Shepherd hits the road to beat Mercyhurst
ERIE, Pa. — The fourth quarter of Shepherd’s 22-17 win over homestanding Mercyhurst was crammed full of what could have easily been game-changing plays.
Several vital defensive stops wouldn’t allow the Lakers to erase Shepherd’s thin lead. And then the Rams drained the clock of its last 4:10 to extinguish the final chances the Lakers held.
Leading 22-17 as the fourth quarter opened, the Rams saw Mercyhurst in Shepherd’s end of the field, anxious to take back the lead.
Mercyhurst quarterback Doug Altavilla tried a sneak from the Shepherd one on third down. He was denied. On fourth down, Altavilla tried another quarterback sneak. And was denied again with the Rams taking over on downs.
Minutes later, the Lakers took over on Shepherd’s 35 with 8:29 remaining.
Reaching the 11, Mercyhurst had another fourth and one problem. Altavilla threw a pass this time. But it was broken up by Shepherd’s Hassan Marshall. And the Rams’ five-point lead was still in place on the scoreboard.
Moving to the Mercyhurst 27, the Rams faced their own fourth and one question mark. But when the Lakers jumped offside, the Rams got a first down by penalty. And then killed the clock to be able to leave Erie with a 1-1 overall record and taking their first-ever win as a fledgling member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Mercyhurst dipped to 1-1 overall.
The Rams all but silenced the Mercyhurst ground game, limiting it to just 21 total yards on 22 carries. Chrys Lane had nine tackles as well as causing the first-quarter fumble that the Lakers recovered in their own zone, resulting in a two-point safety that gave Shepherd a 2-0 lead.
From that point on, the game would bounce back and forth with both sides having subsequent leads.
Along the way to the emotional fourth quarter, Shepherd receiver DJ Cornish had two touchdown passes from Tyson Bagent. Bagent would finish his prosperous afternoon with 36 completion in 54 attempts. He threw one interception as well as three touchdown passes and amassed 438 yards on the sunny afternoon near Lake Erie.
Dylan Brewer had his most exceptional game, catching 11 Bagent throws for 110 yards. Devin Phelps grabbed eight passes for 153 yards, as the Rams totaled 510 yards of total offense. The Lakers had 332 yards of total offense.
Shepherd had 82 offensive plays and the Lakers had only 58 plays.
Shepherd’s 11 penalties for 94 yards jeopardized its chances, but the fourth quarter defensive stops helped keep the Lakers out of the end zone in the waning minutes.
The wafer-thin lead was saved by the run-stopping plays on fourth and one.
And the Rams were winners in their first conference game since taking leave of the MEC after the 2018-19 school term.