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Shepherd eyes finale

November 11, 2000|By BOB PARASILITI

Shepherd eyes finale



SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Over the past few seasons, the Shepherd College football team has been able to give their seniors rings to remember their final year of football.

That's going to change this season. The Rams' seven seniors won't be showered with championship jewelry. Instead, the memories of one final game will have to suffice.

For the last three years, Shepherd had finished with the West Virginia Conference firmly in its clutches with a nice championship ring on its finger. But this year, it didn't happen.

Now the Rams seniors will be forced to think fondly of today's 1 p.m. game with West Virginia Wesleyan at the new Ram Stadium as their sendoff, provided Shepherd can engineer a win.

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Shepherd lost its chance to shower their older players with riches last week in a 31-24 loss to West Liberty to be eliminated from title contention. With one game remaining, it forced coach Monte Cater to reassess some preseason goals.

"(After that game,) We told the kids we knew they feel bad," Cater said. "We told them that (the coaches) felt real bad. We can't go on feeling sorry for ourselves because we had a game left. How bad would they feel if they went and sent the seniors off with two losses in a row?"

In a season of near misses and shortcomings, the Rams have one final chance to send seven seniors - running backs Jerit Siedor and Dalevon Smith, offensive lineman Dan Woodard, receiver Shane Snyder, defensive back James Rooths, linebacker Chanse Twyman and defensive end Chris Field - off the field like winners.

"This game is important because even though we didn't enjoy the same success as the last few seasons, we want to go as winners," Cater said. "We had our chances. You have to make good on your breaks. We lost by two points, three points and in overtime. Those were all winnable games. The fact is, we are not as good of a team as we have been in the past, but we were in position to have just as good a season."

The seniors may have fell short of running the championship table in their four years, but it wasn't for trying.

Even Smith, who was a junior college transfer, made the best of a short time at Shepherd. The tailback enters today's game as the fifth-leading rusher in the nation with a 153.5 yard average. In his two years at Shepherd - and this his first as a starter - Smith has 1,898 career yards, good for ninth on the school's all-time list.

Siedor has been Smith's personal convoy for most of the season, but has shown some running ability. He has 1,781 career rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

Snyder has caught 32 passes for 380 yards and four touchdowns while Woodard was moved from tight end to guard to fill a hole on the Rams front line.

Defensively, Rooths proved he's as functional at defensive back as he was as a kick returner. Rooths holds the NCAA all-divisions record with eight punt returns for touchdown, but has none this year. Instead, he has eight interceptions, giving him 12 in his career.

Twyman has recorded 212 tackles, including 64 this season, for the Rams defense.

Field has been as dominant a player as Shepherd has had defensively with 77 tackles, including 17 for 103 yards in losses and another seven quarterback sacks.

But all the accomplishments end with the final whistle in a game against surprising Wesleyan. The Bobcats are only 2-7 overall and 2-4 in the WVC, but have pushed most every opponent.

Wesleyan is led by running back Duriel Cobb, who has rushed for 656 yards, and quarterback Chris Cormier, who has passed for 880 yards and five touchdowns. Defensively, lineman Kevin Tichnel has 101 tackles.

"They are more balanced offensively and their quarterback is doing well," Cater said. "Their defense doesn't give up a lot of points and they always seem to play us tough."

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