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Kutztown University beats Slippery Rock to win Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference football title

As his teammates celebrated around him, Jerome Kapp couldn’t help but look back.

The Kutztown University wide receiver and Boyertown grad had mentioned before the sting of losing to Slippery Rock at home two years ago in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship Game and the motivation it provided.

That seemed to make this golden moment all the sweeter.

“To me, this means everything,” Kapp said after the Golden Bears beat The Rock 38-32 in the PSAC title game Saturday at Andre Reed Stadium. “Just being part of the team in 2019 and not being able to come out on top and watching them celebrate on our field … I mean, it’s been 727 days since that day, and we knew that. We knew what happened in 2019 and that fueled us all day, all week.

“I’m just happy that I’m part of this team and this great group of guys.”

Kutztown (10-1) made sure that disappointment — the Golden Bears squandered a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead two years ago — didn’t happen again in winning the second PSAC title in school history.

KU also won the title in 2011, beating Slippery Rock, and that team was honored at halftime, a fact that wasn’t lost on Kapp.

“Kind of ironic, right?” he said.

With the win, Kutztown likely locked up the top spot in the Super Region One rankings — the Golden Bears were first coming in — and a first-round bye in the NCAA Division II playoffs. The pairings will be announced Sunday, and the KU should open at home on Nov. 27.

There were plenty of twists and turns Saturday in a game that started out in wind and rain and got progressively nastier, and ended in a sunny November chill. Each team could lament missed opportunities.

Ultimately, Kutztown, ranked 16th in the AFCA Division II coaches poll, came up with more big plays.

“It’s huge for the program,” said KU coach Jim Clements, who guided the Golden Bears to the conference title game for the third time in his seven seasons. “I mean, we talk about it all the time. This is our third appearance in the last five years. So that’s pretty dominant in my book, but we needed to win it. And we were so close in ’19 and a lot of those seniors came back knowing that they wanted to get to this point again and they played well today.

“I’m really happy with the outcome. And I’m really happy for these players and the coaches because they’ve put a lot of work into it and I’m proud of them.”

The final big play for Kutztown came from Jeremiah Nelson, named the game’s MVP. He sealed it on a 61-yard run on third-and-5 during which he carried a tackler the final 10 yards into the end zone to give the Golden Bears a 38-20 lead with 6:25 left.

He finished with a career-high 223 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. The bruising 6-0, 245-pound senior, a transfer who played tight end at Temple, also had a 68-yard run that set up a field goal and was part of a running game that had 389 yards on 54 carries.

“In the summer we preached that no one’s better than us,” Nelson said. “We believe that wholeheartedly. We believe that every time we work we’re going to get the results from it. We just put our heads down, we work. The O-line did a phenomenal job. The O-line is the only reason why you got as far as we did. So I love them. I appreciate those boys and we came out here and did what we needed to do.”

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The Golden Bears’ first game-turning play was turned in by Kapp. After KU stalled on its first two drives and fell behind 3-0, the redshirt junior took a screen and raced 84 yards for a touchdown.

More responses followed.

After The Rock (9-2), ranked 10th in the nation, went up 10-7, Kutztown quarterback Eric Nickel ran 50 yards on a draw to put the Golden Bears up for good at 14-10.

Kutztown botched consecutive punts to give Slippery Rock possession inside the KU 25. The Rock converted neither opportunity into points.

The first time, with KU up 21-17, Justin Harris made an interception in the end zone on the next play. The next time, Slippery Rock turned it over on downs.

Nelson gave The Rock some momentum when he tried to leap into the end zone on first-and-goal from the 2 with less than six minutes left in the third quarter and Kutztown up 24-20.

“Now, I mean I had like 17 heart attacks in that game,” Clements said. “The turnovers, the punts, the fumble on first-and-goal.”

His team created the final two turnovers. Tyler Whary, a linebacker and Upper Perkiomen grad, pressured Slippery Rock quarterback Noah Grover, who threw an interception that linebacker Chris Thomas returned 18 yards to The Rock 28.

After Zaire Jones ran for 24 yards to the 4 on third-and-11, Nickel scored from the 1 on the next play to make it 31-20 with 11:53 left.

A second interception by Harris set up Nelson’s clinching run.

All that was left after that was running out the clock, though Slippery Rock did score twice in the last 3:39. When the The Rock’s onside kick attempt rolled out of bounds, the celebration was on.

“A lot of deja vu and the only thing that wasn’t the same as the ending result and we couldn’t have asked for a better end result,” Kapp said. “Just the resiliency our team showed, just the trust that we have in each other, the trust we have in the coaches. That’s the reason we won the game. I mean, there’s more talented teams in this league than us, but there’s no one that trusts more than us.”

When asked if he had anything to add, Kapp was succinct.

“Go Golden Bears and we’re champs forever,” he said.


Source: Berkshire mont

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