How much has Shepherd changed?
SHEPHERDSTOWN — In a pinball-like scoring match to open the 2017 season, Shepherd needed 54 points to edge Notre Dame by five points to open the schedule.
The Rams finished the regular season with a 10-0 record. It was 31-year coach Monte Cater’s final year.
Just a year before, Shepherd had receiver Billy Brown and quarterback Jeff Ziemba, and jolted just as many scoreboards when moving through another 10-0 season on its way to the national semifinals.
In 2015, the Rams plowed under another Mountain East Conference schedule, plundering their way to a 10-0 record and then getting all the way to Kansas City and the national championship game against Northwest Missouri State.
Is recent history a reliable predictor of things to come?
While change is inevitable, how much change can be withstood to keep such success in motion?
Ernie McCook is the new head coach. Taking McCook’s place as the team’s offensive coordinator is Tye Hiatt. Differences in what Shepherd does offensively are bound to be in place, when the Rams see Notre Dame on Sept. 1 in the season opener.
There will be an untested, first-year starter at quarterback. There will be an untested, first-year starter at running back.
However, D.J. Cornish, Ryan Feiss, Wanya Allen and Duron Norris-Sanya are an excellent group of playmaking receivers for the first-year quarterback to build his confidence with, as he assumes a leadership role.
Counting Levi Lloyd, Jaime Colon and Kendre Batson, there are three starters on hand in the offensive line.
When last season began, the Rams were scrambling to stop conference offenses.
Even with reliable and experienced faces like James Gupton, Myles Humphrey, Elijah Norris and Tre Anderson, the Rams were forced to the brink in early wins over Notre Dame and Glenville. All those players were 2017 seniors.
This year, the secondary does return a number of faces from a year ago. Some are still young and some are still unproven.
DeJuan Neal, Chris Jones and Shane Wilkins all mean some experience is still on stage. And Raughn Carter, Brandon Moneypenny, Justin Cole and Antonio Fox did more than just audition for parts in 2017.
But Shepherd’s pass defense was not the reason it won 10 straight regular season games.
Chrys Lane could be a candidate for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honor. He’s a linebacker.
What can the Rams do against the run? Providing those all-important answers are Juwan Addison, Ricky Robinson, Tatah Ndeh, Scott Dixon, Hassan Marshall and Anthony Gallegos.
Ruan Ventor is a proven asset as the punter, and Hayden August-Scriven can reach the end zone with some of his kickoffs.
There will be a new long snapper and a new holder on place kicks.
After three consecutive all-winning regular seasons, how much change can be withstood without the record showing some spillage? Are pinball machines still all the rage?