Shepherd finishes undefeated season; enters playoffs
A workmanlike, 38-14, win over host Urbana meant Shepherd had spun its third unbeaten season in the last four years . . . and gave the Rams another conference championship and another berth in the NCAA Division II Super Region One playoffs.
In beating the Ohio-based Blue Knights, Shepherd completed a 10-0 regular season and was given the third-seed in the region playoffs that begin tomorrow at Ram Stadium with the Rams facing sixth-seeded Assumption (Massachusetts) at 12-noon.
Once Shepherd had moved 98 yards in 16 plays with its first possession to get a 7-0 lead, the tone of the brisk mid-Ohio afternoon had been set. Brandon Hlavach scored those points and had two more touchdowns as he ran 20 times for 133 yards as the Rams moved to a 21-0 lead with still 8:49 remaining in the second quarter.
As it had done in recent wins over conference rivals Concord and Fairmont State, it was the Shepherd defense that provided most of the polish on a sun-filled day that had a high temperature of 47 degrees.
Urbana, which finished with a 3-8 record and whose lack of stature caused the Rams to fall from the second-rated team in the Region to No. 3 in the final analysis, was limited to 340 yards of total offense while the Rams amassed 520 yards.
Shepherd rested four important players in Jake Kingston, William Smith, James King and Ryan Feiss and still won by 24 points.
Tre Sullivan had eight tackles and James Gupton had six, Jared Austin five and Tre Anderson three stops. Anderson had one of the two sacks the Rams managed. Octavius Thomas had three tackles, Myles Humphrey was credited with two stops (one for lost yardage), one sack and one forced fumble.
A Jeff Ziemba-to-C.J. Davis pass that covered 38 yards boosted the Shepherd lead to 14-0, still in the first period. And then Deonte Glover scored on a 29-yard run that had the Rams ahead, 21-0, with more than half of the second quarter left.
It was 21-7 at the half . . . but then a two-yard Hlavach run made it 28-7 with 11:37 left in the third quarter. After a second Urbana score, the Rams got a 28-yard Zach Wise field goal and carried a 31-14 lead into the final period.
Hlavach’s five-yard run finalized the scoring.
Davis had seven catches for 125 yards and usual reserve Dakwon Foreman had six receptions for 64 yards.
The Rams had a large 27-16 edge in first downs, rushed for 191 yards, passed for 329 yards and had the football for over 38 minutes.
Penalties still played a role as the Rams were flagged eight times for 121 yards.
Assumption, the first-round playoff opponent, was 9-2 overall and lost twice to second-seeded LIU-Post, the second loss coming just last week in the Northeast-10 Conference championship game.
The Greyhounds were in the 2015 playoffs where they won a first-round game.
The remainder of the Super Region One playoff field has No.-1 seed California (Pennsylvania), fourth-seeded Fairmont, fifth-seeded Indiana (Pennsylvania), and seventh-seeded Winston-Salem State (North Carolina).
Shepherd has a composite 38-2 record in its four years in the Mountain East Conference. Three of those years yielded unbeaten seasons and NCAA playoff trips.