PSAC Conference 2019 Season: Questions almost across the board for Rams football
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Losses to Notre Dame and Fairmont had effectively kept Shepherd from reaching the NCAA Division II playoffs last year.
It was the 10th and final game of the season and Virginia-Wise was at Ram Stadium with its 3-6 record. Shepherd was completing its final season in the Mountain East Conference before diving into the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference beginning with the 2019 football season.
Virginia-Wise left little doubt as to which was the better team, winning when its offensive and defensive lines were more effective than Shepherd’s linemen.
The Rams were left with a 7-3 record. No conference championship. No NCAA playoff nod. And questions about how the Rams of 2019 would fare if they didn’t restore some lustre to their up-front lines.
Shepherd’s first year of playing against 10 schools from Pennsylvania and showing an 11th game against prosperous Ohio Dominican (a team that finished with a 9-2 record last season) must include more improved line play if the Rams are to make their mark in the new league.
If the Rams can’t effectively run the football, smiles in the Smallwood and Small pavilion alongside one of the sidelines will be few and far between. And if the Rams can’t stop any opponent’s ground offense, then any smiles will have to be brought on by strong drink and stories about bygone seasons when Monte Cater or Walter Barr walked the sidelines.
Some of the teams on Shepherd’s conference schedule have been poor, to very poor, in the recent past. Those downtrodden teams would include Seton Hill, East Stroudsburg and Millersville. But some of those teams have been successful. Those success stories would include West Chester, Kutztown, Bloomsburg, Shippensburg and Mercyhurst.
Even with a list of starters returning in Shepherd’s offensive line, there are questions in number about whether the Rams will be able to run the ball. And there are a similar number of starters returning to the defensive line . . . but just as many questions about whether PSAC teams will be as comfortable lashing the Shepherd line, the same as Fairmont and Virginia-Wise were a year ago.
Will any useful depth appear on either line? Games through early and mid-September often call for rests for starters because of the heat and humidity.
D.J. Cornish and Hakeem Holland are quality receivers in any league. And quarterback Tyson Bagent is a capable passer. But if Shepherd opponents hold the Rams to 125 yards rushing, then troubled skies and lightning will come when West Chester, Ohio Dominican, Kutztown and Shippensburg all travel to historic Shepherdstown for a football Saturday.
The Rams can’t be gouged for 250 rushing yards, either.
At least six or seven players not on Shepherd’s 2018 roster will have to step forward, be effective and stay healthy if this Shepherd team is going to march into the PSAC and bring frowns and losses to most of the incumbent teams.