Shepherd’s leaders provide latest win
J.C. the ram was there on the sun-owns-the-afternoon Saturday. So was Charlie Kave’s three-wheel bicycle, leaning against the Boone locker room.
Fortunately for unbeaten Shepherd, so were offensive forces Connor Jessop, Jabre Lolley and Ryan Feiss and defensive pillars James Gupton and Myles Humphrey.
There were a fistful of playmakers missing with injuries, and the Rams had replaced five previous starters with others who might staunch the flow of points both Notre Dame and Glenville had gathered against the mostly ineffective defense.
The opponent was West Virginia State, a conference opponent that came to Ram Stadium with an 0-30 record against Monte Cater-coached teams.
With Jessop notching five TD passes and 283 yards on 26-for-38 through the humid air, Lolley running for career high 239 yards and three scores on only 18 carries, Feiss continuing his early-season run of at least 10 receptions a game for 168 yards and a TD, Gupton making 11 tackles (a sack and two stops for lost yardage) and Humphrey registering 10 tackles (two sacks and three stops for lost yardage) the Rams absorbed West Virginia State’s offensive punches and prevailed, 56-41, to move to 3-0 overall.
Continuing its Mountain East Conference theme of staggering opponents with its mostly lethal offense, Shepherd had 30 first downs, 595 yards of total offense (283 passing and 312 rushing) and now averages 50.7 points a game. It needed all the pyrotechnics the offense could produce.
Two of the Yellow Jackets scores were provided by Shepherd fumbles, one of which was returned for points and the other recovered at the Shepherd 15 and was quickly turned into a 24-21 West Virginia State lead.
The baking crowd of about 4,500 took a collective breath and reached for more sun lotion and cloth to scotch the sweating when the Rams had Lolley bolt 43 yards to the Yellow Jacket four before scoring nearly untouched from there to give the Rams a 28-24 lead at halftime.
In the offensive-themed second half, Shepherd’s lead bounced between four and eight points before Jessop found Feiss on a six-yard scoring throw for 49-34 Ram lead, but Matt Kinnick completed one of the 32 successful throws he had and the receiver vaulted over Chris Jones and Jared Austin to score and make it only a 49-41 Shepherd lead.
West Virginia State had already surprised Shepherd with a retain-possession onside kick and with time quickly leaving the scoreboard tried another. Feiss grabbed the airborne football.
Lolley rambled free for 35 yards and then bruised his way across from the eight to increase the Shepherd margin to 15 points at 56-41.
Shepherd had played without offensive starters Hakeem Holland and Alex Wetzel with Duron Norris (who caught a TD pass against Glenville) idled with a foot injury and useful running back Deonte Glover on the sidelines as well, and still registered 56 points. However, the defensive changes had little effect on its opponent’s surge on the scoreboard.
West Virginia State was 1-3 overall, while the Rams go to Athens on Saturday to see Concord hoping to have a few of the missing at least able to play some sort of roles.