It took all 60 minutes for the Shepherd Rams to earn the 38-17 victory over the West Liberty university Hilltopers, as they kept their perfect season intact and return to Shepherdstown 8-0.
The Rams opened up the scoring just minutes into the game when quarterback Jeff Ziemba found receiver Billy Brown from 22 yards out to give the Rams a 7-0 lead. Shepherd and West Liberty swapped scores for the rest of the first quarter, including a 3-yard rush from Ziemba, giving Shepherd a 14-10 lead after one quarter of play.
The score remained 14-10 until the final minute of the first half when the Hilltoppers’ Jeremiah Ortiz found the end zone from 6 yards out giving West Liberty a 16-14. A field goal by the Rams Zach Wise as time expired gave Shepherd the 17-16 advantage heading into the half.
West Liberty regained the lead at 19-17 after a field goal from Chris Morris. The Hilltopper would be short lived as Shepherd quickly found the end zone again when Zeimba again found Brown this time from 4 yards out, making the score 24-19 after three quarters of play.
Ziemba opened the fourth quarter score punching the ball in from a yard out extending the lead to 31-19. West Liberty would not back down taking the ball and charging down the field on their next drive and finding the end zone again putting them behind just 4 at 27-31. On a late third down and long for the Rams, with under 2 minutes remaining , it looked as if the Hilltoppers would get one more shot to drive down and take the lead, but running back Brandon Hlavach had other ideas, bouncing off five tacklers and finding the end zone to seal the victory for Shepherd at 38-27.
Ziemba added another stellar game to his senior season finishing the day 20-31 for 303 yards and four total touchdowns. His favorite target on the day was once again Billy Brown who brought in eight receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Hlavach led the ground attack gaining 86 yards on 17 carries.
The Rams defense gave up a season high 27 points in the victory, but managed to make a key stop when needed. Octavious Thomas led the Rams defense finishing the day with 13 tackles.
The Rams will welcome undefeated Fairmont State next Saturday Nov. 5, on senior night hoping to remain undefeated and gain sole possession of first place in the mountain east conference. Kickoff will be at noon with senior day festivities taking place before kickoff