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Mercer's delay OK

November 30, 1998|By DAN SPEARS

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - And to think that Tom Mercer would have missed all the fun.

The Shepherd College senior linebacker was on line to graduate in May before defensive coordinator Jeff Castell asked him to delay his degree for one semester and come back for one final season.

Mercer agreed to stay in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and he's glad he did. Because even though the Rams' season ended Saturday with a 31-20 loss to Slippery Rock in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals, Mercer got his money's worth.

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"This is what I came back to play for," Mercer said. "The only other way I wished it could have ended is with a win."

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The fact that the Rams had a chance to end the year with a playoff win stunned a lot of people, including a lot of the Rockets, who were talking before the game about the plane ride they'd be taking next weekend to the semifinals.

"People didn't understand why we were here," quarterback Matt Davis said. "We came across as a fluke, and everyone thought they were going to roll."

Instead, the Rock almost got rolled before recovering for two interceptions in the final five minutes that saved the day - and their collective ego - after the Rams came within eight minutes of a victory.

"I think it was just them not really realizing that we could play," Davis said. "They might have been thinking that we'd come in there and they'd beat us.

"We gave them a game. A couple things go our way, and we win the game."

Things not going the Rams' way was the rare exception in 1998, and that left head coach Monte Cater wishing football games gave out second chances.

"Only one team isn't going to be disappointed before it's all over,'' Cater said. "But I feel bad because our kids played so well and we had our chance."

And even though the game inside the lines has no second chances, Mercer is very happy that the world outside it does.

"Hey we made it to the second round of the playoffs and lost to a tough team," he said. "This is something I'll remember for the rest of my life."

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