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Shepherd work zone still needed

August 19, 2000

Shepherd work zone still needed



By DAN SPEARS / Staff Writer


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - As $2.2 million in expansion projects enter the cosmetic stage on Ram Stadium, football coach Monte Cater is a little behind schedule in his own reconstruction of the building's prime inhabitant.

"We've just got some depth problems that we're not used to," Cater said Saturday at the team's annual Media Day. "Coach (Pete) Yurish and (defensive coordinator Bob) Haley aren't sleeping real well right now. And that means I'm not sleeping real well either."

Offensively, Cater's project for the 2000 season is sound. It's the defense - which has solid support beams but no true foundation - that will require some overtime work.

The Rams' defensive scheme hinges on its inside linebackers, and Cater doesn't have one back. James Riley graduated and Mike Pitts, despite having one season of eligibility left, decided to take a job in Washington while finishing his classwork.

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The loss of Pitts, a St. James graduate and captain last season, is a bittersweet one for Cater.

"He was the heart and soul of this team," Cater said. "But he's found something for the rest of his life and he loves this job. You have to understand that."

So the Rams turn to Chris Wheeler - a transfer from Alabama who played defensive line last season - and a host of unproven players to become the support for the team's defensive stars: lineman Chris Field, linebacker Chanse Twyman and safety Tyron Shelby.

"It's finding the right combinations ... and getting into our defensive trademark," Cater said. "If you saw us taking pictures: a lot of youth, not a lot of size, certainly no experience. And that's scary right now. Because this isn't the same. We're seeing seams and things we haven't seen before."

On offense, the rock of the past four years is gone. Damian Beane and his 6,446 career rushing yards and 60 touchdowns have graduated, but the Rams may have another record-breaker already in the backfield.

Quarterback Joel Gordon takes over the reins fulltime this season after starting the last seven games of 1999. Despite not playing in the first four games, the sophomore threw only four interceptions and 20 touchdowns - just two shy of the school record for a season.

"We're really excited about our quarterback," said Cater, who later added that he thought he was the best in the WVC. "And our kids are excited ... you don't see a sophomore elected captain very often. We're glad to see it."

The Rams are also glad to see Dalevon Smith, the senior who made a ton of plays late in games for the Rams in 1999. After just 12 carries in a Shepherd uniform, he had TD runs of of 78 and 92 yards, the latter a school record. Add in junior wide receiver Jason Dirting and all-conference tight end Dan Woodard, and the offense plans to pass plenty of inspections.

"We'll just wait and see," Gordon said. "But we should be able to put points on the board."

That leaves the finishing touch for the Rams in their quest for a fourth straight league title - their remodeled house. The 3,000-seat expansion will be ready for the home opener on Sept. 16 vs. St. Joseph's (Ind.).

The new seats are flanked by 12 flagpoles, which will each fly a championship banner from the team's dozen league titles. By the end of 2000, the Rams hope to add another.

"We can't wait for the first score here," Smith said. "We've already told the kicking guys, 'You're going to have to crush one,' because there's gonna be a penalty (for excessive celebration)."

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