Rams ride defense to top of the heap

SHEPHERDSTOWN — One glaring mistake was all the Shepherd defense made when the Rams dealt defending WVIAC champion Concord a 20-6 loss on Saturday’s proud football-weather afternoon.
And that one mistake was all but erased from anybody’s memory by the four interceptions the Rams stole from Concord quarterback Albert Rose . . . as well as the weekly gifts provided by the Shepherd special teams.

Shepherd got one rushing touchdown in its 20-6 win over Concord, and that came on this play from freshman Allen Cross.

There was a blocked Concord field goal attempt that was turned into a 78-yard scoring run by D. J. Scott. And there was a blocked extra point after Concord’s only touchdown.
After losing a season-opening, non-conference game at unbeaten Shippensburg (5-0), Shepherd has surfaced as the leader of its WVIAC with a 3-0 league mark, as well as a 4-1 overall record that has brought the Rams squarely into the race for an NCAA playoff bid. The Mountain Lions dipped to 1-2 in the WVIAC and 2-3 overall.
Concord had the lead at 6-0 when two Rams missed by inches when both stretched after an interception of a deep pass, and both were late, allowing Randall Hawkins to complete a 57-yard scoring play.
But Concord couldn’t score again. Shepherd fenced in Concord’s runners, making the Mountain Lions throw time and again.
Four of those those throws were intercepted, two on deflected Rose attempts by De’Ontre Johnson that blunted drives that jeopardized Shepherd’s always slender leads. Dominique Dixon and Keon Robinson had the other thefts.
The Rams had answered Concord’s only score with a lengthy 73-yard drive that took 17 plays and resulted in Ryan Earls’ 26-yard field goal.
Shepherd had managed a fourth-and-2 problem from the Concord 35 to get a first down and eventually the Earl points.
Shepherd’s next possession was turned into a 62-yard drive that took 13 plays and was only ended with an Allen Cross scoring run of three yards on another crucial fourth down decision by the Rams’ coaching staff.
At halftime, Shepherd had been penalized only once and had a 10-6 lead.
Midway through the third period, the Mountain Lions misfired on a 39-yard field goal try, but claimed Shepherd’s only lost fumble on the next play.
Back came the Shepherd defense. And that defense forced another field goal try after six plays.
That field goal was blocked and Hall scooped up the free football and hoofed it 71 yards with the help of several shielding or body-clearing blocks.
Shepherd had moved to a 17-6 lead.
In quick order, the Rams intercepted Rose three times, but by now its penalties (eight in the second half for 84 yards) had returned and its quarterback, Bobby Cooper, had also been intercepted.
Finally, after the third interception in Concord’s last three possessions, The Rams overcame two more penalties to position themselves for Earls’ successful 29-yard field goal.
Leading, 20-6, the Rams ceded seven straight Concord pass completions before Robinson made an interception near the goal line. Robinson had 10 tackles and Johnson had eight stops as Shepherd muzzled Concord and kept it to 41 rushing yards on 25 tries.
Witrh the clock shrinkage favoring Shepherd, Concord had one more possession. But after 11 plays it ran out of downs when Rose was sacked on successive plays at the Ram 25.
Defense. Four interceptions. The weekly contributions of one of the special teams. And Shepherd had bubbled to the top of the WVIAC.

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