WCU, Slippery Rock named favorites
The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference ecently named its preseason favorites in both the East and West divisions during the league’s preseason media day. West Chester was tabbed to finish as the top team in the East Division, while Slippery Rock leads the West Division poll.
A number of local athletes are competing in the PSAC, including six at West Chester, after the Golden Rams finished 10-1 and won their 19th conference championship in 2018. Four other former Lehigh Valley high school players are playing at each Shippensburg and Millersville, along with plenty others around the conference.
It’s no secret that West Chester once again comes in as the PSAC East favorite. The Golden Rams received six of the eight first-place votes and return 13 starters from last year’s team that defeated Slippery Rock for the conference crown. And one of those starters is a former Parkland standout.
Jarey Elder, an incoming-junior defensive back, returns as one of the PSAC’s best defenders. He finished third in the nation among Division II players with seven interceptions, and was the Golden Rams’ leading punt returner with 189 yards on 24 returns. He also recorded 46 tackles (31 unassisted), two tackles for loss and three pass break-ups.
Five other former Lehigh Valley players are on the Golden Rams’ roster: Elijah Hall (Liberty), Zach Gilbert (Whitehall), Izaiah McPherson (Emmaus), Patrick Ferry (Parkland) and Zach Liggitt (Northampton).
The Golden Rams’ season came to an end in the NCAA Division II playoffs via a 35-28 loss to the University of New Haven in the first round. West Chester opens the 2019 season against Bentley University on Saturday, September 7.
Shepherd comes in at No. 2 on the PSAC East Division poll, while Kutztown, Shippensburg and Bloombsurg round out the top five. Mekhi Lee (Whitehall), Deionte Wilson (Catasauqua/Central Catholic), Markes Cruz (Whitehall) and Bret Legath (Whitehall) will suit up for Shippensburg in the fall season. The Red Raiders return their leader under center, rising-sophomore Brycen Mussina, who was named the PSAC Eastern Division Freshman of the Year.
In the West Division, Slippery Rock was picked as the preseason favorite after winning 11 games last season and a perfect 7-0 conference regular season record. The Rock have won four of the past five West Division titles and returns 18 starters.
Slippery Rock opens its season at Wayne State University on Thursday, September 5. The Rock won two games in the NCAA Division II playoffs last season—a 20-14 win over LIU Post and a 59-20 romp over the University of New Haven—before seeing its season end in the quarterfinals against Notre Dame College in Ohio.
Cal University of Pennsylvania comes in second on the PSAC West Division poll with one first-place vote after a 7-4 season last fall. Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Mercyhurst and Edinboro round out the top five.
The Lehigh Valley is well represented on Millersville’s roster with four local players. The Marauders are picked to finish seventh in the West Division preseason poll. Drew Schwindenhammer (Emmaus) and Michael Bennett (Parkland) will represent Millersville on the offensive end of the ball, while Tyler Reiman (Liberty) and Isaiah Onuschak (Bethlehem Catholic) will also represent the black and gold on the gridiron
Below is the full preseason poll, along with a list of former local athletes now playing in the PSAC. East Stroudsburg’s 2019 roster was not available at time of press.
1. Slippery Rock
2. Cal U
8. Seton Hill
1. West Chester
3. Kutztown University
8. Lock Haven
Elijah Hall West Chester, Jr., WR
Jarey Elder (Parkland) West Chester, Jr., DB
Zach Gilbert (WHITEHALL) West Chester, So., QB
Izaiah McPherson (Emmaus) West Chester, Fr., DB
Patrick Ferry (Parkland) West Chester, Jr., OL
Zach Liggitt (NORTHAMPTON) West Chester, So., TE
Eric Miller, Kutztown, Jr., DT
Mekhi Lee, Shippensburg, Fr., DB
Deionte Wilson, Shippensburg, Sr., DB
Markes Cruz, Shippensburg, Fr., OL
Bret Legath, Shippensburg, Fr., OL
Mason Malozzi (Parkland) Bloomsburg, Fr., FB
Brandon Gill, Bloomsburg, Fr., OL
James Felch Jr. (Northwestern) Bloomsburg, Fr., DL
Drew Schwindenhammer (Emmaus) Millersville, So., WR
Tyler Reiman, Millersville, Jr., P/K
Isaiah Onuschak, Millersville, Fr., LB
Michael Bennett, Millersville, Fr., OL
Christan Drayton, Lock Haven, Fr., WR
Devin Castro, IUP, So., DB
Javonte Haynes, IUP, Fr., DB
Hunter Miller (Northwestern) Seton Hill, So., P/K