Shepherd sees Glenville in home opener
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Long ago, some football coach said, “A team improves the most it will all season long between the first and second game.” Shepherd hopes that bromide is true. The Rams lost their first game and revealed several critical areas where improvement is necessary, while also showing quality play from several first-year starters.
Another adage that has lasted through the years says, The team that wins the battle in the trenches wins the game. Shepherd did not fare well along the line of scrimmage in its season-opening loss to Notre Dame.
The Rams didn’t much worry the Notre Dame quarterback with any pass rush. And the Falcons also rushed for 344 yards, getting scoring romps of 76 and 75 yards.
With only 81 rushing yards, Shepherd relied heavily on the throwing of freshman quarterback Tyson Bagent, who passed 56 times with 36 completions and three interceptions. Bagent’s 518 passing yards highlighted Shepherd’s 82 offensive plays. Notre Dame had 60 offensive plays in scoring its five touchdowns.
Notre Dame went to 2-0 last week with a 27-17 win over Glenville, this week’s Shepherd opponent on Saturday at noon at Ram Stadium. The Pioneers won their first game, a 17-7 verdict at Virginia-Wise.
Glenville has been inconsistent in its two games. Against Virginia-Wise, first-year starter Jaylen McNair threw for only 61 yards, but in the loss to Notre Dame he passed for 300 yards.
Mario Pender rushed for 124 yards versus Virginia-Wise, but then the team had only 25 ground yards in losing to the unbeaten Falcons. Javon Butler had two touchdown receptions against the Falcons, but was silent in the Virginia-Wise game.
Glenville’s loss wasn’t helped by its 10 penalties for 103 yards. After falling behind, 27-2 in the third period, McNair connected with Butler for the game’s final two scores.
Notre Dame rushed for 251 yards, in quieting the Pioneers.
Shepherd will try to control Dominic Cizauskas, who had 11 tackles, a sack and caused a fumble against Notre Dame.
In Shepherd’s 35-33-loss two weeks ago at Notre Dame, the Rams were penalized only six times a far cry from previous seasons, where Shepherd teams averaged more than 10 penalties a game and had numerous 10- and 15-yard walk-offs.
Reliable wide receivers Ryan Feiss and Wanya Allen caught a combined 24 passes for 237 yards and two scores from Bagent, but All-MEC tight end DJ Cornish had just one catch.
Shepherd had listed freshman Ty Hebron as its starter at running back, but freshman Zyan Sturdivant and freshman Sam James did what relatively little ground work the Rams tried, other than the 10 rushes for 12 yards by Bagent.
The little acclaimed defensive secondary did not do much in the first-game loss, and there was one sack of the Notre Dame quarterback and no interceptions. Linebacker Chrys Lane was Shepherd’s shining light, getting credit for 15 tackles and recording the lone sack the defense had.
Shepherd improvement? Between the first and second game? It’s necessary.
Winning the physical “battles” in the trenches? Getting more than 81 rushing yards? Getting a turnover or two?
When a team is as inexperienced as Shepherd, it needs to make plays with its special teams. There was nothing recorded in the opening loss, except that Notre Dame had a vital punt-return touchdown.
Special teams have to be “special” in a positive way.