Cater’s 30th season could mean more Shepherd laurels
Monte Cater came from the state of Wisconsin to Shepherd for the 1987 season. He will begin his 30th football season as the coaching leader of the Rams on Sept. 3 when conference opponent West Virginia Wesleyan visits Ram Stadium.
Cater and the Rams were last seen at home in the NCAA Division II semifinals in mid-December of 2015 when they tamed nationally-prominent Grand Valley State (Michigan), 34-32, before an appreciative audience of close to 7,000 Ram-strong fans.
That eye-opening victory was Cater’s 251st as a college coach and made his record at Shepherd read 221-91-1.
Here are some numbers from just the past six Shepherd seasons under Cater’s guidance:
** 4 national playoff appearances
** 2 Mountain East Conference titles and 2 WVIAC championships
** 2 Super Region One championships
** 1 appearance in the national semifinals
** 1 appearance in the national championship game
** An overall record of 61-11
** A record of 28-2 in Mountain East Conference games
Cater and Shepherd have evolved some since the 1987 season.
The now 67-year-old coach was also the school’s athletic director from 1993-2004.
In his successful tenure at Shepherd, Cater has won 12 WVIAC championships and two of the three Mountain East Conference championships that have been available.
With his WVIAC credentials in place for all to see, he was that league’s all-time winningest coach before that conference was disbanded after the 2012-13 school year.
Facilities at Shepherd have been ungraded in the previous 29 seasons Cater led the Rams.
However, Shepherd has never had the number of grants, scholarships, waivers or finances most of the WVIAC and Mountain East schools have had. And Shepherd can’t match 15 of the 16 schools in finances that comprise the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, one of the four leagues comprising Super Region One.
In Cater’s three decades at Shepherd, there have have four players to play in the NFL — defensive back James Rooths, kicking specialist Ricky Schmitt, linebacker Howard Jones and tight end Dominique Jones.
One player from the 2015 team — defensive lineman Shaneil Jenkins — was still on the roster of the Dallas Cowboys as of Aug. 19.
What does the 2016 season hold?
Cater has seven regulars returning to his defense and another seven returning to his offense. His special teams have much-decorated players in place.
There are at least seven experienced interior offensive linemen from the 13-1 team of 2015.
Linebackers James Gupton and Octavius Thomas are as valuable as any player at their position the Mountain East
Wide receiver Billy Brown had nearly 1,500 yards in pass receptions last season.
Cater must replace both his primary running backs and placekicker Ryan
Earls is gone from a year ago.
Brown is the lone receiver with many catches or many yards.
After the illustrious 2015 season, Cater was voted the Mickey Furfari Award at the state’s college coach of the year for all sports and at any level.
This is his 30th season at Shepherd.
And it could be a year filled with wins, full-house crowds, a playoff berth . . . and another conference championship or co-championship.