|Western New England athletics photo
By Joe Sager
Reaching the playoffs has become an annual occurrence for Western New England.
The Golden Bears want to turn it into a winning tradition.
Western New England (9-1) seeks its first playoff win since 2016 when Brockport (8-2) visits Saturday.
“It’s unbelievable to have a home playoff game. You should have seen the reaction when we found out,” WNEU senior quarterback Alec Coleman said. “I can just relate it back to my freshman year watching the selection show. It’s a really cool experience to go through it then and every year until now. I’m really thankful for all the guys to put us in this spot.”
- Full first-round scoreboard
- Updated playoff bracket
- Follow the first round on the Bracket Blitz
- First-round wrapups: Wheaton bracket | UMHB | Mount Union | Salisbury
- Playoff team capsules: UMHB bracket | Mount Union | Salisbury | Wheaton
- Our playoff picks, surprises, disappointments
- Golden Bears look to take next step
- North Central: In playoff mode since October
There’s no doubt Golden Bear Stadium will be rocking Saturday.
“It’s a blessing to have another home playoff game. I know the whole school will be out there,” WNEU senior running back Jamyre Soberanis said. “To play in front of our friends and family is amazing. I can’t wait for Saturday.
“It’s crazy to be one of the 32 teams left in the country. We have to take advantage of every opportunity that we have.”
The Golden Bears have had some opportunities in the past. This is their sixth playoff appearance, including fifth in a row.
“We can’t let the moment get too big,” Soberanis said. “We have to feed off our home crowd. We have to play that to our advantage.”
It worked in 2016, when they toppled Husson, the champion of the ECFC, at home by a 44-27 score, for the program’s only playoff triumph. Western New England fell to Delaware Valley in 2017 and to Frostburg State last fall.
“It’s been tough, definitely. It’s something we know we’re capable of doing. It’s something we’ve known in the past that we were capable of doing, but fell short,” Coleman said. “This year is truly special with the guys on the team and the culture we have. It’s nice having a home game with our friends and family in the stands, but, with this group we have here, we feel we have a much greater chance to advance than in the past.”
“It’s nice having a home game with our friends and family in the stands, but, with this group we have here, we feel we have a much greater chance to advance than in the past.”
- Western New England quarterback Alec Coleman
The past doesn’t matter to Western New England. The team is focused on only what lies ahead.
“Our motto here is to be one better. We talk about every week how we can always get one better,” Coleman continued. “Getting one better to this program would be winning this playoff game and going one week at a time; that’s how and why we’ve found so much success over the years. Come this Saturday, nothing will change for us. We’ll be ready to execute.”
The Golden Bears have executed on offense all season. They average 40.6 points per game.
“All 11 guys that are on the field at once are extremely explosive. Our five offensive linemen grind during games and during the weeks and all of our skilled players are very explosive. Everyone is hardworking,” Coleman said. “The best thing about this team is that we have a great bond. We play for each other and that’s why we’ve found success. That’s why we’ve put points on the board.”
Coleman has passed for 1,994 yards and 16 touchdowns. Juniors Steven Fedorchak and Adam Razza are his top two targets. Fedorchak has 53 catches for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Razza has 39 catches for 779 yards and five scores. Soberanis leads the squad with 929 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.
“We’re clicking on all cylinders right now. We’re playing for each other and having fun. It’s always a good time when you’re putting up points,” Soberanis said. “Everything is going real well. The coaches are preparing us every week and our O-line is doing an amazing job. It’s only right if we do our job, too, because, every snap, they are working hard for us.”
The Golden Bears know they face a challenge, though, against Brockport’s defense, which allows 13.2 points per game.
“Brockport is a great team and they have a great defense. We know we have to do the little things well,” Soberanis said. “I know the coaches will do a good job preparing us. We just have to do our jobs.”
According to coach Jason Lebeau, Western New England has not reached its peak just yet.
“We’re getting better every week and the most exciting thing is that we’re still getting better. We can still find ways to improve, which is a great place to be when it’s the postseason and you know you can still be better,” he said. “Brockport is a really good football team. They do everything well. They don’t have weaknesses. They can score and defend. We have to be the best version of ourselves we can. If our guys are at their best, we’ll be all right.”
He can sense a determination with the Golden Bears.
“After last season, we talked about how nice it is to be in the playoffs and how we might be a good team, but we’re not a great team until we win at that level,” he said. “These seniors were around in 2016 when they got past the first round. They know what it’s like and they want to be at that level again.”