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Unstoppable Vulcans stop Rams

December 02, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

CALIFORNIA, Pa. - For California University, it was all logical.

All the Vulcans had to do was "drive long and prosper."

California moved at will Saturday, scoring on 10 of its 13 possessions, but did a whole lot more as the Vulcans transported themselves to the NCAA Division II semifinals with a 58-38 victory over Shepherd University in the Northeast Region final at Hepner-Bailey Field.

California found all the holes against the Rams' defense, which had been considered pretty stingy by West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standards. The Vulcans used the pass and some slippery runs as their stars trekked easily downfield.

Shepherd's end came at the Northeast finals for the second straight season, completing a 10-2 season that included a fourth straight WVIAC championship. California (13-0) will face Valdosta State in the national semifinals this Saturday.

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"We lost to a good football team," Shepherd coach Monte Cater said. "Defensively, we couldn't stop them. It was a situation where we could never get a good stop or a turnover to break momentum, but I'm proud of our team's efforts because we played hard."

Shepherd opened the game with Dervon Wallace taking the opening kickoff back 83 yards for a touchdown for a 7-0 lead, which tied the largest deficit the Vulcans faced all season.

"You get a kickoff like that, that gets you off to a good jump, but you still need to play 60 minutes," Wallace said. "We had the lead after 13 seconds, but we still needed to play 59 minutes, 47 seconds to win."

California switched the tables with two consecutive scores - a 1-yard run by Daine Williams and a 14-yard pass from Joe Ruggiero to Joe Slappy - to get the advantage that allowed the Vulcans to keep the Rams at arm's length the rest of the way.

No. 6 California (13-0), the top seed in the region, rolled up 535 yards of offense behind Williams, who finished with 179 yards and two touchdowns. Windell Brown ran six times for 115 yards and three touchdowns and Ruggiero threw for 224 yards and two scores for the Vulcans.

The only two drives California didn't score on were the last ones of each half. The Vulcans were 8 of 13 on third-down conversions. The nonconversions ended in three Tyler Lorenz field goals, one punt and the end of the game.

"The kickoff was a great start, but we didn't tackle as well as we usually have," Cater said. "The offense sometimes causes that. They did a much better job on offense than we did on defense."

But the Vulcans' defense was the other half of the story.

California shut down Wallace, who entered the game as the top rusher in Division II with 2,087 yards and 23 touchdowns. He finished with 51 yards on 21 carries, 80 yards less that any other game this season, and a touchdown. The senior also caught five passes for 56 yards and another score. He did manage to move ahead of Damien Beane to became Shepherd's all-time single-season rusher.

"(Wallace) was our No. 1 focus," said California linebacker Gary Butler. "He's the No. 1 rusher in the nation and we had to stop him."

With Wallace neutralized, Shepherd was forced to turn to Tyler Lazear's passing to survive. Lazear chucked to keep the Rams in sight of the Vulcans, hitting on 23 of 36 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns.

"It was a high-scoring game and they did more against our defense than anyone else," said California coach John Luckhardt. "Wallace is obviously a tremendous player. We kept him from making the big play, except for that pass. We had a lot of people run to the ball. I have to tip my hat to their passing game because it did more against us than anyone else had."

Shepherd trailed 14-10 at the end of the first quarter after Bryan Beverage hit a 31-yard field goal at the 3:58 mark.

Cal's relentless pressure handcuffed the Rams and fueled the offense. Lorenz hit on kicks of 22 and 21 yards and Brown ran 39 yards for his first touchdown got give the Vulcans a 27-10 lead. Wallace scored from the 1 with 19 seconds left in the half to keep the Rams in contact at 27-17 at the intermission.

"It was a bit of a culture shock that they scored that many points," Luckhardt said. "We're not used to that. But every time they scored, our offense came out and kept us going."

Brown scored on an 11-yard run and Lorenz hit a 35-yard field goal to give Cal a 37-17 lead. The two teams traded scores for the rest of the game, with Shepherd getting no closer than 13 points.

Lazear's three touchdown passes accounted for the Rams' other scores - a 38-yard pass to Wallace down the sideline, a 4-yard strike to Ryan Lavin and a 7-yard pass to Nikko Norrell.

Cal led 51-31 at the end of the third quarter. The Vulcans' Jermaine Moye scored on a 40-yard pass while Brown added a 36-yard run and Williams went in from the 1 to close the books.

Shepherd finished with 274 yards of offense, with only 34 on the ground.

"We needed to do anything to stop their momentum," Cater said. "We never did it. We didn't tackle as well as we usually do, so it was going to be one of those days."

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