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Spirited Rams stun West Liberty with emotions, quality play

By Staff | Nov 6, 2015

Emotions and a readiness to play are often as important as blocking, tackling and special teams in any college football game.

Shepherd was coming off a physical, talkative and close-fought win at Concord, a team that defeated the Rams last season.

Shepherd was able to beat the Mountain Lions in Athens.

Would there be a complacent, emotionally flat game against West Liberty on last Saturday’s docket?

That important question was answered when just before the opening kickoff the Shepherd sideline was alive with all manner of players jumping around, making noise and looking every bit like the players were ready for a national playoff game.

When the Rams forcefully moved to their first points in only 1:50, it was clearly evident any thoughts of living on the laurels of the Concord win were long gone from the Shepherd roster of playmaking starters.

After moving crisply to a 28-point lead by halftime, the Rams survived injuries to two starters and drowned the Hilltoppers, 44-10, with too much offense, too much defense and too much emotion.

Often saluted by a near full house of back-their-Rams supporters, who never tired of clapping, noisily celebrating the Shepherd touchdowns, field goal, sacks, blocked punt and interceptions, it was a football-perfect afternoon at Ram Stadium where a perfect record of 8-0 was appreciated by those who liked the weather and the take-care-of-business show by the unbeaten Rams.

Shepherd receiver Billy Brown had given the nearly 5,000 spectators his best with eight catches, a touchdown and 145 receiving yards. Quarterback Jeff Ziemba was given all the time he needed to complete 17 of his 25 passes for 289 yards two touchdowns. During the 31-point first half, the Shepherd offensive line also made running room for backs Jabre Lolley (18 carries and 119 yards and a score) and Allen Cross (15 caries and 73 yards and two scores).

West Liberty could notch but one touchdown and was limited to just 191 yards of total offense, which appeared anemic next to Shepherd’s 512 yards of total offense.

When the Rams quickly answered West Liberty’s early second-half touchdown, it was evident there would be no Hilltopper comeback the way there had been for several weeks before coming to Shepherdstown.

Soon after Adam Coles’ interception of a Dakota Conwell pass, the Rams had extended their lead to 44-10. Coles was replacing Phillip Rhoden, who suffered a season-ending leg injury that halted play for about 15 minutes.

Another Ram starter, offensive lineman Will Smith, was felled by a leg injury . . . and with still another emotional game billed for Thursday, November 5, at Fairmont, Shepherd must show its durability and attention to detail in order to handle the improving Fighting Falcons, now 5-3 after winning four of their last five games.

There won’t be 5,000 ready to raise the Rams on their vocal shoulders on Thursday in Fairmont.

But if Brown sheds the slight limp he had at the end of the West Liberty game and linebackers James Gupton, Octavius Thomas and Jaylen Johnson can blunt the Fairmont running game then the Rams will show the Fighting Falcons a nearly-full arsenal of primed weapons — including the emotional readiness they will surely need.