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Kutztown University football’s Final Four berth ‘means everything’ to Antaun Lloyd, teammates

When Antaun Lloyd arrived at Kutztown University in the fall of 2018, he watched as his teammates led the Golden Bears to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time since 2011.

While he was in his redshirt season, Lloyd quickly realized the long-term potential of the Golden Bears.

“When I first got here, I thought that we could compete at a national level,” Lloyd said. “The players that we had were amazing.”

Five years later, Lloyd is a redshirt senior on a Kutztown team that will make its first appearance in the Final Four when the fourth-seeded Golden Bears (12-2) play at top-seeded and top-ranked Colorado School of Mines (13-0) in semifinal Saturday at Golden, Colorado at 3:30 p.m.

“This opportunity means everything to me,” Lloyd said. “This means everything to us.”

With 51 games played at KU, Lloyd is tied with redshirt senior defensive lineman Nigel Wilson as the two Golden Bears with the most on-field experience. Both made their debuts in 2019 and haven’t missed a single game.

“They’ve been great for us,” Kutztown coach Jim Clements said. “Their roles have changed every year they’ve been here.”

Both Lloyd and Wilson played a major role in the Golden Bears’ 28-16 win over Slippery Rock in the quarterfinals, which gave Kutztown its first Super Region One title and the berth in the Final Four.

Lloyd had a pivotal 100-yard pick six early in the fourth quarter, which gave the Golden Bears a two-touchdown lead. Wilson recorded a sack later in the fourth quarter, further slowing The Rock’s offense, which did not score in the second half.

“We’ve faced a lot of adversity this season,” said Lloyd, who has returned three interceptions for touchdowns in his career. “We’ve been in every predicament, every situation. Because of those adverse situations, we’re able to grow and be the best we can. We can be thrown anything and come out on top.”

Kutztown redshirt senior Nigel Wilson (9). (COURTESY OF BILL SNOOK)
Kutztown redshirt senior Nigel Wilson (9). (COURTESY OF BILL SNOOK)

The Golden Bears returned to postseason in 2019, reaching the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championship Game and the second round of the NCAA playoffs. Lloyd finished the season with 14 tackles, while Wilson had 32.

“He’s a guy that has a lot of talent,” Clements said about Wilson. “There’s times where he takes over a game.”

After the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kutztown won the PSAC title in 2021 and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time in program history. The Golden Bears lost 30-28 to Shepherd on a game-ending Hail Mary.

Wilson had 30 tackles and 4.5 sacks, while Lloyd had a career-high 46 tackles. Lloyd also recorded four interceptions, tied for the second-most in the conference, and was named to the All-PSAC East second team. He finished with one pick-six and returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown.

“Not only did he learn from his coaches that were here, but he learned from the players in front of him,” Clements said about Lloyd. “Now he’s a guy that people look up to.”

Lloyd finished the 2022 season with two interceptions — one he returned for a touchdown — and 28 tackles, while Wilson had 26 tackles and a forced fumble. The Golden Bears finished 8-3 and missed the postseason for the first time in the pair’s career.

Kutztown began this season 0-2, but has since won 12 straight games. The Golden Bears’ 12 victories and five wins over ranked opponents this season are program records.

“This is a real team,” Lloyd said. “We just didn’t put it all the way together until obviously now.”

Kutztown defeated then-No. 4 Slippery Rock 31-7 in the PSAC Championship Game on Nov. 11 to win its second conference title in three seasons. The Golden Bears’ win over The Rock again last Saturday was its fifth win over the perennial PSAC West contender in the last six meetings.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Clements said. “This is a really good group of kids and coaches that are really bought in to what we’re doing.”

Lloyd, a Wissahickon graduate from Ambler, Montgomery County, leads the team with three interceptions and nine pass break-ups this season. He also has 37 tackles.

Wilson, a Bound Brook graduate from Bound Brook, N.J., leads the team with 9.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. His 40 tackles are a career high.

“This team, we’re just more disciplined than other (past) teams,” Lloyd said. “We hold each other accountable. We encourage each other, we believe in each other.”

An experienced team, Kutztown has seven graduate students, eight redshirt seniors and 11 seniors on its roster. Linebackers Tyler Whary, an Upper Perkiomen graduate, and Kam Wolfe, a Gov. Mifflin graduate, each have played 50 career games.

“This group has seen a lot,” Clements said about the veterans. “They have learned from the past and have really made the most of their opportunities.”

As the Golden Bears head into the biggest opportunity of their careers on Saturday, the goal remains the same as it’s always been.

“We don’t want to just play this next game, we want to win this next game,” Lloyd said. “This is everything for us.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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