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Shepherd plays 'D' by numbers

August 27, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - When it comes down to it, the New York Yankees and the Shepherd University football team both have one traditional belief.

The biggest hitters wear the smallest numbers.

In New York, seven of the first nine numbers were retired for prosperity after the likes of Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5) and Mickey Mantle (7) finished wearing pinstripes.

But in Shepherdstown, there is a different mentality. Old numbers don't hang on a wall, they live to hit another day.

That's why the Rams' defense went digital on Millersville on Saturday, as four players whose numbers can be shown on two hands helped Shepherd manhandle the Marauders 36-7 in the opening game of the season.

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Four of Shepherd's top five defenders on Saturday could be called out in a verse of Ten Little Indians. In some places, that would be considered child's play. In New York, that tradition and pride is stuck on an outfield wall. At Shepherd, it's worn on someone else's back.

"When we wear these numbers, it reminds us that we have to play like the guys who wore them before us," said Shepherd linebacker Joey Hooks, who dons No. 4. "It's a signal that I need to be a leader."

Hooks wears his number proudly, like defensive back Ron Frazier before him, and looks to raise the same havoc and supply similar results.

Hooks, along with T.J. Hooks (6), Layton Hersh (2) and Ayo Ijelu (5), did their best to honor the Rams of the past with their performances against Millersville. In fact, Shepherd's defense nearly held the Marauders to single digits offensively in the first half.

Millersville found itself anchored in the middle of the field, accumulating 10 yards in 17 plays in the first half, including 0-for-3 passing.

"They just like the numbers," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "All those guys make a lot of hits because they are the ones closest to the line of scrimmage, but they have a lot of speed and swarm to the football."

Speed, like the little numbers, has been a trademark of Shepherd's defense in recent years. The Rams have been able to get up field and make things happen.

Last year, it came in the form of linebacker Todd Edmondson (6) and free safety Dan Peters (3), who led the nation in interceptions in two consecutive seasons. Shepherd's defense allowed 7.3 points per game last season, including six shutouts.

Hooks and the gang are trying to keep the singular (number) network alive.

"If you are going to wear No. 1, you had better be No. 1," Hooks said.

Shepherd's No. 1, Dervon Wallace, earned his stripe down the middle of his back with his 215 yard, two-touchdown performance ... but that's on offense.

The defense smothered Millersville with well-coordinated, unselfish team play. The Rams were able to read the Marauders and beat them to their spots to disrupt plays.

The quartet combined for nine tackles and 12 assists while holding Millersville to 88 yards on 46 plays. The Marauders' only score came late in the game on a punt return.

"Coach told us to step up and make plays," Hooks said. "This is my senior year so I want to carry the tradition on and give my best effort. I want to play so that the next guy who wears No. 4 has to play like me."

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