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Shepherd forced to make defensive moves

September 23, 2000

Shepherd forced to make defensive moves



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The Shepherd College football game is being forced to play some dangerous parlor games.

The Rams are in the middle of a round of full-contact dominos which, with one bad turn, could turn into a fatal round of roster Jenga that could decide the outcome of Shepherd's season.

Shepherd is in a position of moving players around its already thin defensive lineup. The loss of free safety Keith Jefferson puts coach Monte Cater in the position to find the right moves to help keep the Rams in position to win.

"When we make moves, it's a domino effect," Cater said as the Rams (2-0) prepare to play at East Stroudsburg today. "We make one move and it can change us in three positions. But that's what happens when you get someone hurt."

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The defensive "adjustments" can only keep Shepherd ranked anywhere between No. 9 to 13, as it is among four different Division II football polls or the one move can bring the whole tower crashing down around the Rams. Much depends on how the new players respond to the starting call.

Jefferson was an important piece to the Shepherd playoff puzzle but he was erased from the Rams lineup when he broke his wrist late in the first half in last Saturday's win over St. Joseph's (Ind.). He had surgery on Sunday to repair the break and will be out for the rest of the season.

"I've said all along that there are about five players that have to play for us to be a good football team," Cater said. "Jefferson was one of them and we just lost him. When you lose someone with the experience and the talent that Keith has, you lose a lot. He was one of the fastest players on the team and he's been there for three years. We lose a lot of speed and expertise in the defensive backfield. He was our defensive quarterback."

The Rams turned to Freddie DelVillar to finish out the St. Joseph's game but will also use freshmen Matt Meadows and Alex Mason in the position. Another possiblity is Tyron Shelby from his cornerback slot to free safety, which would create some playing time for linebacker Muhammad Howard.

No matter who fills in though, it will be a different style of secondary for the Rams.

"Losing Keith is a big loss," said defensive back James Rooths, who is an all-American kick returner for the Rams. "He was so smart at safety. He was the brain of the secondary. It will make things somewhat tougher for us. I was getting matched up more in man-to-man situations and Keith was back there to run things down. It's going to change."

The first test will be against East Stroudsburg, which is 3-0 and still licking the wounds from last year's 33-27 double-overtime loss to Shepherd. This year, the Warriors are off to one of their best starts, winning three close games.

"They use three wide outs to spread out the field but still run out of a the 'I' formation," Cater said. "They give you a combination of power and finesse to cover. They have a huge front line, so it will make it tough to pass rush and gives them more power in the running game. They have a big strong defense with linebacker Kevin Nagel, who is one of the fiercest, attack-style players we've seen."

East Stroudsburg is led by running back Andre Castiglioni, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in the Warriors' three wins. John Kotarsky is East Stroudsburg's top receiver with 12 catches for 169 yards. Nagel tops the defense with 43 tackles.

Shepherd will counter offensively with tailback Dalevon Smith, who is the nation's leading Division II rusher with 425 yards in two games (212.5 average).

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