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Shepherd in home opener, Jefferson faces first road test

By Staff | Sep 11, 2015

Shepherd barely let West Virginia Wesleyan breathe, quieting the Bobcat offense and efficiently scoring 43 points to win its season opener in Buckhannon.

West Virginia Wesleyan had only 81 yards in total offense and couldn’t score against the ready-for-the-task Shepherd defense and special teams.

First-year defenders Isaiah Ross, Tre Anderson and Norris as well as first-year starters Tatah Ndeh, Jaylen Johnson, and Tre Sullivan joined with Myles Humphrey (five tackles for lost yardage), Shaneil Jenkins, James Gupton, Octavius Thomas and Phillip Rhoden to completely muzzle the Bobcats.

Shepherd’s task this week is considerably more complex.

In the 12-noon home opener against Charleston, the Rams will see a team that scored 12 points against their special teams in 2014. Although Shepherd won 24-15, it was stung by a kickoff-return touchdown and the return of a blocked field goal attempt for another six points that literally kept the Golden Eagles in the game.

Charleston opened its season last week at home with a high-scoring 56-44 win over Notre Dame.

Should Charleston believe in its ground offense against Shepherd, it had better have a second and third game plan on ice because it won’t have any consistent success that way. Charleston’s most convincing strategies would be with its special teams again. Or simply to let Shepherd self destruct with penalties. Last week against the Bobcats, Shepherd was penalized 16 times for nearly 160 yards.

An all-out passing Saturday won’t produce that much against the Rams either.

Can Charleston make a little more defensive progress than it did in the Notre Dame escape?

Shepherd has been a balanced offensive team for some time now. Wide receiver Billy Brown is every team’s Enemy Number One and he had seven catches for 121 yards in the West Virginia Wesleyan game. Shepherd’s newly minted offensive line still has its rough edges, but the three first-year starters were steady enough last week.

Third-year starting quarterback Jeff Ziemba had 24 completions and no interceptions or fumbles last week.

On the high school side of things, Jefferson is back after an open date last Friday.

The Cougars are 1-0 with a win over Millbrook and travel to Berkeley County to play Musselman at 7 p.m. at Waldeck Field. The Applemen are 1-1 after being blanked in their opener at Spring Mills (31-0) and then trouncing a traveling Oak Hill team last Friday in Bunker Hill.

First-year quarterback James King was unveiled as a competent runner and author of a short passing game.

Defensively, the Cougars seemed to improve as the Millbrook game wore on toward a successful finish.

Millbrook had sporatic influence on the game’s flow, but could do little in the fourth quarter of its season-opening loss.

Jefferson will own the advantage in team speed, but turnovers, a flock of penalties or botched plays by special teams could even Musselman’s chances.

Shepherd wants to move to 2-0. Jefferson has the same sort of motivation.