When Shepherd completes its season against Fairmont on Nov. 10, there will be a brief on-field recognition of the 1972 team that won a West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.
That team from 40 years ago was an uncomplicated machine that was coached by Walter Barr and had its season in the sun because it could run the football and it could defend.
Saturdays at Ram Stadium were different in many ways from those at today’s 5,000-seat picture of fan and player comfort.
It was a sometimes lumpy grass field. There were no seats on the limestone-crusted west sidelines. The teams dressed in the steamy quarters at the bottom of Sara Cree Hall. People crowded into the 10 rows of seats provided them just behind the Shepherd bench.
And Walter Barr relied heavily on his physical ground attack and his stop-the-run defense. Shepherd didn’t throw much at all. If the Rams had been playing in today’s Big 12 Conference, they would have seemed as out of place as a national championship game without Alabama.
Barr and his no-nonsense Rams had practiced three times a day during the heat of August. The team was told it was in better condition than its early-season opponents. And it was.
Scouting reports were unnecessary when playing Shepherd.
Bob Pope or Perry Hubbard were going to run right at your defense. Quarterback and tri-captain Mike Calhoun (later an area high school coach like his father who had also played at Shepherd) would throw his short passes only so often.
Shepherd would run behind the experienced blockers it had ahead of Hubbard and Pope. Tri-captain Larry Slade (an assistant coach under Barr and also at the University of Tennessee) was an all-conference lineman. Paul Brown (an educator in Winchester) lined up with Slade as did the reliable Ted Gillette. Another lineman to later coach at Division I schools was Mark McHale.
Ken Boone would graduate and then donate so generously to the school’s athletic fund that the current fieldhouse in the south end zone is named after him.
Another tri-captain was Steve Clarke and lineman Tommy Neal is in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Paul Wilmoth would eventually coach football at schools scattered around the area.
Coach Barr had confidence in placekicker Rick Sands, who would finish his career with 117 points. Punter Larry Hersh led the conference that season.
Shepherd had a five-game conference schedule. And it won them all — defeating Salem-Teikyo, 31-17; romping to a 56-8 win over West Virginia Wesleyan; trouncing West Virginia Tech, 38-0; downing West Liberty, 31-20; and notching an important 21-16 win over Coach Tony Colobro and the Concord Mountain Lions.
In non-conference games, the Rams were edged, 3-0, by Hampden-Sydney; lost a 16-0 verdict to Randolph-Macon College; and were shut out by national power Elon, 21-0.
Barr’s defense helped provide a 21-0 win over Towson State and a 14-7 win over Bridgewater.
That defense had Tim Stoner intercept five passes and linebacker Les Cummings play well enough to earn all-conference laurels.
Jim Armel was a multi-year letterman and he gained favor with the all-conference voters as well. Clayton Anders had four letters and has coached football at Boonsboro High for more than two decades. Ike Karvellas was a contributor as the Rams traveled through the season that ended with a 7-3 overall record.
Lindell Smith, Marty Ogle, Chris Carter, Duane Calloway, Rod Breeding, Ivan Withers, and Mike Inscore all had their individual moments that were combined to help keep the Rams from ever losing a WVIAC game.
Some of that team’s underclassmen like Glenn Cross, Rick Kingsbury, and Kevin Reilly would get more playing time in other seasons.
In 10 games, Pope would have 326 carries for 1,128 yards. He scored 66 points. So infrequently did Shepherd throw that Deaner led the team in pass receptions with 22. Calhoun tried only 95 passes, completing 46 for 534 yards.
Pope still has the school record for carries in a game with the 48 times he was sent at Colobro’s Concord team in that 21-16 win. He had four 100-yard rushing games. The year before, he had three 100-yard games.
Hubbard, the outside source of rushing yardage as compared to Pope’s inside thrusts, once rushed 21 times for 150 yards that season. He had three 100-yard games in 1970 and five 100-yard games in 1973.
Barr strived to be mistake-free. Too many passes brought too many interceptions. He stressed staying clear of game-losing turnovers. Let the opponent beat himself.
Many of the lettermen, that included Marshall Wilson, Ed Chudy, Denny Drake, Sam King, Kevin Baker, Ron Bowers, Denny Householder, Ed Farris, Pat Dunfree, Eddie Campbell, Randy West, Lloyd Webb, Russ Ward, Joe Sovitsky, Jerry Smith, Craig Reichenbach, Mickey Miller, Bill Parsons, and Roger Pulpus will be at much-different Ram Stadium on Nov. 10 when Shepherd celebrates three of its previous WVIAC championship teams.
They’ll see the artificial turf, the long tier of bleachers situated under the bricked press box, and a scoreboard that can be read even when the sun is shining on it.
Hopefully, they’ll see another Shepherd team with a WVIAC championship.