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Huskies eliminate Shepherd

December 03, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - It wasn't enough that Shepherd's Dan Peters had three interceptions in the second half to give Bloomsburg second thoughts about throwing the football.

Freshman quarterback Dan Latorre rebounded like a veteran, leading the Huskies on an 87-yard drive that included two clutch passes to stun Shepherd 24-21 on Saturday in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals.

"We talked in pre-game about facing adversity and (Danny) was facing it after the third interception," said Bloomsburg coach Danny Hale. "We had all the confidence in the world in him to put the ball back in the air. He doesn't get rattled."

Shepherd (11-1) had its unbeaten string snapped while watching Bloomsburg (12-1) win its 12th straight game and gain a spot in the national semifinals against Northwest Missouri State on Dec. 10.

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"We had great opportunities but we didn't take care of them," said Shepherd coach Monte Cater.

"You're going to bet on your guys to rally and stop them, but (Bloomsburg) had a great drive at the end and used the clock," Cater said.

On each of Bloomsburg's previous three possessions in the second half, Peters picked off Latorre, the first coming inside the 10-yard line to end a major threat as the Huskies looked to increase their 16-14 lead.

Peters returned the interception 54 yards to the Bloomsburg 39. Nine plays later, Dervon Wallace scored on a 3-yard run, followed by Ricky Schmitt's point after for a 21-16 lead with 7:23 left in the third period.

However, Shepherd's offense failed to follow up each of Peters' next two interceptions with points.

A 48-yard punt by Schmitt gave Bloomsburg the ball at its own 13 with 7:48 remaining. From there, the Huskies marched with authority against the usually reliable Shepherd defense, which on Saturday was pushed around for 429 total yards.

Latorre completed a key 13-yard pass to Brahin Bilal on third-and-six, Jamar Brittingham ran for 10 yards on a draw and Latorre came back with a huge 44-yard completion to Bilal, who got behind Shepherd's Terrance Jenkins at the 4.

From there, Brittingham scored and added a two-point conversion run for a 24-21 lead.

The Rams had two chances to take the lead or at least kick a field goal for a tie. On each, Tyler Lazear had passes picked off, the second by Tyler Trettin at the Bloomsburg 45 with 43 seconds remaining.

Shepherd had trouble with Bloomsburg's offensive approach. The Huskies lined up with wide gaps on the line and it gave the Rams fits, as the Bloomsburg rushed for 208 yards, the first time all year anyone surpassed 100 yards against Shepherd. Brittingham alone rushed for 171 yards on 33 carries.

"Their huge splits created spaces for them and they would run the draw that got them out of holes because we would overrun it," said Cater. "We gave up yardage to a good football team. We had problems tackling 23 (Brittingham)."

Both teams opened with firepower in an explosive first quarter.

Shepherd took a 7-0 lead on a 5-yard pass from Lazear to Mark Springirth. Bloomsburg came right back on a 12-yard run by Josh Heck, but missed the PAT.

Bloomsburg took a 13-7 lead on a 37-yard strike from Latorre to Bilal. The Rams answered when Lazear and Wallace hooked up on a 53-yard catch-and-run, with Schmitt's kick making it 14-13.

The only score in the second period was a 33-yard field goal by Jon Koeninng that gave Bloomsburg a 16-14 lead at the break.

Peters' three interceptions extended his single-season Shepherd record to 14 - which ties the Division II single-season record - and gave him 32 for his career, tops in the Shepherd books and second all-time in Division II. Peters also led the Rams in tackles with 11.

Lazear, who replaced the injured Dan Chlebowski at quarterback last week, finished 14 of 29 for 156 yards. Wallace carried 18 times for 64 yards for Shepherd, which gained 272 total yards.

"It was the best year ever," said Cater. "This was the finest club I've coached."

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