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Wallace has high hopes for himself, Shepherd

August 23, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Environmental police and that Inspector No. 5 who leaves his number in the pockets of new clothes think they have tough standards.

They haven't met Shepherd University's Dervon Wallace.

The Rams' star running back has less wiggle room than undersized shoes when it comes to the aspirations he has set for his senior season in Shepherd's backfield.

It comes down to all or nothing.

"I'm setting the goals high ... no less than a championship," Wallace said. "I want to finish first. First, we have a couple of minor goals, like repeating as conference champions, but anything less than a national championship is a failure."

Obviously, Wallace isn't one to play the percentages. After all, the Rams had two of the best teams in school history the last two seasons and failed to make it past the second round of the NCAA Division II national tournament.

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Also, Shepherd enters this season missing some of its mainstays from those teams through graduation.

The defense alone will be replacing lineman Nick Costello, linebacker Todd Edmondson and safety Dan Peters, the two-time national leader for interceptions.

They are part of the core group that led Shepherd to its present 27-game regular season winning streak, including 23 straight league games en route to three consecutive West Virginia Conference championships and two playoff berths.

Meanwhile, Wallace himself will be facing some changes. He will be working with a new quarterback - Tyler Lazear takes over for Dan Chlebowski - and becoming a solo act. Bryan Wright, Wallace's running-back sidekick, has graduated, leaving Wallace without proven help in the backfield.

"It's definitely different," Wallace said. "I miss Bryan already. I went out and changed my training and got bulkier and stronger because Bryan won't be there this year to help get the tougher yardage. This is my last year ... my senior year. I expect to be 'The Big One' this year."

For now, Wallace will certainly be the focal point of the Shepherd offense, especially for opposing defenses.

In his two seasons since transferring from West Virginia State, the 5-foot-6, 177-pound Wallace had become one of the most feared players in the WVIAC. He has rushed for 2,689 yards and 43 touchdowns in 24 games in a Rams uniform.

It might be tougher this year though for Wallace, though.

"I think a lot of people will be keying on me," Wallace admits. "But if they decide to key on me, it's going to open up everything else."

There are times when Wallace could be floating around the Rams' offense line as a decoy this season. That will allow players like Lazear to operate under the radar, using his mobility to create plays and find receivers. And if the new QB can do that, it will reopen business for Wallace.

"A lot of teams put eight or nine players in the box (five yards from the line of scrimmage and within the confines of the defensive line)," Wallace said. "They will be looking a lot for me, but that's OK. I'm going to be a big decoy."

Even with the changes, the Rams have been chosen to win a fourth straight conference title by the league's coaches. And there are the two winning streaks to keep alive and a third straight playoff invitation to win.

All those are just checkpoints for Wallace's goal standard.

"For me personally, everything makes or breaks the season on what I do," Wallace said. "But my goal for the team is the national championship. That's why we sweat in the summer. I want to go out doing what no team from here has ever done before. You always want to accomplish what hasn't been done before."

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