LOCK HAVEN — The West Chester Golden Rams have been tabbed the favorite to win the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Football Eastern Division following the preseason poll as selected by the league’s head coaches, the league office announced Monday.

For the second consecutive season, West Chester claimed six first-place votes. The Golden Rams won their league-leading 19th PSAC title last season while boasting a 10-1 record. West Chester senior Jarey Elder will pace the defense after finishing third last season in NCAA DII with seven interceptions. Coach Bill Zwaan’s squad boasted the highest-scoring offense in the PSAC with 38.3 points per contest last year while the defense was lights out by allowing a league-low 16.5 points per game.

West Chester has not lost more than one conference game in a single season since 2012. Overall, 13 starters will return for the Golden Rams.

Shepherd snagged two first-place votes and picked second. The Rams transitioned from the Mountain East Conference after being a member since 2013. Shepherd finished 7-3 last season and will be under the direction of second-year coach Ernie Cook.

Shepherd’s defense was tops in the MEC after allowing 158.9 passing yards per game. Coach Cook will return 16 starters, including sophomore quarterback Tyson Bagent. Bagent set single-game marks for completions, attempts and passing yards when he went 36-for-56 and 518 years in his Rams debut. Shepherd is 8-2 in its last 10 season openers.

Bloomsburg was selected fifth and have produced 20 consecutive seasons with a winning record and at least six wins. The Huskies return a trio of all-conference athletes in the form of running back Alex Gooden, wide receiver Michael Allen and placekicker Jaco Sattamini. Coach Paul Darragh’s squad allowed 321.3 yards per game last year; which was second-lowest in the conference.

Kutztown claimed third after producing a 9-2 mark last season. The Golden Bears appeared in the NCAA DII Football Championship for the third time in school history. Coach Jim Clements claimed his 100th career win in 2018 while his offense posted a league-high 471.1 yards of total offense per game.

Shippensburg was tabbed fourth and return two major award winners from the 2018 team. Redshirt senior Josh Gontarek was tabbed East Athlete of the Year while Brycen Mussina claimed East Freshman of the Year accolades. Gontarek finished the regular season ranked 10th in the nation in receiving yards (1,097). He claimed second in the PSAC in receptions (74).

Mussina paced the PSAC in five major passing categories, including touchdowns (32), yards (3,376), completions (254), attempts (421) and yards-per-game average (306.9). Behind Mussina’s strong play, the Red Raiders led the league in passing yards per game (308.1).

East Stroudsburg earned the sixth slot and will be under the direction of the 2005 Harlon Hill winner Jimmy Terwilliger. The 2019 campaign marks Terwilliger’s first full season at the helm. The Warriors return 21 starters, including quarterbacks Ben Moser and Jake Cirillo. The duo combined for 184 completions and 2,514 yards.

Millersville and Lock Haven open their respective seasons Friday, September 5 while the remaining six East institutions begin play Saturday, September 7.

East (Number of first-place votes)

West Chester (6) Shepherd (2) Kutztown Shippensburg Bloomsburg East Stroudsburg Millersville Lock Haven

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