Rams Head Coach Monte Cater is the only name that Rams alumni and fans have known for 31 years since he got his start at Shepherd University in 1987.
During his time as Shepherd’s head coach, Cater became the winningest active coach in the NCAA regardless of division with 274 career victories at the time of his retirement announcement. Cater’s overall record of 274-93-1 would put him sixth on the all-time wins list regardless of division behind names like Penn State coach Joe Paterno and University of Alabama coach Bear Bryant.
Cater amassed an extensive list of accomplishments during his tenure with the Rams, including his most recent coach of the year award from the Vince Lombardi Foundation in 2016. Cater coached the Rams to 17 conference titles across two conferences in the WVIAC and the MEC.
He also retires as the all-time winningest coach in West Virginia at the college level. Cater led the Rams to six undefeated regular seasons through two different decades.
“Coach Cater was best at teaching and keeping guys on track,” said lineman Cole Weaver, a redshirt freshmen.
Rams defensive line coach Sam Daniels spoke highly of Cater.
“Cater is great at treating everybody the same way… genuinely Coach Cater treated everyone the same, and no matter what the situation was he would sit down and talk to you at any point,” Daniels said. “He’s not a real rah-rah guy, but when he speaks you know it’s important and you need to listen. And his most distinctive quality to me is he knows exactly the right time to talk to players or exactly when to go to coaches who messed up.”
Longtime assistant offensive coordinator Ernie McCook will take over for as Rams head coach at the end of the spring term.
“I feel really confident with Coach McCook,” Daniels said. “He definitely has a grasp of exactly what he wants done because he’s adjusting to the way the program is going and he’s not trying to hold onto things that made Shepherd great in the past.”
The following is a look back at games and other notable moments from the most dominant years of Shepherd football under Cater’s control.
- The first undefeated regular season came in 2005 when the Rams were still a part of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic conference. The 2005 Rams finished with an 11-1 record, losing to Long Island University post in the regional championship round, but finished the season with the ninth conference title from the start of his tenure.
The ’05 Rams had one of their best offenses under Cater, as they averaged just under 35 points per game throughout the season, including four games of 40 points or more.
- The Rams repeated as conference champs in the 2006 season, losing to Bloomsburg. The ’06 season also saw one of Cater’s best recruits, safety Dan Peters, who tied the NCAA Division II single-season record in interceptions with 14. In the game against Bloomsburg, Peters picked off three passes in the three-point loss.
- In 2010, Cater earned his first Super Region One title with the Rams as they defeated Mercyhurst in the conference title round. The win against Mercyhurst was a breakthrough, as Shepherd had great difficulty against the school in years past. The final score of that game on Dec.4, 2010, was a dominating 49-14 win for Shepherd, which saw the running game dominate from start to finish to the tune of 261 yards.
The Rams could not be stopped on the ground that day thanks to running backs Tommy Addison and Nate Hoyte. Hoyte totaled 115 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 17 carries for an average rush of 6.4 yards per carry. His backfield mate Addison added 137 rushing yards and two touchdowns of his own on 15 carries, averaging 9.0 yards per carry in the process.
- The 2010 season ended one game shy of the NCAA II championship game, as they fell to Delta State 29-17.
- Cater had his third undefeated regular season with the Rams in 2013, including an undefeated road record (5-0), with the only loss coming in the Super Region round at home to West Chester by a 28-7 score.
- During that season the Rams had one of their largest margins of victory under Cater with a 57-17 win against Notre Dame College in the Rams seventh game of the season. The staple running game of the Shepherd offense showed up once more as three Rams backs: Allen Cross (115 yards, 2 TD), Jabre Lolley (88 yards, 1 TD) and Jihad Rasheed all had at least 50 yards rushing. Shepherd totaled 263 rushing yards on that October afternoon.
- The 2015 and 2016 seasons served as the best two-year stretch for the football team under Cater, with two more undefeated regular seasons and two consecutive Super Region One titles.
- On Dec. 12 of the 2015 season, the Rams won their regional round contest of the season when they faced Grand Valley State thanks in large part to senior running back Allen Cross and junior wideout Billy Brown. The two combined for 293 of the Rams 370 total yards of offense and 4 touchdowns. Shepherd barely held off a late surge from Grand Valley to leave with a 34-32 win.
- The 2015 season may have been the best collection of talent assembled under Cater, as the team made it to the NCAA Division II National Championship Game for the first time in school history when they faced the number one ranked team in the nation in Northwest Missouri State University.
- The 2016 season continued much of the momentum of the previous team, as they again made an appearance in the NCAA Division II semifinals. In the sixth game of the ’16 season, the Rams put up 70 points against West Virginia State, leading to a 46-point margin of victory. This was easily one of the best (if not the best) outputs offensively for a Cater-coached team for a single game, as the Rams compiled 804 total yards of total offense.
- Junior quarterback Connor Jessup threw for an astounding 480 yards and five touchdowns in that game. Five Rams players totaled at least 30 yards rushing for a total of 318 yards on the day.
- This dominant two-year stretch of football for Shepherd and Cater was recognized by the reception of two consecutive Lambert awards rewarded for supremacy in Eastern college football. The Rams overall record from the two years was 26-2.
Information from Sports Reference was used in this article.
Vaughn Brewer is a sports writer for The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com