Shepherd back at home for playoffs
Findlay has attention-getting statistics in its dossier.
The Oilers record is 9-2 and they averaged 47.5 points a game. The total offense number was 510 yards a game. Findlay’s only two losses were to Ferris State and Ohio Dominican. All well and good.
But Shepherd might disregard much of the pre-game fodder and point to a mentioning of the Super Region One playoff game on Findlay’s football website.
When describing Saturday’s playoff game the article says the Oilers will be playing “Shepard.”
Oh, the lack of respect or knowledge of your unbeaten opponent.
“Shepherd” seems worthy of respect after a third consecutive undefeated regular season, an appearance in 2016’s national semifinals and 2015’s national championship game.
Findlay’s team-carrying offense has quarterbacks Rhys Gervais (1,858 passing yards and 19 TD passes) and Adam Bertke (701 yards and nine touchdown passes) along with running backs Daoula Sylla (1,266 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns) and Michael Campbell (762 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns).
The Oilers’ leading receiver is Jason Moore (55 receptions, 843 yards and 13 scores).
Ferris State scored 48 points in beating Findlay and Ohio Dominican ran off 49 points just last Saturday in drilling the Oilers, 49-24.
The statistical leaders of the Findlay defense are Francis Cutchember and Justice Jenkins with both Aaron Ivory and Tyler Lee having four interceptions in the 11-game season. Findlay intercepted 16 passes this year.
So far, Findlay has shown a balanced offense with 274 rushing yards per game and 236 passing yards.
“Shepherd” counters with some robust offensive numbers of its own.
Connor Jessop has thrown for 38 touchdowns. Ryan Feiss has caught over 100 yards worth of passes in seven different games. Jabre Lolley has rushed for over a 1,000 yards. Tight end J.D. Cornish and wide receiver Wanya Allen have become constant threats to opponent’s defenses. Shepherd’s lowest point total in its 10-0 season was 28 against Fairmont and in its other nine games it scored more than 40 points.
Saturday’s crowd will be five times larger than anything the Oilers have seen on most occasions as they averaged only 1,252 people per home game and nearly the same number on the road.
James Gupton, Myles Humphrey, and Tre Anderson will be Shepherd’s most decorated defenders when post-season honors are handed out. Gupton could be a all-America selection and Humphrey already has the school’s career sacks record.
Very few opponents ever run well against the Rams. It’s through the air that teams sometimes prosper, and the Rams have a youth-oriented secondary that has hurt itself with penalties while being exploited for yardage and touchdowns at times.
Chrys Lane hasn’t been a starter, but his late-season playmaking has been noticed in the Ram secondary.
How will Findlay hope to control the sometimes merciless-to-the-psyche Shepherd offense? Can the Oilers keep Shepherd from scoring at least 35 points?
Shepherd’s home-field advantage is very real. It gets a game-long boost from its cheering thousands who might number at least 6,000 if the weather is at all cooperative.
The Rams don’t need any additional psychological awakenings, but “Shepard” just might bring more kindling to the already roaring fire.