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Flying start gives Notre Dame Mountain East lead

By Staff | Oct 5, 2018

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Can any team bring down Notre Dame?

After tripping Shepherd by two points to begin its 2018 season, Notre Dame (Ohio) has steadily moved its overall record to 5-0 and now is the lone undefeated team in the Mountain East Conference.

Shepherd, the winner of four of the five conference championships earned since the league was formed, has recovered enough to win its other three games, and now is grouped with other one-loss teams like Fairmont, Charleston and upstart Urbana (Ohio).

Notre Dame, Shepherd, Fairmont, Urbana and Charleston have just about separated themselves from the league’s other five teams — Virginia-Wise, Concord, West Virginia State, winless West Virginia Wesleyan and West Liberty.

In reality, Shepherd doesn’t control its own destiny. Notre Dame has to be beaten. By some team. Or even a Shepherd record of 9-1 won’t keep the Falcons from flying away to the Super Region One playoffs and winning the Mountain East championship for the first time.

Shepherd can deal losses to Urbana, Charleston and Fairmont and keep all those teams from winning the league title or reaching the post-season playoffs. And all three of those teams can deliver the same sort of blow to Shepherd’s chances.

The Rams are scoring points with reliable, week-to-week consistency. Several changes to the starting lineup since falling to Notre Dame have helped to some extent.

After the loss at Notre Dame, the Rams have allowed a total of 52 points in the next three games. Wins over Glenville, West Virginia State and Concord have been necessary to keep pace with Notre Dame’s winning ways.

Fairmont and its one loss are at Ram Stadium on Oct. 13, but both Charleston and Urbana are road games.

Shepherd problems with extra points and field goals haven’t been solved. Generally, the Rams haven’t found a consistent pass rush, but have been disruptive to the ground offense of three of the four opponents.

Can Shepherd run against Fairmont or others? Notre Dame has presented the leagues best ground offense to date and gouged the Rams with a 302-yard game from one back in its win on Sept. 1 in South Euclid, Ohio.

Shepherd has a reliable and valuable punter in Ruan Ventor. And it has an All-America receiver in Ryan Feiss. Linebacker Chrys Lane is on an all-conference path so far in the season. And quarterback Tyson Bagent has passed for scads of yards and touchdowns.

But can the Rams run for the precious yardage needed to be a balanced force against Fairmont, Charleston and Urbana?

Another Shepherd loss probably keeps it from its fifth conference championship in six seasons. A second loss also makes receiving a Super Region One playoff bid a very long shot.

Will some team find the ways to stop Notre Dame? Will Shepherd show the necessary improvement to get past Fairmont, Charleston and Urbana? The Rams have six more games, beginning on Saturday at West Liberty.