Ram defense limits Hilltoppers as Shepherd moves to 4-1
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Ponce DeLeon had two interceptions and Chrys Lane had eight tackles as Shepherd limited homestanding West Liberty to 272 yards of total offense in the Rams’ 26-14 conference win on the road last Saturday at West Family Stadium.
With David Eppard adding his five tackles (two for lost yardage) and a sack, and Ricky Robinson getting another five tackles, the Rams were able to win for the fourth straight time and move into second place in the Mountain East Conference. West Liberty went to 2-4 with the loss.
The Rams were troubled at times, but with the defense mostly controlling the Hilltoppers and punter Ruan Venter averaging 43.3 yards a punt on his seven boots, the momentary problems were overcome.
An extra point attempt was blocked, a two-point conversion try was botched when the snap went awry, a possible DeLeon interception return for a touchdown was negated by a personal foul penalty and eight penalties for 89 yards gave the Rams pause, as they finally brushed past the Hilltoppers.
The culmination of a seven-play, 79-yard drive that saw Wanya Allen take a five-yard scoring pass from Tyson Bagent, came with only 22 seconds remaining before halftime and allowed the Rams to carry a 12-7 lead into the intermission.
The game had been scoreless until just over five minutes were left in the second period, when Ryan Feiss caught a 16-yard Bagent pass for the game’s first points.
Allen’s 17-yard scoring catch lifted the Rams into a 19-7 lead, but West Liberty came back to within five points at 19-14 on C. Westbrook’s one-yard run.
When the Rams’ Greg Leonard grabbed a 23-yard Bagent pass for a 26-14 lead, Shepherd climaxed a 65-yard sortie that took only five plays. Only 3:02 remained in the fourth quarter.
West Liberty managed only 77 rushing yards and a 2.5 yards per try on the ground. Shepherd’s 397 yards of total offense was its lowest total of the five-game season.
On an afternoon when defense was in the first chair on both sides, West Liberty’s Clifford Clark had 18 tackles to keep the Hilltoppers coming after the Rams and their smallish leads.
This week, the Rams face formidable Fairmont at noon in a home game that has become a “must” win if Shepherd wants to defend its latest Mountain East Conference championship.
The Lane-led Shepherd defense will need to find its best low-scoring punch to stop the Fighting Falcons, owner of one of the league’s most useful defenses again this season.