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Shepherd to play Concord

September 30, 2000

Shepherd to play Concord



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Monte Cater lives in a world of doubt.

Like every other guy who chooses a career as a football coach, Cater is a picture of confidence publicly and a worrywart behind the closed doors of his office and in the film room.

He never feels totally prepared until he hits the field for the game.

The Shepherd College coach spent another queasy, uneasy week preparing for the known quantities of the unknown. The Rams open their defense of the West Virginia Conference title against Concord today at 1 p.m. at the new Rams Stadium. There is a lot of doubt swirling, at least until the opening kickoff.

Shepherd has won the league title the last three years and enters the game as the No. 21 team in Division II football. But the Rams are coming off a 37-30 overtime loss to East Stroudsburg, which leaves those nagging coach questions.

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"I wish we could have played again on Monday," Cater said. "I don't think there is a guy on the team that thinks he didn't play his best ball at East Stroudsburg."

There lies some of the problem and doubt for Cater. Shepherd didn't play well - and there is a game film to prove it. Add to Cater's concerns a greatly improved conference and Tums stock is on the rise.

"Anytime you play against good football teams - and two of the three teams were good - it can only help you prepare," Cater said. "Our first goal coming in every year is to win the conference title, but the two most improved teams in the league are our next two opponents."

Cater said Concord, which has struggled in recent years, is experienced and has the size and style of play which rivals East Stroudsburg. Plus the Mountain Lions have something else in their corner.

They have the game film of Shepherd's loss to study. The Rams have traditionally used those films as cinematic calling cards to prove their success. Last week's film is less flattering than "Ishtar."

The Rams open the WVC schedule after posting a 2-1 record in their three independent games.

"East Stroudsburg was so big, they wore us down," Cater said. "We have to get ready. We don't have our mystique of playing that great run defense like we have had in the past. Our next three opponents, starting with Concord, will be seeing the film of Stroudsburg running the ball right at us. They have to be saying, 'If they can do it, why can't we.'"

Shepherd continued to shuffle its thin bench to cover holes on defense. A season-ending injury to free safety Keith Jefferson has forced some younger players to prove themselves under gametime fire, which always makes a coach uncomfortable.

The film will continue to haunt Shepherd until it can prove that the loss was a fluke, though.

"I think the league is improved," Cater said. "(The rest of the league's) opinion will be that we are not as good. But giving East Stroudsburg as much credit as possible, we didn't play our best. Still, things are a lot more even in the league. I really don't know what will be considered an upset this season."

Concord will be gunning to start the upset debate behind quarterback Tyler Hull, who was named WVC offensive player of the week. Hull hit on 19 of 23 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns in the Mountain Lions' 28-20 win over Virginia-Wise.

Behind Hull is highly touted freshman fullback Ben Thornton.

Concord's defense is what concerns Cater the most. "Their defense is really improved," he said. "It is senior dominated. You look at the front four and they are all seniors and they are being backed up by three seniors. Then they have two senior linebackers. And they are all big, fast and quick."

Cracking the defense will be the challenge for tailback Dalevon Smith, who leads Division II runners with a 191-yard per game average, and sophomore quarterback Joel Gordon, who is already ninth in the school record book for pass completions.

Still, Shepherd has to disprove the East Stroudsburg game films.

"We're going to find out a lot about our team this week," Cater said. "I'm glad we are at home for this one. They will be going on the fact that they think they can run against us. Our first challenge is to stop the run. Our kids have to respond."

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