New wrinkles as Shepherd romps past Hilltoppers
The usual fullhouse of sun-drenched fans was on hand.
Gifted quarterback Connor Jessop threw for four touchdowns and 329 yards.
Do-everything linebacker James Gupton had another eight tackles and was a sidelines-to-sidelines menace to West Liberty.
Shepherd scored at least 42 points for the fifth straight game in moving its record to 5-0.
The Rams had 561 yards of total offense.
But there was something very different about the 51-14 demolishing of the Hilltoppers.
As important as anything to the Shepherd success was the beginning-to-end contributions of tight end D.J. Cornish.
In it’s first four games, the Rams had gotten five total catches from its corps of tight ends.
On Saturday at Homecoming, Cornish had eight catches for 98 yards and two scores. He was a primary target of Jessop’s from the outset, giving the Shepherd offense more versatility and another face to concern opponent’s defenses.
Cornish and Jessop routinely came up with completions that gave the unbeaten Rams first downs or touchdowns.
Not many offensive plays were strung together before it was Jessop and Cornish at it again.
Another sigh-of-relief happening in the conference win for the nationally-ranked Rams was the mere seven penalties for only 65 yards, after being flagged 20 times for 207 yards the previous week in a win over Concord.
Shepherd’s 28-14 lead at the half was shiny enough, but then the Rams outscored West Liberty, 23-0, in the last half to give a list of reserves plenty of sweat-stained playing time.
In individual corners, Jessop completed 23-of-30 passes, Jabre Lolley was at his head-knocking best when using 18 carries for 96 yards and two scores. Wanya Allen and Jeremiah Williams caught TD throws from Jessop in the first half.
Shepherd piled up 28 first downs and defensively limited West Liberty to 241 yards of total offense.
The crowd settled-in of 4,719 was treated to 10 offensive plays of more than 15 yards before some retreated to the few shady areas that ringed the playing surface. Tre Anderson and Hashim Sesay had acrobatic interceptions for the Rams with Sesay seemingly coming out of nowhere on his steal from a receiver who was once all by himself.
The Rams were in Fairmont last night for their only Thursday game of the 2017 season. The Fighting Falcons were 4-2 overall and 4-1 in conference games.
Shepherd had won by 37 points over West Liberty, but it had done so with an emphasis on previously little used areas of its offense.
Cornish badly damaged the Hilltoppers, and the rest of the team applied the coup de grace to West Liberty’s chances.