Purple-Gold Game wraps up first spring under WCU head coach Greco – Daily Local

New coach Duke Greco now leads the West Chester football program. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)

By Neil Geoghegan

@NeilMGeoghegan on Twitter

WEST GOSHEN >> For the 80-plus football players on West Chester’s roster, Friday’s Purple and Gold Spring Game at Farrell Stadium was the culmination and celebration after four weeks of practice in preparation for the first season under head coach Duke Greco.

“I’m psyched for the kids. It’s fun for them more than us (coaches),” said Greco, who was hired last winter to replace the program’s all-time winningest head coach, Bill Zwaan, upon his retirement.

“This is more of a celebration of what the guys have accomplished so far this semester. They’ve worked really hard and have fought through some tough situations together.”

A good crowd showed up to see the Gold squad edge Purple 14-10 under the lights at Farrell.

“I thought there was way more good than bad tonight, so we are leaving here happy,” Greco said.

“I have never felt this good heading into a season,” added junior defender Maurice Beverly. “And this spring has been the best we have had as a group. We have been making very big steps.”

Following 21 years with Zwaan at the helm, Greco inherits a squad that went 6-5 last fall. The transition has been, according to nearly everyone involved, quite smooth. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that six of the seven full-time assistant coaches are holdovers, including Bill Zwaan, Jr., (offensive coordinator), Gerald Toney (defensive backs/special teams), Osagie Osunde (running backs/recruiting coordinator), Nick Sama (offensive line), Pat Spadaro (tight ends) and Justin Curry (receivers).

“I feel really fortunate with the staff that is here,” Greco said. “We are working as a unit and we like each other, which is important.

“I’ve known Billy (Zwaan, Jr.) for a long time and he’s doing a great job. And when I got into coaching, I always looked up to Gerald (Toney). So to have this opportunity to work with him is special. I always followed him around recruiting (Philadelphia) to see how he did it. He did a great job, not just recruiting but he had great relationships with kids. I tried to model myself after him.

“(Osagie) Osunde is a great guy. We didn’t have a prior relationship. He is doing an excellent job along with the other holdovers: Nick, Pat and Justin. It’s a good fit for all of us.”

The lone new face is defensive coordinator Nick Brady, who served the same role for Greco at Delaware Valley University.

“I’m not sure how much things will change (on defense),” Greco said. “Nick has always been a multiple guy in terms of front and coverage. It will be based around our personnel and what we do best, and he’ll try to mold it to his scheme.”

Quarterback (2) Cooper Jordan tosses a pass as Gold prevails 14-10 in West Chester University spring football game Friday night at Farrell stadium. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)
Quarterback (2) Cooper Jordan tosses a pass as Gold prevails 14-10 in West Chester University spring football game Friday night at Farrell stadium. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)

Some established standouts are back, including speedy junior quarterback Cooper Jordan (Bishop Shanahan), who led the team in passing and rushing, and dangerous senior wideout D’Shaun Seals. Leading tackler Brandon Noble (Downingtown East), a senior inside linebacker, is expected to play but sat out Friday with a right foot injury.

Greco says that it is too early to talk about starters at any position.

“We don’t know where we are yet, at any position,” he said. “We are still trying to figure it out. We won’t know until camp is over this summer.

“Even though I feel pretty good at, say, receiver, I still have question marks. I will always have question marks until we play Bentley (at home in the season opener Sept. 7). That’s just my mentality. But one area I don’t question is the desire of this group to be successful.”

A scrambler, Cooper averaged nearly 50 yards per game on the ground last season, and threw for 1,670 yards in ’23. But his completion percentage (.591) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (8-11) were underwhelming. His top backup, junior Ethan Kohler, is more of a drop-back QB, and he returns. And so does Brody McAndrew – who transferred from FCS New Hampshire a year ago – as well as redshirt freshman Jake Rama.

All four played Friday, with Cooper accounting for 117 yards through the air and 50 on the ground in the first half for team Gold, including a 33-yard TD scamper. Kohler and McAndrew split time for Purple, and combined to go 16-for-24 for 105 yards.

“All four have unique skill sets, which is fun as a coach,” Greco said. “All are different, and that’s unique. It gives us the ability to do different things. And we are fortunate because all of them have the respect of the locker room. We’ll see how it plays out.”

A deep group of receivers is highlighted by Seals, who led the team in catches (44) and receiving yards (616) last fall. He is joined by seniors Rahiem Bowens, Seth Degree and Jonathan Haynes, and sophomores Robby Luongo, Zack Gillen and Darrell Brown.

“That’s a spot where we really feel fortunate because there is depth,” Greco said. “D’Shaun has had a very, very good spring. It’s a deep room, and it’s nice to see those guys compete day-in and day-out.”

Junior tight end Thatcher Miller is also returning, and he paced Gold with four catches for 64 yards. Seals found the end zone for the Gold team with a four-yard run in the second quarter.

“We might not have 11 games this season because of Mercyhurst (moving to Division I), so our only option is to be in the PSAC Championship Game,” said Seals, referring to WCU’s open date to end the regular season on Nov. 16th.

“We definitely expect this offense to make another step up.”

The top three running backs also return in juniors Jayden Williams and Daquan Robinson, and sophomore Dayshawn Jacobs (West Chester Rustin). Robinson has not participated this spring, so Jacobs, Williams and redshirt freshman Stephen Broderick have been splitting reps.

On Friday, Jacobs led the way with 77 yards on 10 carries.

“Everyone has different styles, so we can use guys in different ways,” Greco said.

Up front, the offensive line welcomes back junior starters Caelen Krasley (Downingtown East) and Patrick Methlie (Avondale native). But others like seniors Trey Wells and Bill Martleton, and sophomore Jake Phipps have starting experience.

“I am excited about this group across the line,” Greco said. “For me, that’s the group I will have my eye on because I feel they’ve made the biggest progression throughout camp. Can they do it in a game situation?”

On defense, Noble was among the PSAC’s top tacklers last season with 106 stops. Junior Ricardo Delgato is also in the mix at inside linebacker. The outside spots are still up for grabs, but Beverly returns as WCU’s hybrid outside linebacker/safety spot.

“Our defense is a whole lot better. There is a meaning behind everything we do, and that allows everybody to make plays,” Beverly said.

“Connor Noble has been fantastic,” Greco added. “He is a great leader and the kids voted him a captain. He’s the type you love because he loves football.”

The Rams look to be solid at defensive end with returning juniors Nate Desmond and Daniel Hicks, but defensive tackle is a question mark. The secondary also suffered heavy graduation losses, but safety Shane Mosley, a transfer from FBS Maryland, was productive in 2023 until an injury ended his season.

“The defense is a work in progress, but the kids have worked their tails off,” Greco said. “We have been progressing day by day and week by week.”

D'Shaun Seals (1) celebrates his touchdown to make it 7-0 as Gold prevails 14-10 in West Chester University spring football game Friday night at Farrell stadium. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)
D’Shaun Seals (1) celebrates his touchdown to make it 7-0 as Gold prevails 14-10 in West Chester University spring football game Friday night at Farrell stadium. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)

Gold quarterbacks were picked off three times – including two by Jordan – and the team Purple lost a pair of fumbles. But afterwards, Greco was all smiles.

“This group is determined and now we will see if we can execute the plan,” he said. “Some things have changed, but the players are open to it. They’ve been so welcoming and they’ve come in and worked their tails off.

“We are all excited to see where we are going.”

NOTES: In addition to Noble, several other injured players did not participate on Friday, including kicker/punter Sean Henry. The rest of the list: wide receiver Julian Jordan, defensive back Victor Pena and offensive lineman Ethan Vargas … Without Henry, backup kicker/punter Zack Liberatore filled in and booted a 52-yard field goal. He also had four punts for a 36.5 average.

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