Sturdivant fourth running back in four years
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Shepherd went undefeated in 2015 with Jabre Lolley as its starting running back. Then in 2016, freshman Brandon Hlavach was the most-used running back, and the Rams recorded another 10-0 regular season record. Last year, Patrick Griffin was the starter and Shepherd waded through another 10-0 season.
Griffin didn’t return even though he had remaining eligibility.
Zyan Sturdivant, a sturdy five-foot-eight, 190-pound freshman, has become the fourth starter in four seasons, as the Rams spend their last year in the Mountain East Conference before moving to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference for the 2018-19 school term.
Sturdivant is a “true” freshman, meaning he didn’t have a redshirt year when he didn’t play and could only watch games from the sidelines.
Last year, Sturdivant was at North Dinwiddie High School in Dinwiddie, Virginia. Just south of Petersburg and on Rte.1 is the location of Dinwiddie. Interstate-85 is just east of the small city.
In those three consecutive unbeaten regular seasons, the Shepherd offense relied heavily on the passing arm of Jeff Ziemba in both 2015 and 2016, and then prolific Connor Jessup last season.
The Rams have another “true” freshman at quarterback in Tyson Bagent. And they are throwing the football to experienced receivers and gaining large chunks of yards with Bagent’s 65 completions in two games to date.
Sturdivant had nine carries for 49 yards and a touchdown in a season-opening 35-33 loss at Notre Dame. He caught a pass for 25 yards. In last week’s 41-24 win at home against Glenville, Sturdivant’s workload increased, and he had 19 carries for 86 yards and scored again. He had two receptions for 18 yards against the Pioneers.
Shepherd’s mostly straight-ahead, between-the-tackles running game seems to suit the quick-to-the-hole style of Sturdivant, whose slight forward lean makes it difficult to get him down.
In its eight remaining games, the Rams will see two teams that are still unbeaten with 3-0 records in Fairmont and Charleston. Notre Dame, which escaped with a two-point win over West Virginia State last week, is also at 3-0 so far.
Sturdivant is new — like so many Ram starters this season. But he is capable
Shepherd won’t stay successful without some rushing yards in crucial situations. And even without much evidence that the offensive line is going to clear any consistent holes for him, Sturdivant can get yardage on his own at times.