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Quarterback wasn’t always a question at Shepherd

By Staff | Aug 10, 2018

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Record setters. Forty touchdown throws last season for Connor Jessop. Sixty-two scoring passes when combining Jeff Ziemba’s last two seasons at Shepherd.

And now Shepherd doesn’t have an experienced quarterback on its roster for the 2018 season.

Replacing Jessop would have been troublesome, even for a player with some valuable experience, but Shepherd has only freshmen and some players who didn’t get on-field experience in 2017.

For nearly a quarter-century, the Rams of coach Monte Cater had upbeat, game-winning players at quarterback.

And now it’s going to be a player with no real experience as a college starter — no familiarity with the unbeaten seasons and playoff runs the Rams have given their followers in recent seasons.

Beginning in 1999, Joel Gordon lifted the Rams’ fortunes with his four seasons, seeing him complete 522 passes in his career and throwing for 7,236 yards and 66 touchdowns.

After Gordon, Jay Mason was effective for two seasons, and then Dan Chlebowski was a three-year starter and playoff contributor.

Tyler Lazear, Kevin Clancy and Bobby Copper did well from 2007 to 2012, as Shepherd hung up huge winning percentages and stormed through Kutztown and Mercyhurst to the NCAA Division II national semifinals in 2010, when Clancy threw for 2,979 yards.

Three-and-a-half-year starter Ziemba set a Shepherd single season record with 3,627 passing yards in 2016. He completed a school-record 251 passes that season.

Jessop, starting only in 2017, had 3,532 passing yards and 249 completions last season. Jessop set the school record for passing yards in a single game in 2016, in the only game he started.

Leonard Ferguson started only one year, in 2004, and, as a runner, was almost as effective with his legs as he was with his arms as a passer.

Before Gordon came on the Shepherd scene, the Rams had mostly spotty success with their quarterbacks, and never achieved any undefeated seasons, except back in 1955 when John Shrearer, a three-year starter, had the guiding hand.

Chad Broadwater, Jim Signora and Skip Stasky followed coach Walter Barr’s most effective quarterback, left-handed Mike Coyle, who, like Ferguson, was a dangerous runner.

A four-year standard bearer, Coyle’s last season was 1984.

When the Rams open the 2018 season on Sept. 1 at Notre Dame, they’ll have a new leader at quarterback.

The first-year starter will have king-sized boots to fill. It’s been done before. Can first-year head coach Ernie McCook catch lightning in a bottle? He needs to.