Western Maryland has fielded many dominant football teams over the years, and residents of the Cumberland area admire greatness on the gridiron. Frostburg State University players have given fans something new to cheer about, having earned one of five at-large bids to the NCAA Division III playoffs.
The No. 16 Bobcats ran, passed, tackled and kicked their way to the national tournament for the first time since 1993 — only the second such appearance in the 57-year history of the program.
The fur will fly this weekend during a first-round game as the Bobcats try to sink their teeth and claws into the Wittenberg University Tigers in Springfield, Ohio, the first showdown between the schools. Kickoff is at noon on Saturday.
FSU ended its regular season at 9-1 and (8-1 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference) with a 14-7 double-overtime victory last Saturday over Salisbury in the 19th annual Regents Cup, earning the trophy for the second year in a row.
The Bobcats are riding a five-game winning streak following a midseason overtime loss to the Wesley College Wolverines, the only setback for Frostburg dating back to week two of last season. The Bobcats have won 18 of their last 19 games.
Back in 1993, FSU hosted Wilkes in the first-round and thwarted the Colonels by one point, winning 26-25. The Bobcats then hosted nationally ranked Washington & Jefferson in the quarterfinals and fell 28-7.
Wittenberg has built a perfect 10-0 record and is the North Coast Athletic Conference champion. The Tigers are ranked ninth in the country, according to the American Football Coaches Association, and are 12th nationally in the D3football.com Top 25 poll.
The FSU football program has risen to prominence after its share of struggles, including the tragic death of player Derek Sheely, who collapsed in 2011 after preseason practice. The change in fortunes has been hard-fought.
After compiling a lengthy resume of success both on the field and the sidelines, DeLane Fitzgerald was hired as head coach at FSU in 2014, after serving in that capacity at Southern Virginia University for five years. He played football at James Madison University from 1997 to 1999 and Potomac State College of West Virginia University in 1995 and 1996.
We join Frostburg alumni, staff and students in applauding the team’s accomplishments on the field and rooting for the players as they represent the Mountain City and the region as a whole. With a victory over Wittenberg, the squad would advance to the second round of the tournament and face the winner of Washington & Jefferson (10-0) and Johns Hopkins (9-1) on Nov. 25.