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Peters has start to forget, game to remember

October 31, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Dan Peters found out there is such things as happy endings.

The Shepherd University defensive back fielded the opening kickoff of the game, got hit and fumbled away the ball to West Liberty.

Peters grabbed his helmet in remorse. That was the first thing he had a firm hold on in Saturday's Homecoming game at Ram Stadium.

It wasn't the last, though.

The junior free safety intercepted four passes to set a single-season school record and become the focal point of a defensive effort that lifted Shepherd to a convincing 34-7 victory over West Liberty. The victory clinched no worse than a tie for a second straight West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title for the Rams.

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"I just got hit and I didn't see him coming," Peters said of the opening kick he received at the 35 and fumbled away at the 40. "I had the ball in the wrong hand. My teammates came over to me and told me it was all right. They picked me up."

After the next 59 minutes, 45 seconds, they should have carried Peters off the field.

Peters picked off four of the five passes the Rams pilfered off West Liberty's new quarterback, Michael Darrah, including two which led to Shepherd scores.

By the end of the day, Peters not only surpassed the 23-year-old Shepherd mark of 11 interceptions held by Everett Yore, he became the leading interceptor in the nation.

"I have to give all the credit to the guys up front," Peters said. "They were putting on the pressure and got deflections. The front eight stopped the run and forced them to pass. The most important thing was that we won. If I would have done this in a loss, it wouldn't have meant as much."

It was only one of the battles the Rams (10-0, 7-0) won en route to claiming total domination of the war.

- Shepherd held West Liberty to 24 yards rushing on 32 carries and only allowed 13 completions in 34 pass attempts.

- Linebacker Jeremy Bailey picked off a pass in the end zone with 6 seconds left in the first half to preserve a 17-7 halftime lead.

- Tailback Dervon Wallace won the highly anticipated running-back battle against West Liberty's Derrick Stickles. Stickles, hampered by a hip pointer, entered the game as the WVC's leading rusher with 1,362 yards. Wallace had 1,044 yards, but topped the conference in scoring with 21 touchdowns.

Wallace won the yardage battle, 159-61, and had a 1-0 touchdown edge to keep his name in the running for WVC player of the year honors.

"I knew coming in there would be a lot of comparisons between me and Stickles," Wallace said. "I stayed to the game plan and just played ball. The offensive line was great, as usual. We opened up the passing game for three touchdowns. ... I'll take that."

- Shepherd displayed a big-play offense against West Liberty's high-risk defense by scoring all four touchdowns on plays of at least 22 yards, two coming on long-yardage situations.

Quarterback Dan Chlebowski hit scoring passes of 24 and 22 yards to Mark Springirth and a 30-yard strike to Chris Tremel to go with a 30-yard scoring burst by Wallace.

"We made some mistakes offensively. West Liberty commits a lot of people to the line of scrimmage and it's tough to get everything covered," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "Things worked for us, but sometimes there are more people than you can block. (Chlebowski) is beat up a bit, but he is still standing and smiling."

Most of the successes pointed back to Shepherd's defense.

"Our defense played well ... not because Peters had like 14 interceptions," Cater said. "The defense has played well all year. They not only stop the other teams from moving the ball downfield, they haven't let them get into the end zone. We haven't given up a lot of points."

Shepherd stopped West Liberty after Peters' opening fumble and turned around for a 14-play, 86-yard drive, including 65 yards by Wallace, to take a 3-0 lead on a 22-yard field goal by Ricky Schmitt with 8:11 left in the first quarter.

The Rams took a 10-0 lead with 9:40 remaining before the half when Chlebowski found Springirth for 22 yards in the right side of the end zone.

After Darrah found Renard Stevens on a 13-yard fade pattern to cut the deficit to seven, Chlebowski hit Tremel on a crossing pattern that ended in a 25-yard touchdown and the 17-7 halftime lead.

Shepherd's first two scores of the second half came off Peters' interceptions. Chlebowski, who finished with 171 yards passing and three touchdowns, hit Springirth on a 22-yard angle pass the carried just inside the front end zone pylon for a 24-7 lead. Wallace scored on his 30-yard burst up the middle at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Schmitt added a 40-yard field goal with 3:29 remaining to finish off the scoring.

"We knew with the 6-2 defense they run, we would need big plays to win," Wallace said. "That's our ballclub. West Liberty brought it like every other team. Everyone is trying to knock us off. We just prevailed today."

Which will make Peters' game even more meaningful.

"You don't get chances (to intercept four passes) like this often," Cater said. "It was the pressure and he was able to stand there and make plays. And it happened in a game when it was Homecoming and we had a chance to clinch a tie for the league title. It's a game he'll remember."

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