Shepherd doesn’t break in winning season opener
After the homestanding Panthers struck first for a 7-0 lead, the Rams continuously used an effective pass offense to finally measure the same team that had beaten them in Shepherdstown in 2019, amassing 346 passing yards, four TDs through the air and a fan-friendly 35-30 non-conference win.
Jumping off the game’s stat sheet were smallish wide receiver Ryan Beach, All-American candidate Tyson Bagent, consistently effective Chrys Lane, defensive back Antonio Fox, linebacker Kyle Smith, running back Ronnie Brown and touchdown-scoring Greg Leonard. And Shepherd needed them all and many others to tame the Panthers.
The 5-foot-6, 160-pound Beach (a redshirt freshman) had 11 pass receptions for 129 yards and touchdowns on passes of 45 and five yards from Bagent, who completed 26-of-37 throws (one interception) and four scores. Lane, an All-PSAC linebacker from 2019, was credited with 12 total tackles and Fox, another decorated PSAC defender, had 11 tackles. Smith, stationed wide to take full advantage of his quickness and speed, recorded three sacks, four tackles for lost yardage and six overall tackles. Brown, moved to a primary role as a runner, was basically Shepherd’s ground game. He had eight carries for 71 yards, including a 63-yard scoring burst that gave the Rams a breathe-easier 35-23 lead late in the fourth period.
Leonard, another wide receiver who is not going to astonish people with his 5-foot-9 size, made five catches for 90 yards and had Bagent TD passes of 43 and seven yards.
Shepherd led 14-10 at the half and then 21-20 after three quarters. The Panthers used three field goals along the way and at times traded penalties with the Rams. Shepherd was tagged 10 times for 84 yards, while Ohio Dominican endured nine penalties for 91 yards. Field position skirmishes generally favored the Panthers because Shepherd was harmed by a 13-yard punt and Ohio Dominican consistently had punts in the 45-yard range.
With its passing yardage to lead its statistical chart, Shepherd finished with 393 yards of total offense and the Panthers had 343 yards with a more balanced offense.
Ohio Dominican almost matched Shepherd’s resilience and ability to come from behind when it scored with only 34 seconds left to move from a 35-23 deficit to a score that still favored the Rams, 35-30. The Panthers recovered the ensuing onside kick, but were finally out of lives when linebacker Frankie Stevens intercepted a last-ditch pass attempt.
The Rams stay on the road this week when they chew off the first piece of their 10-game conference schedule in Erie, Pa. against the Gannon Golden Knights. Gannon defeated Northwood (Michigan) in overtime last week in its season opener.
A slew of playmakers got the Rams home in front against the Panthers when a rich blend of new faces and consistent veterans held off Ohio Dominicans attempts at any game-winning drama.