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Shepherd has one more week to enjoy win

September 08, 2000

Shepherd has one more week to enjoy win



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherd College's offense and defense made their usual statements last Saturday.

But while the facets of the game stated their case in a 28-13 win over Shippensburg, it was the special teams that were doing the dictating.

Shepherd's kicking teams - showcased by All-American kick returner James Rooths and punter Kevin Burkey - not only allowed the Rams to win the game, it they allowed Shepherd to win the game within the game, that of field position.

The Rams will be enjoying an off-week before returning to action next Saturday against St. Joseph (Ind.) in the grand opening of the newly renovated Ram Stadium. Until then, Shepherd can savor their first outright win at Shippensburg since 1963, mostly because the special teams proved why they have their name.

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"It just proved how important special teams are," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "They have been important for us for a long time. Our punt returners have given us some attention and last year our kicker (Burkey, who doubles up with placekicking chores) led the conference in kick scoring. We spend a lot of time on it and we do it everyday."

Preparation worked, especially last Saturday.

Rooths, who holds the NCAA all-division record with eight punt returns for touchdown, nearly broke two against the Red Raiders - both times being stopped on a last-ditch tackles by Shippensburg's kicker. The senior returned four punts for 68 yards, putting Shepherd's offense in prime working position.

"We feel that special teams have as impact on a game as our offense and our defense," Cater said. "James has a knack for running and setting up blocks. Our concern is to keep people out of he face to catch the football. If he has the chance to settle in under the ball, he will give us a nice return."

The returns allowed Shepherd to use play calls that led to Dalevon Smith rushing for 224 yards and two touchdowns in his first start after the graduation of Damian Beane. Quarterback Joel Gordon threw for another 213 yards and two touchdowns.

Shepherd's defense got its boost from Burkey's punting. Burkey used the sidelines to his and the Rams' advantage, pinning the Red Raiders deep in their own territory.

"When Kevin kicks like he did Saturday, getting the ball out of bounds with no return, it's a huge weapon," Cater said. "He could punt the ball into the end zone, but there is a big difference between starting a drive on the 6 or on the 20. Kevin kicked the ball out of bounds four times for us."

Shepherd's defense, a major concern of Cater's, overcame some shuffling of positions to limit Shippensburg to 13 points and 314 yards of offense, thanks to the field position advantage.

Now Shepherd turns to St. Joseph, a team that runs the Wishbone offense, which creates a whole new set of problems for the Rams since its the only such scheme they will face this season. In all the preparation, Cater will be looking for a way to keep the momentum off the first win alive.

"We did get a win against an outstanding team," Cater said. "It might have been we just got them at the right time. We still have a lot of bumps and bruises. I wish we were still playing this week, but we'll take the open date right now."

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