Rams turn up heat

September 02, 2000

Rams turn up heat

Shepherd busts out in second half vs. Shippensburg

By DAN SPEARS / Staff Writer

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - Saturday marked the beginning of the college football season for many teams, bringing on the usual assortment of follies, cramps and mistakes that plague teams early in the campaign.

At Seth Grove Stadium, though, the Shepherd Rams looked in mid-season form.

Their offense continued a three-year tradition of grounding people down and a defense full of questions had more than enough answers on a sweltering day to defeat perennial nemesis Shippensburg, 28-13.

"(The Raiders) just don't quit. I think it's something in the water up here," said Shepherd running back Dalevon Smith, who finished with 224 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. "But we had a little bit more in the tank today. We were real well-conditioned and it showed in the fourth quarter."


Before the season, Smith had made big predictions about the Shepherd offense, and he and quarterback Joel Gordon delivered on every promise.

"I'm pleased that we could be balanced like that," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "That's the way it's designed and all, but you don't always get that."

The first half belonged to Gordon, who torched the Red Raiders defense for 183 of his 213 yards and two touchdowns. The first came on the Rams' first possession, when he found Martinsburg High product Jason Dirting on a slant pattern, and the junior made a beautiful plant move to leave three defenders in the dirt for the score.

Shippensburg tied it at 7-7 with four minutes left in the first half, but James Rooths' 46-yard kickoff return set up a two-play TD drive - a 24-yard pass to Rob Cunningham and a 25-yard touchdown to Shane Snyder on a beautiful fade route - that made it 14-7 at the half.

From there, the Rams defense was as solid as the offense. It allowed a touchdown after a turnover deep in its end, but stopped a botched PAT for a 14-13 game, and allowed only five first downs the rest of the game.

"Our defense didn't give up big plays, and that was the key," Cater said. "They got some stops and we made a huge turnaround on their two scores."

Shepherd made a stop with the Raiders in its territory and forced a punt, but good coverage left the Rams starting at their own 6. After no gain on first down, Smith took a handoff, bounced out to the right and tightroped the sideline for a 94-yard touchdown for a 21-13 lead.

The score broke Smith's own school record for longest touchdown, a mark of 92 yards he set last season against Fairmont State.

"It was beautiful. Basically, I wanted to get to the outside and get (the defense) to overcommit and I could break them down. I wasn't getting tackled by just one guy, so I did what I wanted to do.

"I like the big gains."

The Rams' defense likes big gains as well, especially when one against them gets called back. The Raiders had a chance to tie the game on an apparent 80-yard touchdown from Chris Gicking to Josh Jarzyk, but a penalty for illegal man downfield wiped it out, and Gicking was sacked to snuff out the drive two plays later.

Smith capped the scoring two plays later, going for 32 yards through a huge hole up the middle.

Then the conditioned Rams closed the game out. They stopped Shippensburg on four straight plays inside their own 10 - the last on a crushing hit of Gicking by Chris Wheeler - and proceeded to run out the last 5:36 of the game.

"We work hard on on our conditioning, and I think that really made a difference today," Cater said. "But I bet those guys lost a lot of water out there."

The best part about the win, however, was where it took place. For the past two years, Shippensburg had been the only black spot in otherwise flawless regular-season campaigns.

Cater had been winless at Seth Grove Stadium in his career, and the Rams hadn't won here since 1986. After Saturday's performance, they might not mind coming back.

"This is my first time here," Smith said on his way into the locker room. "I think I kinda like this place."

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