Shepherd's freshmen gear for opener

September 01, 2000

Shepherd's freshmen gear for opener

By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Monte Cater knows freshmen are very nice people.

After all, all of his best players started out as freshmen once. It doesn't mean he doesn't get a little antsy around them though.

"Like I have always said, you can play freshmen just as long as you don't use then in two positions - defensive back and offensive line," Shepherd College's football coach said. "We are going to be starting a freshman in the defensive backfield and on the offensive line this year. I'll just have to use a lot of Maloxx and stay away from sharp objects."

An extra water cooler will be filled with antacids and the ends of the trainers' scissors will have rounded ends today at 1 p.m. when Shepherd travels to Shippensburg to meet the Red Raiders in the season opener for both teams. Defensive back Alex Mason and center Bryan Lutton won't be the only new faces and factors for the Rams.


The circumstances will be the same - Shepherd is picked to defend the West Virginia Conference title for a third time, it will start the season as the 20th-ranked Division II team in the country and it will once again open the season with Shippensburg.

On the field, the Rams will debut a restructured coaching staff that was forced to find replacements for 16 prominent players. It will Shepherd's first game of the A.D. era - After Damian (Beane), the Rams' all-time leading rusher.

"We have a lot of new faces that will be starting (today)," Cater said. "We got a lot of good players coming back. We don't have Damian anymore. I'm probably never going to get the opportunity a player like him again, but we have three talented people back there. So I'm not worried because we've never had that kind of talent back there."

Dalevon Smith, Jerit Sedor and Travis Lynch will combined to give the Rams three different running looks out of the backfield. Add to the package a more experienced quarterback in Joel Gordon and a strong group of receivers, led by Martinsburg's Jason Dirting, and the offense becomes the least of Cater's worries.

The defense does deepen the brow a little though, especially since the Rams will be missing the key components of defensive back Dwayne Lewis and inside linebacker Mike Pitts.

"The problem isn't the starters," Cater said. "But you put guys who were backups in, it makes us thin (in depth). We have a dropoff when the people behind them play. We have guys learning two positions and we are flipping some coins."

Cater will look to Chris Wheeler to take the Pitts' linebacking spot and have seniors Keith Jefferson and James Rooths anchoring the backfield. The Rams might well need them against Shippensburg.

The Red Raiders are led by senior quarterback Chris Gicking, who was named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division's offensive player of the year after hitting 164 of 294 for 2,832 yards and 25 touchdowns.

He leads an offense that returns seven starters and plays opposite of a defense which returns nine from a 8-3 team, but Gicking will be missing his backfield and his top receiving target.

Shepherd owns a 10-25 record against Shippensburg, including a 24-21 loss to open last season - the Rams last regular-season loss.

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