Shepherd stains West Chester’s previously unbeaten season
SHEPHERDSTOWN — It was well into the third quarter. Unbeaten West Chester has just scored to shave its deficit against boisterous Shepherd to four points. The hard-earned momentum the homestanding Rams had managed appeared to be eroding a bit. Unbeaten teams don’t often wilt. They keep plowing ground until they find a fertile patch where they can wrest control from the team attempting to bring them down.
So it was at Ram Stadium last Saturday when the Golden Rams showed a silent confidence in their ability to wipe away all of Shepherd’s early two-touchdown lead.
Now trailing by four, West Chester quarterback Mike Piperno looked for an open receiver a little too long and was sacked by Naseed Bridgeman. West Chester punted to the Shepherd 19.
Suddenly, with one quick strike, the West Chester resurgence was gone . . . the ripening momentum was no more.
Shepherd quarterback Tyson Bagent connected with Dylan Brewer on a completion that Brewer broke free on and reached the Golden Ram 28.
It was as if the Shepherd mystique of the perfect-weather football afternoon was fully restored. And in the blink of an eye, running back Deonte Glover had been loosed on a 24-yard TD run that restored Shepherd’s lead to double figures.
West Chester was undefeated no more. Shepherd savored its eventual 35-23 conference win . . . a victory that moved it squarely into the running for the East Division title of the PSAC. West Chester, which survived in a three-point win over Bloomsburg the week before and in a six-turnover near-disaster win over Shippensburg the week before that, was left at 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the East Division. The Rams moved forward to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the East Division. Undefeated Kutztown is 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the East Division race.
Receiver Devin Phelps had helped the Rams to an early 14-0 lead with scoring receptions of 25 and 50 yards from Bagent.
But it was the Rams’ near-perfect offensive line that had given Bagent adequate time to throw what would be 33 passes (with 21 completions and 413 yards without a sack) that had more impact on the outcome than anything else.
By contrast, West Chester’s quarterbacks were sacked six times, intercepted three times and gained only 121 yards with their mostly hurried throws.
Three of Shepherd’s sacks came from David Wilson, while Chrys Lane, Donnell Howard and Tim Womack all had interceptions.
Normally Shepherd’s five turnovers would have been too costly to beat an unbeaten team. However, West Chester had four turnovers to keep it from using its takeaways to much advantage.
A harmless looking swing pass from Bagent to Ty Hebron had given Shepherd its third score of the opening half. Before the play unfolded, Bagent motioned a wide receiver to move farther inside the formation. When the short throw came to Hebron, he caught it in full stride and rocketed down the sideline in front of the Golden Ram bench . . . going 70 yards untouched for 21-7 Shepherd lead.
Hebron’s four-yard run in the fourth period boosted Shepherd’s lead to 35-23, and meant West Chester was not going to go spotless through the 2019 season, and was not going to maintain its No. 12 national ranking.
As helpful as the Rams’ offensive line was, the defense seemed quick, decisive and had playmakers all across the field. Ponce Deleon, Ricky Robinson and Lane were all credited with eight tackles each. And all three of the quarterbacks West Chester tried were troubled by the rushmen, aggressive linebackers and by the coverage of the deep secondary.
The Rams blunted the budding efforts West Chester made to change the momentum. And then won the day over the game’s last 18 minutes.