failed to get a first-down, giving the Vulcans the ball back with 1:43 remaining. The Vulcans' hopes for another thrilling, last-minute victory were dashed, though, when Brown couldn't hang on to a pass and it was intercepted by West Chester's Ronell Williams to seal the Golden Rams' win.
“We have to take care of the teams in front of us going forward,” Kellar said. “Every goal we have is still right in front of us. I wouldn't mind seeing West Chester here again in November in the PSAC Championship.”
GAME NOTES - Cal U kicker Cody Nuzzo missed two extra points ... West Chester outgained the Vulcans 211-73 on the ground ... Scott finished with 95 yards receiving on three catches ... All-American safety Rontez Miles finished with two interceptions and 12 tackles ... former Cal U basketball player C.J. Townes led the Vulcans with 13 tackles ... Lalich finished with two interceptions.
Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2667 or firstname.lastname@example.org.