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Rams' reality - title remains within grasp

October 27, 2000

Rams' reality - title remains within grasp



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - For the last few years, the Shepherd College football team has been grounded in reality while living in a dream world.

The Rams have entered recent seasons with entertaining thoughts of playing in the NCAA Division II national playoffs but realized they can't get there unless they took care of business in the West Virginia Conference. It was a process that needed strong defense and a balanced offense featuring the running game.

This year was no different, until losses to East Stroudsburg and Fairmont State, the dream is gone but reality remains.

Shepherd is all but out of the playoff picture, but has a very real chance to win a piece of its fourth straight WVC title. If the Rams win their next three games - starting with today's 1 p.m. game with Glenville at new Rams Stadium - they will be assured no worse than a co-championship with Fairmont.

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"Our main goal is always to win the league title. That has never changed," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "We're fortunate to be in it even though we have stubbed our toe."

Shepherd quit dragging its feet and made great strides in making that fourth title a reality in last week's win over West Virginia State by rediscovering some potency in the running attack and stability in an increasingly youthful defense.

"The thing that impressed me is that we lost two more defensive starters to injury and still played well," Cater said. "The kids stepped up and have done it two of the last three weeks."

Nine of the 11 players Shepherd is starting on defense are either freshmen and sophomores. And while they have held their own, it still puts a huge premium on the offense make long, time-consuming drives to shorten the game and keep the defense off the field.

The way to do it is by running the ball.

"If we can run the football, it opens up so many different things," Cater said. "We don't lose too many games when we get more than 200 yards on the ground. If you can get 200 yards as a group, it makes it tough because the other team has so many things to watch along with the passing game."

Dalevon Smith returned to the lineup after missing the Fairmont game with a sprained ankle. He made up for lost time with 140 yards and four touchdowns in 27 carries. He was just the fuse that ignited the rest of the Rams' offense.

"We have to establish ourselves and that means using the running game," Cater said. "We want to be balanced and we want to give opposing teams different looks. If we can get others to contribute, like Jerit Seidor or Travis Lynch, we are doing well. Lynch and Seidor are averaging seven yards a run to go with Dalevon and then we get a 100-yard receiving day (by Jason Dirting)... that's balance."

The Rams will need that balance the rest of the way to get that fourth WVC title. Glenville (3-5, 2-2) presents a challenge.

The Pioneers love to play the Rams and has traditionally been a thorn in Shepherd's side. Add to the mix linebacker Blake Tasker, who leads the league in tackling, averaging 12 a game.

Still, it's a matter of if the Rams can maintain their drive for the conference title.

"As a staff, we look at every game now as playing a championship ballgame," Cater said. "If we lose, we're out. I'm just glad that two of our last three games are at home."

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