Cater teams brightened many a Shepherd Homecoming
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Even when getting to Shepherdstown was a task in itself, the graduates of Shepherd State Teachers College tried their best to return on Homecoming Weekend, when many events, reunions and on-campus happenings revolved around the small school’s football game.
There were no undefeated teams or conference championships during the tenure of Coach John Newcome from 1925 through 1941. But players like Lucien Maddex, Bill Hahn, Henry Hanna, Mike Mitchell and Calvin Dirting were so well-known, they were all named to the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
For three years during World War II there was no football played at Shepherd.
Don Phillips was the coach from 1948 through 1950, when popular names like Dick Harmison and Guy Tucker played for the Rams.
In 1955 Shepherd made headlines in circles other than the school’s own The Picket newspaper. Eight games were played, and eight games were won. A WVIAC championship was celebrated, but there were no playoffs in those days. George Hott and John Shearer were the celebrated on-field names when Don Fouss was the coach.
Gentlemanly Jesse Riggleman was the coach, when the football games were moved from lovable Fairfax Field across the highway to Ram Stadium and its limestone rocks, guarding the west side of the grass-covered field in 1959.
Jesse was the “Silver Fox” or banty rooster of the sidelines. He coached for 11 seasons and had pass-catching Wayman Everly as one of his best players.
Roger Parker brought Perry Hubbard and Bob Pope to his last team in 1970, and then Walter Barr brought national attention to his lean and hungry teams from 1971 through 1985.
Barr had WVIAC championships in 1972, 1982 and 1983. He coached Shepherd all-time greats in Wayne Wilson, Anthony Crenshaw, Mike Coyle, Gregg Warfield, Gene Lugat, Everett Yore and Mark Brower.
And then Shepherd furrowed the brow of teams seeking national acclaim when Monte Cater, already in his 12th season at Shepherd’s helm, began winning games at a blazing rate. Cater’s first NCAA playoff team came in 1998, and thereafter he won games in record-breaking style.
Before retiring after last season, Cater had six unbeaten seasons, including 2015, 2016 and 2017, where his Rams won an astonishing 48 of 50 Mountain East Conference games.
Cater coached the Rams for 31 seasons. Such luminaries as Damian Beane, Dervon Wallace, James Rooths, Dalevon Smith, Bill Adams, Brooks Bennett, Jason Johnson, Greg Stup, Bootsie Washington, Billy Brown, Tre Sullivan, Connor Jessop, Jeff Ziemba and Ricky Schmidt brought the Rams to the top of the small-college pile — and kept them there.
Under Cater’s guidance, Shepherd Homecomings became a time when on-field victories could be celebrated, along with McMurran Scholars, Athletic Hall of Fame inductions and on-campus building and advancement.
Tomorrow, the Rams face Concord at noon in the last Homecoming football game played in the current Mountain East Conference, the league that replaced the venerable WVIAC, in the days when many Shepherd graduates saw sun-splashed victories at both Fairfax Field and carpeted Ram Stadium.