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Unbeaten Rams party like it's 1955

November 06, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherd University had all the makings of a New Year's Eve celebration, except for Dick Clark.

It was :05, :04, :03, :02, :01 ... :00 and the cork popped on a relieved celebration that foamed over like a well-shook, well-earned bottle of champagne which usually goes with events like this.

The Rams completed their first 11-0 season Saturday with a convincing 51-10 victory over West Virginia State. It was a game that cemented Shepherd a West Virginia Conference championship and a probable top seed and home game in the NCAA Division II regional playoffs, while tailback Dervon Wallace tied the long-standing WVC season scoring record.

Shepherd now awaits its playoff fate. The pairings will be announced today with the likely first home postseason game in Rams' football history to be scheduled for Nov. 19.

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"We've had a lot of opportunities with some great players and coaches here over the years," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "In my entire career, I have never had the chance to coach an undefeated team. But this is a special place. How neat is it that this is happening on the 50th anniversary of the last one?"

Cater is the WVC all-time winningest coach, but never enjoyed an unblemished season during his first 18 seasons at Shepherd, which includes 10 championships. The Rams went 8-0 in 1955, an accomplishment which was honored when members of that team returned to campus for last week's Homecoming.

Golden anniversaries deserve golden celebrations.

Before the clock ran out, Cater received the traditional water cooler shower from his players, leaving him drenched for the rest of the festivities.

When time ran out, Shepherd's defensive back Terrance Jenkins charged onto the field and dived head first on the 38-yard line in celebration. Later, he took a running leap into the arms of Shepherd's ram mascot.

Offensive lineman Clayton Beard came away from shaking hands with West Virginia State, running his right hand over his left index finger, signifying the championship ring Ram players will be wearing for winning the title.

Wallace was sought out for handshakes, hugs and his phone number by a number of State players, all of whom were teammates before the tailback transferred to Shepherd after sitting out last season.

"It's not bad at all (tying the record against his former team)," said Wallace, whose two scores gave him 24 touchdowns and 150 points for the season. "They are a great bunch of guys. We prepared them hard and had a nice game plan. But it was tough."

The final gesture of championship was a couple of Rams players hoisting Cater up on their shoulders and carrying him to their post-game gathering near the end zone.

"It was nice to get a bath," Cater said. "It means that things are going well."

About as well as Shepherd could have expected.

The Rams entered the 2005 season with high defensive hopes but some questions about the offense because of graduations and new faces. Shepherd added running back transfers Bryan Wright, who has been injured for much of the season, and Wallace.

Wallace's contributions of 150 of the Rams' 397 points, along with his 1,295 yards rushing, have been the linchpin of the Rams' season.

"To say he's a godsend, that's putting it mildly," Cater said. "What a year he's had. He's not been our key guy until the fifth game of the season when he had to take over the bulk of the carries. We didn't want to put him in there after he hurt his calf, but we wanted to get him the record."

Wallace scored on a 32-yard run in the second quarter as Shepherd built a 30-10 halftime lead. A State defender fell on the back of his left leg which looked like a possibly serious injury, like an Achilles' tendon or high ankle sprain. But Wallace walked it off and got back into action

Wallace capped Shepherd's first drive of the second half, using a 3-yard burst for the score to tie the season-scoring record set in 1992 by Concord's Chris Hairston.

"This was never a goal of mine," Wallace said. "I just wanted to win ball games. It is a great accomplishment, but like always I have to give all the credit to my offensive line. I have felt very fortunate to be here ever since the first day. This is an offense where they try to run first and pass second. I'm glad to be here."

Shepherd used many ways and many players to score its 51 points. Freshman receiver Chris Tremel, who was being used as a decoy to take some of the focus off Wallace, scored twice in the first half to help the Rams get their working margin. C.J. Wallace added scoring runs of 6 and 9 yards and Dante McKoy recovered a fumble in the end zone to account for Shepherd's seven touchdowns.

The Rams had early problems with State's spread passing offense, but made the adjustments needed to limit the Yellow Jackets to just two first downs and 85 yards in the second half. Shepherd knocked State's starting quarterback, Kevin Ward, out of the game late in the first half.

Quarterback Dan Chlebowski hit 13 of 16 passes for 131 yards and Wallace finished with 108 yards rushing as the Rams rolled up 360 yards to State's 267.

It was good enough to celebrate.

"You never get a lot of time to celebrate during a season," Cater said. Usually on Saturday night, but then it's back to work on Sunday."

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