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Rams on playoffs - Keep the change

November 19, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - In this stage called the NCAA Division II playoffs, the Shepherd University football team faces a paradox.

Their main objective today: Do a better job of doing the same old thing.

In some circles, that would be called "dancing with the girl that brought you," but for the Rams, it's more a case of doing everything they are comfortable with in order to knock off C.W. Post today at noon in the second round of postseason play.

"We have to come out and play at a higher level," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "Our conference is very competitive, but we have not played anyone that is at that higher level lately. Still, we have to go out there and do the things that we do and do them without making mistakes."

When the Rams host the first home playoff game in Shepherd history, the emphasis will be on sticking to the formula which made the Rams to top seed in the Northeast Region - run the ball effectively, pass it efficiently, play solid defense and make plays on the special teams.

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It sounds like the formula for every team, but it's the one that Cater and the Rams have relied on to go 11-0 this season and build an 18-game winning streak overall.

"Sometimes, when you get in these situations, the tendency is to make changes," Cater said. "But you need to stick to your game plan. We are concerned with their expressiveness, but we have to keep it all in perspective of what we do well and execute. What we have been doing is working, so stay with it."

C.W. Post presents a new set of problems for Shepherd, though. The Pioneers, who advanced to the second round on last week's last-minute victory over West Chester, are fueled by quarterback Rob Blount.

Blount is a versatile, unpredictable quarterback who has the ability to run or throw the ball. Cater mentioned the name "Michael Vick" when talking about the region finalist for the Harlon Hill Award, which is given to the Division II player of the year.

"He can run and throw the ball and is very dangerous, but he has a lot of weapons to use," Cater said. "They have good receivers and a running back who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards."

Blount has completed 194 of 303 passes for 2,640 yards and 25 touchdowns while rushing for 884 yards and nine scores. C.W. Post is averaging 45.1 points per game - fourth best in the nation - and will be up against a Shepherd defense which is third in the nation in scoring (10.4 points allowed per game) and first in passing efficiency, allowing just 78.8 yards per game.

Complementing Blount are running back Anthony Lazarus, who has rushed for 1,202 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Chris Bone is the top receiver with 51 catches and 10 TDs.

Shepherd can match C.W. Post's running attack with tailback Dervon Wallace, who rushed for 1,311 yards and scored 25 touchdowns while tying the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference scoring record with 150 points.

Shepherd's defense is allowing just 82.2 yards rushing per game. The Rams also have the nation's top pass interceptor in Dan Peters (12) and one of the top players in forcing fumbles in Dan Gallagher (13). Shepherd is fifth best in total defense, allowing just 245 yards per game.

Like most games, especially those in the playoffs, the game will come down to a battle of wills, ball possession and, yes, the best execution with the fewest mistakes.

"For us, the defense has played consistently all year," Cater said. "Still, our focus has to be not to leave them on the field for long periods of time. We always feel like we have to win the time of possession, throw for a high percentage and protect the quarterback, but we really need to be able to run the ball. We need to have success in that to keep the defense off the field, or otherwise this will become a five-hour game and we will end up finishing in the dark."

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