Football team beats Cal for huge win

Ethan Magoc photo: Mercyhurst College junior Travis Rearick threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns against Cal. His performance earned him PSAC West Offensive Player of the Week honors.Ethan Magoc photo: Mercyhurst College junior Travis Rearick threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns against Cal. Click here for a full slideshow from the gameTwenty-four. A normal number to some, but to the Mercyhurst College football team, it represents something greater.

On Saturday, the Lakers knocked off No. 3 California University of Pennsylvania, 31-21, breaking a 24-game conference win streak for the Vulcans.

With the win, the Lakers earned the No. 24 spot in the American Football Coach’s Association (AFCA) poll, giving them a national ranking for the first time in the program’s history.

At the same time, Mercyhurst pushed Cal from No. 3 to 14 in this week’s poll.

Head coach Marty Schaetzle couldn’t be prouder of his team.
“It’s great recognition for what we have been doing,” Schaetzle said. “We should be proud, but we just need to stay focused on the upcoming game against Slippery Rock.”

The Lakers’ win over the weekend came in a different fashion than the previous weeks, as they dominated the Vulcans from the first quarter, rather than waiting until the final drive.

Prior to the meeting with Mercyhurst, Cal, five-time defending Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Western Division champion, had rolled off 24 consecutive conference wins.

The last three weeks proved very exciting for the Lakers, who have turned in clutch performances to beat three quality teams – Indiana (IUP), Edinboro and Cal.

However, this excitement has been focused on one thing.

Junior quarterback Travis Rearick put that into perspective.

“We had a goal to win the PSAC West,” Rearick said. “The past three weeks, we have just been fighting to keep the dream alive.”

Senior cornerback Julius McCormick took those words to heart.

“We always have a goal to win the west, and we can’t win the west by just beating Cal,” McCormick said. “We now have to beat Slippery Rock and Clarion, which forces us to focus harder.”

The Laker defense played a crucial role in the victory over the Vulcans. Cal quarterback Josh Portis was constantly under pressure and was sacked four times for a total loss of 39 yards.

“Our plan was to be aggressive the whole game,” senior linebacker Tim Herbener said. “Defensively, we always pride ourselves on being sound in our responsibilities because when we all do our jobs collectively, no one can beat us.”

Building on each win, the past three weeks have been stepping stones for the defense.

“I think the games that we’ve played previously have kind of helped us out, even though they have been rather tough,” Schaetzle said. “It has really given us a new kind of confidence that we now play with.”

Offensively, the Lakers threw for 299 yards, scoring four touchdowns.

For Rearick, this is nothing new.

Earning the starting job just three weeks ago, the PSAC West Offensive Player of the Week has steadily improved, gaining confidence from his team and coaches.

And yet, the junior quarterback will be the first to tell you that he only played a small part in this game.

“It was a total team effort,” Rearick said. “Our special teams gave our offense good field position, and our defense stepped up in every possible way by creating turnovers.”

The Lakers enter this Saturday’s noon’s home game against Slippery Rock with lofty goals for the season’s remainder.

They are now in position to win the PSAC West and even host the conference championship game.

“Any time you beat a top five team in the nation at any level,” Herbener says, “you are going to get some serious playoff considerations.”