Coach Cater has the Rams focused heading into the season opener against Notre Dame (Ohio). He has been impressed greatly by what he has seen from the team captains, and believes they all will lead the team well.

Coach Cater talks about the upcoming Football season and the Rams’ matchup against Notre Dame (Ohio) this Saturday

Anthony Bracken, Sports Editor

Monte Cater, head football coach of the Rams, sat down with The Picket to talk about Saturday’s showdown with Notre Dame (Ohio) and how the team is looking so far in practice.

Some of Cater’s comments were edited for grammatical reasons. 

During camp/practice, do you believe the team has found its identity (running, passing, etc.)?

“For a long, long time we considered just a running football team and obviously those days are gone. Jeff Ziemba threw for over 10,000 yards the time he was with us and Billy Brown has had an unbelievable career catching it and certainly is not the only one, but we lose 2,000-yard receivers. I mentioned Ryan Feiss is back and we’re glad that he is, but I think you’ve got to be, you got to have some balance. There’s going to be days when it’s not great to throw the football. There’s going to be days when you have to throw the football because the other team is committed to stopping the run. I think, along with a very mobile quarterback, that we’re going to be able to go ahead and do different things based off of what we’re going to see. You know you pound your head against it if they got nine and 10 guys trying to stop the run, but I think we got some talented people that we can still throw the football. [We have an] outstanding quarterback to throw it and our front is going to be able to go ahead and protect him, whether it’s going to be opening up holes for the running backs or keeping the quarterback standing up.” 

Has any position group in particular surprised you with their performance so far in camp/practice?

“We’ve got[ten] some great efforts but we’ve gone through some pretty hot weather and you know after awhile you get two and a half weeks to three weeks in, it is a grind. I’m pleased we stayed pretty healthy – one major injury – but I mean I think our guys have worked really, really hard. I think as a group, we’ve been able to solidify some of those losses on the offensive line. [We’re] still trying to find some things with the wide receivers. I think the defense as a whole, the pressure they’ve been able to bring from time to time and mix some things up [has been great]. We have the guys that can go ahead and make that work kind of irregardless of what we’re going to see. So I would say the defense as a whole, just some of the different things that they can do to disrupt the [other] team’s offense. I think we have some good experience at running back so that was not really a surprise cause [the] three guys have played but I don’t know if there has been real surprises in terms of, “Whoa that’s going to be great now we thought that wasn’t going to be so good.” I think there is just a lot of areas where I can see some improvement each day and that’s what it’s going to take, that and the idea that we have got to stay healthy.” 

The Rams’ defense, shown here last season, has looked particularly impressive to Cater so far.

In an interview with WDVM Sports, you said the team was going through some growing pains. Could you kind of touch on that as best as you can?

“I think when you lose 19 seniors there’s going to be some places where you’re going to be a little thinner. You can bring the recruiting class in, you try to find some transfers – although typically most of our team is made up of high school players who are with us for four or five years – but you look at that and say, “There’s a lot of those faces [who] are gone.” We got a chance to see that a little bit in spring practice that those guys aren’t out there anymore and you’re still looking around a little bit, but I think that helps our returning guys step up. They’ve got a chance to go ahead and play more. They got a chance to finally play. Their redshirt deal is over, so you know, I think our guys have really responded well. Now do we have do to some things better? Yeah. Has it been a great camp in terms of having success every day? No. When you play against yourself every day, just like in the spring, if the offense is doing well, you’re worried about the defense. If the defense is doing well, then you’re worried about the offense. [If] We’re punting the ball out of bounds for a ten-yard punt then that’s not so good either, but I think all of those things have enabled us to go ahead and just like a big melting pot, try to keep working on those things. Find the guys that need to replace the guys that are gone. Find the guys [that] can step up if somebody gets injured or beat up a little bit. And I think that we have grown an awful lot in camp. I think the time has helped us. We have to beat each other up so bad that we got a whole bunch of guys that that now can’t play, but you got to take each day that you have and make some improvements, and I think most of those days we’ve been able to do just that.” 

Are there any additional challenges that you have encountered this offseason?

“Each year is going to start out with some big challenges, obviously with that first game, but you know, in our level, not having the full funding that you’re allowed to have with the 36 scholarships, you’re kind of trying to find your way with 27 or 28 [scholarships]. There’s a big, big difference, and because we’ve played fourteen games both [of] the last two years, you know you’re backup guys have got to play. And because it’s just a long grind, and you know we’re gonna be thin in some spots and we’re going to have to rely on some inexperience or we’re going to have to rely on a newcomer, but I think that’s one of the things that this preseason camp has been able to go ahead and give us just a little bit more time, get a little bit better idea who [if] we’re going to redshirt this guy or he’s going to probably have to play and we want to redshirt him but we can’t cause he needs to go ahead and be with us, so we got a lot of things that we’ve got to do and I think the biggest thing is we have got to be consistent and we have to try and stay healthy.” 

What kinds of abilities and knowledge does senior quarterback Connor Jessop bring to the table?

“You know Connor Jessop has had to go in big games for us. The Grand Valley game in 2015, he has to play the whole thing and he’s the one that got us into the National Championship. He played the whole game down in West Virginia State last year. He was the one that went in and got us the touchdown that pretty much sealed the win up in California in that ball game up in their place this past year, so he’s been, while he’s not been the starter always, he’s been in big game[s] for us and he’s able to go ahead and get it done. Great leader, got some talent, strong arm, he can run. He’s a big kid, he can see, but I think his decision making is very good. Our quarterbacks have to do a lot of things before the ball is snapped as well as afterwards and the idea that he’s mobile enough to move around, I think those things are going to be really big plusses for us this year, but you know our kids believe in him, we do, because he’s a known quantity. And he’ll be the starter at the beginning of the season this year and there’s no doubt that he’s going to help lead us to the success that we can have.” 

Ziemba, shown here last season, leaves behind a great legacy, but Cater believes that Jessop can more than fill the void that Ziemba left.

With all of the success you have had here, how do you continue to get your team to play with the same effort and intensity each week and not get complacent?

“Complacent football teams get beat and those games you know you shouldn’t lose and you take somebody lightly and we know irregardless of why that we’re going to get a great effort by anybody that plays us, whether it’s going to be here in Shepherdstown or whether it’s going to be on the road. I’d like to think that you’ve earned that respect but everybody wants to knock off the team that’s supposed to be good or that’s supposed to win a conference championship and you know, being picked first again, that’s not brand new. Based on what we lost, I was a little surprised, but you know it’s like they’re going to keep voting you number one as long as you keep winning it and that’s a sign of respect. However, you want a piece of that if you’re trying to play somebody like that. We would too, so that’s the natural way of things, but you know I think our kids are going to be ready to go. One thing, I think they understand what’s at stake and you know you let one get away that you shouldn’t, what that does to your chances to win a championship or hopefully get into some postseason play.”

The video below shows Cater talking about how the Rams plan on replacing the production that former quarterback Jeff Ziemba and receiver Billy Brown brought to the table.

What sort of pride does it fill you with knowing that you and Shepherd have been able to send players to the NFL, when not many schools on the Division II level can say that?

“I think part of it matches up. You’re going to get players in the NFL that you know they had to have made a great contribution to whatever success we’ve had. And one of the first ones that we had, that’s in recent times, was Dom Jones, who was a tight end for us and he’s six years in, so he’s going to get a little retirement money, but you know he only spent one semester with us, but at the same time, as he graduates from Liberty University, he’s a Shepherd football player. He’s made that known wherever he’s gone and that’s been about six different NFL teams. Howard Jones was another one that now has gone through some injuries, has been able to go ahead and put himself in position to have some success in the NFL. Now he’s hurt and I think he was cleared yesterday and he’s getting an awful lot of phone calls to try to get back in it, be with somebody else. Shaneil Jenkins has been with a couple teams, and he’s kind of in between teams right now, but the last two, Tre Sullivan, he’s just a fierce hitter. But you know Tre Sullivan is somebody that’s having some success and it’s [with] the Philadelphia Eagles. And of course Billy Brown also. I think that the thing with Billy is as tremendous an athlete as he was as a wide receiver, you know trying to transition that big body that he has into a tight end [is going to be challenging]. Well he’s going to be a great pass-catching tight end. He had the most receptions the other night in a NFL preseason game, not for a lot of yards, but he’s working in more of a confined space, but at the same time, as a tight end, he’s going to be a great receiver. As a tight end he hasn’t had to block that caliber [of] player before because he was always out on the edge for us, so they’re challenged, you go ahead and you sign as a free agent. It’s a little bit different than getting drafted. [The] money is usually different, but you know we have high hopes for those guys and even if it’s not something where they get to stick with the team or they make a practice squad, they’ve done great, great things for Shepherd and we’re excited about where they are right now and what type of things can happen.”

Yani Meda, Info Graphic Designer

I saw that the captains were just recently elected, and at least a majority of them were seniors. Could you kind of touch on their leadership and what they bring to the table as leaders?

“I like the captains. You know in some places, it’s just, “Well he’s a really good player, he should be a captain,” and that’s not going to be the deal. Connor Jessop is going to be a great leader, some of that comes with being a quarterback. Jeff Ziemba was a captain for us too. And that one makes some sense cause he’s going to direct so many things, but younger quarterbacks don’t always get that role. You look at Lavonte Hights, he’s a returning All-American. He’s getting some looks by the NFL, so you know he’s somebody that I know is going to help solidify the new faces that we’re going to have on that offensive line. On defense we really had three guys, Myles Humphrey, gosh, just what a great young man. He heads our FCA, he’s a returning All-Region player, and he’s an academic All-American – there’s not very may things you could ask for somebody like that. James Gupton is just a fierce, fierce hitter, a little quiet maybe for a guy that’s a captain. He’s going to probably show some of his leadership by how hard he plays and how much [he] expects those around him to play just as hard. And Tre Anderson is another guy that I know has played multiple positions for us, more of a safety, but he’s been a linebacker, he’s got some skills as a return guy, so you know I think it’s a nice mix. We got three guys pretty much on defense and two on offense, but you know, we go by what our players want and what they see as the people that they want to follow towards whatever success that we can have this year.”

Tre Anderson, pictured here last season, is one of the team captains that Cater and the rest of the football team are counting on to help lead the Rams on and off the field.

What is it going to take to come out with a win against Notre Dame (Ohio) on Saturday?

“You know, [with] a highly-rate opponent like Notre Dame, you have got to make sure that certainly you’re set to go. I think cause this has been the longest camp we’ve had since I’ve been here – and that’s a lot of camps – but being able to start as early because the NCAA no longer allows you to have double sessions. [This] gave you a few days and then we’re starting classes later this year than we have so we’ve gained some ground. [We’re] going to have you know close to three weeks of camp before we go ahead and play, and I think that gives us a chance to not so much install more things. You still got to go ahead and be able to do the things that you have to do well, but it’s going to give us a chance I think [to] be in a little bit better position to go ahead and open the season time-wise than maybe we’ve had in the past.” 

Recently, it was announced that the West Virginia Radio Corporations stations WICL (95.9 The Big Dawg) and 93.7/1340 WEPM in Martinsburg will be broadcasting football games and men’s basketball. Every football game will be broadcasted on 95.9 and starting with this Saturday’s game. The men’s basketball games will be covered on 93.7/1340 WEPM and when the season starts.

The Rams square off against the Falcons this Saturday at home in a 12:00 p.m. matchup with plenty on the line. In a poll for August 28, the Rams are ranked seventh, so expectations, as they always are for the Rams, are shy-high (

Information about how and where the Shepherd football and men’s basketball games will be broadcasted was retrieved from Shepherd Initiatives and News Vol. 2, No. 3, July 21, 2017.

Anthony Bracken is the Sports Editor of The Picket. He can be reached at 

The video below shows Cater talking about how the Rams plan on replacing the production that former quarterback Jeff Ziemba and receiver Billy Brown brought to the table.

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