One more hill to climb for Shepherd

The facts are known.

Shepherd already has at least a piece of the last WVIAC football championship.

The Rams are 7-2 overall and show a 6-1 record in the league. They are ranked sixth in the latest Division II Super Region One listings. And the top six teams in the final ratings released on Sunday, Nov. 11 will comprise the Regional football field for the national playoffs.

The most indelible fact of all is that the Rams have to beat invading Fairmont on Saturday if they want to reach the NCAA Division II playoffs. A loss to the Fighting Falcons leaves Shepherd out of the national picture and likely closing the season with only a piece of the WVIAC title.

Fairmont trounced West Virginia State, 48-28, last week after assuming a 48-14 lead in the fourth quarter. That conference win lifted the Fighting Falcons to 4-5 overall and 4-3 in the league.

Fairmont had a 4-0 record at home, but an 0-5 record on the road this season. On the road, the losses have been piled up against Clarion, Glenville, Bowie State, Charleston, and Concord. On the artificial home turf at Duvall-Rosier Field, games have been won against Seton Hill, West Virginia State, West Virginia Wesleyan, and West Liberty.

Last week, Daniel Monroe scored four times against West Virginia State. Matt Wilmer had an 86-yard kickoff return for a score. Fairmont had 472 yards of total offense and the Yellow Jackets had 352 yards. Both teams managed 23 first downs. And both teams were penalized at least nine times.

Fairmont quarterback Bobby Vega completed 14-of-22 throws for 175 yards. He was intercepted once. Punter Chris Kish averaged just 35.2 yards on his four punts. Johnny Dearstine missed his only field goal try, a 30-yarder.

Garrett Davis led Fairmont with 17 tackles against the Yellow Jackets. He had an interception and two sacks. Jake Kelly had eight tackles.

Ryland Newman, who has been a multi-year starter in the defensive secondary, is now a senior. The Jefferson High grad was already named the WVIAC’s Special Teams Player of the Week this season.

Shepherd survived a long bout of penalties and mistakes last week when it trimmed Glenville, 34-23. The Pioneers led with 1:59 left in the game when the Rams needed only three plays — a 22-yard completed pass to freshman Billy Brown, a 43-yard completed pass to Larry Lowe, and a three-yard scoring run by freshman Allen Cross — to quickly return the lead to its side.

The last Shepherd points came on a Dom Tolson touchdown return of an intercepted pass.

The game will be part of Hall of Fame Weekend/ Senior Day at Shepherd. Of its 100 or so players, the Rams have only six seniors not eligible to return for at least another season. Those seniors are defensive starters Dom Tolson and A.J. Parrish and offensive starters Larry Lowe, John Frick, and Bobby Copper, plus much-used Robert Byrd.

Going into the Hall of Fame at a Friday evening dinner/ceremony are Vic Holmes, Joe Reel, Greg Stup, and former women’s basketball coach Jodie Runner.

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