This is the first of a two-part edition of Notes and Analysis from West Chester’s 55-42 loss to Bloomsburg. This part focuses on past wins by Bloomsburg over West Chester and the intertwining backstory behind this rivalry. Part Two, which will be posted later today, breaks down yesterday’s game itself.
In the 90 years of West Chester University football, there have been some extraordinary moments (the countless PSAC State Game wins in the 1960s and 1970s come to mind) and devastating losses … especially against Bloomsburg.
To understand where this week’s Notes and Analysis head heading, a little backstory is required. A small portion of it draws from personal memories (faded as they may be), so some indulgence is needed.
Growing up in West Goshen back in the 1980s, one particularly painful loss that I recall was a 1984 contest in which the Golden Rams lost to Bloomsburg at Farrell Stadium 34-31 on a last second touchdown.
It was a painful for the Golden Rams, as that loss ultimately gave them a 5-1 divisional record and a share of the PSAC East … with Bloomsburg.
Based on their win over West Chester, the Huskies would advance to the PSAC State Game, losing to California (Pa.) 21-14. The 1984 title was the first of 12 division titles Bloomsburg would clinch or share since the PSAC adopted the State Game format in favor of the Saylor Points System in 1960.
When you’re 10 years old and hearing Art Douglas on WCOJ relay the bad news as Jay Dedea and Curtis Still did their best Doug Flutie-Gerald Phelan impression, it’s painful. Suffice to say more than a few tears were shed that day.
The following year, at Bloomsburg’s Redman Stadium, the Huskies completed their first perfect regular season since the 1951 squad – coached by the stadium’s namesake, Robert Redman – with an 8-6 win over West Chester. As was the case the previous season, the Huskies finished one game ahead of the Golden Rams to advance to the State Game, defeating Indiana (Pa.) 31-9.
The head coach of those 1984 and 1985 West Chester teams is probably someone you’re familiar with. A graduate of West Chester State College and the MVP of the 1967 PSAC championship team, this alumnus would return to his alma mater in 1984 following assistant coaching stints at Colgate, Bucknell and Vermont.
We’ll reveal his identity later in this column.
By the summer of 1985, my family relocated to the Boston area, so my connection to the West Chester area ended before work-related circumstances brought me back to the area 10 years later. But, that’s enough personal backstory for one column.
Meanwhile, back in Pennsylvania, the State Game was dropped in 1987 after the PSAC opted to emphasize getting teams into the NCAA playoffs. Following the 2008 expansion of the PSAC, which added Erie’s two Catholic schools – Gannon and Mercyhurst – as full-time members and Long Island University-C.W. Post as an associate member to replace Mansfield, the State Game returned.
Now, back to the rivalry history lesson…
After Redman’s 1951 perfect season in Bloomsburg, which resulted in a PSAC title, he left to take a coaching job at a high school in North Jersey. His successor, Jack Yohe, would win two PSAC titles before leaving in 1956. Yohe’s successor, Walter Blair, led the Huskies to what was described as one of the biggest upsets in school history.
West Chester traveled to Athletic Park in downtown Bloomsburg on November 8, 1959. The Golden Rams, under legendary head coach Glenn Killinger, entered the contest with a 15-game winning streak dating back to a 28-14 loss in the 1958 season opener at Villanova.
That streak came to a dramatic end as the Huskies, trailing 10-0 at halftime, scored 13 unanswered points, capped off by a one yard run by Richard Rohrer for the 13-10 upset.
Now, where have we heard that story before?
It also snapped a 17 game win streak against PSAC (then the Pennsylvania State Teachers Athletic Conference) opponents. Prior to the upset at Bloomsburg, the Golden Rams’ last PSAC loss came on November 12, 1955. And who was the team that beat West Chester that day?
It was none other than Bloomsburg (17-7).
Had it not been for the Huskies’ 1959 upset, the Golden Rams win streak would’ve surpassed Shippensburg’s PSAC-best 20 consecutive wins from 1951 to 1954.
West Chester could very well have accumulated a 31 game winning streak between 1956 and 1961. Following the Bloomsburg loss, the Golden Rams started a new 15-game winning streak by demolishing Cheyney 70-19, in what would be Killinger’s final game as head coach of the Golden Rams.
New head coach Jim Bonder would win his first 15 games as head coach of the Golden Rams – a perfect 9-0 mark in 1960 and the first five games of the 1961 season – en route to West Chester winning the first ever PSAC State Game, beating Lock Haven 35-6. In his six seasons with the Golden Rams, Bonder would compile a 39-9 record – an .813 winning percentage that remains the best in school history – including PSAC championships in 1960, 1961 and 1963, plus a 46-12 win over Hofstra in the Cement Bowl.
Now, fast forward to 1984, a year remembered by many at West Chester as the year field hockey head coach Vonnie Gros and three of her players represented the United States in the Los Angeles Olympics. The U.S. recorded their first international medal, winning a bronze medal.
West Chester entered their Nov. 3, 1984 showdown at Farrell Stadium with Bloomsburg with a 6-2 record. The Huskies, since their 1959 stunner over the Golden Rams, had only managed three seasons of at least six wins in the 25 years since snapping West Chester’s streak.
On the last play of the game, Bloomsburg had the ball at mid-field trailing 31-28. It appeared as though the Golden Rams would clinch their 11th PSAC East championship since 1960 and their first since 1974.
And then, it happened.
Dedea found Still in the end zone for a 50 yard touchdown pass that deflated the Golden Rams faithful and allow the Huskies to steal a 34-31 win. While West Chester would win their season finale the following week against Kutztown, Bloomsburg would win the PSAC East, despite finishing 1984 with a 6-5 record.
George Landis, now an assistant coach at Middletown High School near Harrisburg, was in his third season as head coach of the Huskies, having the unenviable task of rebuilding a program that had gone 9-38-1 in its previous five seasons – including a 0-10 mark in 1981. Following Bloomsburg’s 12-1 season in 1985, which saw the Huskies make their first appearance in the NCAA playoffs, Landis left to take the head coaching job at Bucknell.
And West Chester’s coach at the time of the 1984 Nightmare on South New Street? None other than current Bloomsburg head coach Danny Hale, then in his first season as head coach of the Golden Rams.
Talk about full circle…