Shepherd can’t run vs. Fairmont, loses in physical game
SHEPHERDSTOWN — For a fleeting moment, Shepherd had a low-intensity ray of hope against a ready-to-play Fairmont team.
But only for a fleeting moment.
The twice-beaten Fighting Falcons already had a two-touchdown lead and were receiving the second-half kickoff.
A line-drive, ground-hugging kickoff by the Rams slammed off the leg of a would-be blocker, and the Rams recovered on the Fairmont 47. Could hard-pressed Shepherd reverse its first-half fortunes that saw it fail to get any first downs in the first quarter, and then have Fairmont’s Khalik Hamlin rumble 33 yards to a score on a draw play only 45 seconds before the first half was finished? Could the Rams quickly find some offensive rhythm or home-field magic to erase the 14-point deficit they faced?
As quickly as the recovery came to begin the half, the fleeting opportunity was gone to another unproductive set of downs. Without a first down on the possession, Shepherd punted.
And when Michael Porter grabbed an interception of a Tyson Bagent pass in the front of the Shepherd bench and returned it for a score, the Fighting Falcons had all but wrapped up what would eventually become a 38-17 Fairmont win.
In winning the final game between the age-old rivals, Fairmont snapped a nine-game losing streak to Shepherd, in a decades-long rivalry that also had the Rams winning 16 of the last 17 games between the schools.
Shepherd and Fairmont will no longer play, because the Rams will be joining the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, and Fairmont will remain in the Mountain East Conference.
Making its intentions known from the very outset, Fairmont built a 14-0 lead, and even cruised forward to 17-0, before Shepherd could manage even one first down.
Shepherd couldn’t run much at all. And its quarterback Bagent misfired on his first six passes. The Shepherd pass rush was missing. Takwan Crews-Naylor completed seven of his first eight throws. And the Fighting Falcons had points on their first three possessions.
Getting some offensive traction helped the Rams draw within 17-10, but Hamlin’s score just before the half eroded all but a small portion of what had painstakingly been accomplished.
There were only a combined three touchdowns in the second half, and Fairmont had two of those.
The Rams were left in a virtual three-way tie for second place in its conference, and will carry its 4-2 record to Ohio this week to play Urbana. Fairmont’s two losses find it irreversibly behind unbeaten Notre Dame in the league.
The last time Shepherd dropped two games in a season was back in 2014, when its 8-2 record was considered a mild disappointment, because it left the Rams without a NCAA Division II playoff berth. This time, four straight wins are necessary to reach up to an 8-2 record.