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Rams have no Separation anxiety

September 18, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The world of college football came to a standstill Saturday.

The landscape of the national poll in NCAA Division I was altered as seven games pitted Top 25 teams against each other. Separation Saturday, as it was touted, will probably change the national championship picture.

You would have never known it was the case at Shepherd University though. The school had bigger things on its mind.

The Rams and their faithful were fixated on their own version of King of the Hill. No. 14 Shepherd was facing 17th-ranked C.W. Post, looking for some separation and position in the Division II ranks.

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The Rams laid a 24-0 whitewashing on C.W. Post in what was quietly considered their benchmark game of the young season. The overall effect of the victory will appear when the newest Division II poll is unveiled this week, but the game meant positioning and a whole lot more to Shepherd.

"It's huge," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "You don't get a lot of chances to play a significant game like this in September with two ranked teams playing."

There were so many levels of "big" in this game for the Rams.

First was the poll. Shepherd is bound to move up in the voting while C.W. Post is likely to drop.

Second was exposure. By winning the high-profile game, pollsters might keep a closer watch on Shepherd in the coming weeks, which should only enhance playoff possibilities down the road. C.W. Post has been in the Division II playoffs in three of the last four years.

Third was revenge. The Pioneers knocked off the Rams 28-21 in the very same Ram Stadium last season in the second round of the Division II playoffs.

The players remembered.

"This was a huge win," Shepherd defensive end Michael Spiegelberg said. "This is the biggest win of the regular season."

"We've been working for this game all summer," Shepherd tailback Bryan Wright said. "They got us here last year. We wanted to give them a taste of what they gave us."

It was a convincing win by the Rams, who took a 17-0 lead in the first quarter.

Dervon Wallace ran for 196 yards and three touchdowns while the defense forced three turnovers, all leading to the TDs. Wallace was named the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's offensive player of the week for his effort.

It was a different game this time around, too. Gone was C.W. Post quarterback Rob Blount, who graduated after terrorizing the Rams' defense last season. In his place was younger and less mobile Nick Georgetti, whom Shepherd was able to contain.

"This game proves that we're not ready to crack the top 15 yet," said Pioneers coach Bryan Collins. "I thought we were overrated coming in here. It was good for us to come into a hostile environment. We'll be a better team for it down the road."

It made Cater happy, but cautious. The Rams, the two-time defending WVIAC champs, open their title defense this Saturday against Glenville, a prime contender to knock Shepherd off the top of the heap.

The Rams will enter the game with a 21-game regular-season winning streak, including 15 straight in the WVIAC. Shepherd's defense has allowed only seven points all season, pitching two straight shutouts. It hasn't allowed a score in 10 quarters - a span of 151 minutes, 45 seconds.

It also sets a possible trap for the Rams.

"It's early in the rankings," Cater said. "We went in and played a tough nonconference schedule and we didn't give up many points. We could feel the glow of this one for a long time. But now the kids believe after this start that the circumstances are there for good things to happen."

And thanks to a win in a highly anticipated game, the Rams got some piece of mind and some separation from the field on Saturday.

"This is my senior year, so I need to do it now," Wright said. "There is no stopping there. We have to come out and work harder for next week to continue to work for an undefeated season, the playoffs and a national championship."

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