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Homecoming stays same for Shepherd

October 13, 2000

Homecoming stays same for Shepherd



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - For Shepherd College, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

For that matter, the more they stay the same, the more they change, too.

The Rams will be hosting arch- rival Fairmont State in their annual Homecoming event at the new Ram Stadium. Shepherd and the Falcons are once again the preseason favorites to win the West Virginia Conference title.

Once again, the game will have a huge bearing on who will win the league title this year. And once again, both teams are in the middle of that chase.

And while the two teams tee it up for the 58th time in the long-running series, many others will be watching the scoreboard just to see the outcome of this game. That's because, for once, the outcome of the game could have a bearing on whether someone else will win the title.

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"This is a big rivalry game," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "That's because they are such a good program. It's one of those games that you had better play well and that's not going to change. There is going to be a lot of things on the line."

As usual, Shepherd is leading the WVC - presently in a tie with West Liberty at 2-0 - while Fairmont is hovering one game back. If the Rams win, the Falcons could all but be eliminated from the chase.

A Rams loss put the league in chaos, especially since the league has a new competitive edge.

"Two weeks ago, the biggest margin of victory in the league was seven points," Cater said. "There's much more balance in the conference ... I think West Liberty is for real. There is a lot of different way this can go, I just hope we are part of it all in the end."

After a couple of off weeks, the Rams made a statement that they won't relinquish their three-time defending champion status easily. Shepherd shut down much improved West Virginia University-Tech, mustering enough defense to turn back 66 pass attempts while the special teams blocked four kicks. Meanwhile, Shepherd running back Dalevon Smith was held to 58 yards rushing, well below his 147-yard average.

"Overall, it was the best game we have played since the opener," Cater said. "We got pressure. We got turnovers and we blocked kicks. We moved the ball, but we didn't run the ball well. We have to be more consistent up front."

Fairmont will test Shepherd with another air game, a little out of the Falcons' character from past years. Quarterback Bryan Harman, who was named WVC offensive player of the week, has the ability to run as well as pass, making him dangerous for the rebuilt Shepherd defense.

"Harman was the best quarterback in the league last year," Cater said. "He scrambles too. He can run and throw ... he has had a couple of rushing touchdowns this year."

Shepherd met a similar challenge at Tech with Eric Smith, but controlled the game with the defensive line, something the Rams will need to do again against Fairmont.

"We were able to get pressure up front with the front four," Cater said. "We didn't have to blitz that much. I'm not sure if Chris Field has ever had a better game for us than the one he had last week. It will be key again this week because they throw the ball more than they run it."

The early showdown with Fairmont is only a prelude to the rest of the season, which doesn't have another easy game the rest of the way - thanks to a better balanced league.

"The kids will be ready," Cater said. "It will be Homecoming, it's going to be a nice day and they know what is at stake. I was happy with the way we played last week. But we have to be able to run the ball better and be more consistent. We have to go out and not compare scores every week. It comes down to what you do against that team on that day because we only get one shot at each other."

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