When Kutztown steps on the field Saturday, it will have an opportunity to make program history.
The 12th-ranked Golden Bears will take on No. 18 New Haven at 12:05 p.m. at Andre Reed Stadium in the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs. With a win, Kutztown would advance to the national quarterfinals (regional championship game), something no team in program history has ever accomplished.
“It’d be pretty cool,” coach Jim Clements said. “I think that would be really cool for the university and the program, and definitely something that we can build on going forward.”
The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference champions, the Golden Bears earned the top seed in Super Region One and had a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Kutztown (10-1) will now play the fourth-seeded Chargers (10-1), with a chance to go to the regional championship game (national quarterfinals) on the line.
“If we win this week that means we’re playing for another championship next week,” wide receiver Mason Mason McElroy said. “Our goal isn’t to get there, but it’s to win it. If we win (on Saturday) it will feel good, but we got bigger goals in mind.”
Making their third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs, the Golden Bears went 9-1 in the regular season and defeated No. 10 Slippery Rock 38-32 in the PSAC Championship game on Nov. 13. Kutztown has won nine consecutive games and has scored 30 or more points in four of their last six contests.
The Golden Bears were just one of four squads in the national 28-team playoff field to earn a bye in the first round. After playing 11 consecutive weeks, the break was significant for Kutztown.
“It was good just to get the guys rest,” Clements said. “We had a couple guys that needed it.”
On the other side, New Haven finished the regular season 9-1 and won the Northeast-10 Conference title. The Chargers have won their last nine games and defeated Bentley 38-13 in the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 20.
The Golden Bears are 0-3 all-time against New Haven. The two sides last met in the 2011 playoffs.
“You don’t make it this far without being a good team,” McElroy said. “You got to respect your opponent, no matter who it is.”
As the top seed in Super Region One, Kutztown earned the opportunity to host the second round and potentially the quarterfinals (regional championship game) at Andre Reed Stadium. The Golden Bears are 6-0 at home this year.
“It’s great to be home,” Clements said. “It’s great for our fans, it’s great for our administration.”
A graduate student and Wilson graduate, McElroy said it “means everything” to have a chance to play in the NCAA playoffs in his final collegiate season. In his fifth year, he credits the close-knit culture within the program as the reason for Kutztown’s success.
“We’re a family here,” McElroy said. “That goes a long way with championship teams.”
Source: Berkshire mont