Last week, the Shepherd University Rams knew that they had claimed at least a piece of the final WVIAC title. By taking care of business against the Fairmont State Fighting Falcons, the Rams guaranteed that it would be their name and their name alone for the final football title in the history of the conference.
Fairmont was the first on the scoreboard. Kicker Johnny Dearstine connected on a 34-yard field goal with 10:00 left in the first quarter to give the Fighting Falcons a 3-0 lead.
Shepherd answered the Fighting Falcons’ warning shot when former Michigan Wolverine Jihad Rasheed scored from a yard out with 5:34 left in the first quarter. As he has done so many times this season, Ryan Earls added the point after.
With 54 seconds left in the quarter, true freshman tailback Allen Cross scored from 3 yards out to take the lead to ten. Once again, Earls added the point after.
The Shepherd lead was cut to four with 12:59 left in the half. Fairmont quarterback Bobby Vega found Kendrick Washington for a 5-yard touchdown pass. The Fighting Falcons took the lead late in the first half when Vega found Chris St. Hilaire for a 6-yard touchdown pass. David Carter blocked the point after.
With 58 seconds left, Rasheed would give the Rams the lead. His 1-yard plunge took the score to 20-16, while Earls’ point after took the lead to five.
That wasn’t the last scoring play of the half, however. With 18 seconds left, senior quarterback Bobby Cooper found true freshman receiver Billy Brown from 23 yards out to take the lead to 28-16. Earls once again added the point after.
The Rams took a commanding 35-16 lead with 8:10 left in the third quarter. Cooper found Trevor Turner for a 46-yard touchdown pass. Earls tacked on the point after touchdown.
Then, with 56 seconds left in the third, Cooper found William & Mary transfer Dalton Boyd for a 44-yard touchdown pass. With 8:18 left in the game, Cross added the final Shepherd score of the regular season. His touchdown run from 2 yards out gave the Rams 49 points.
Tyler Pate threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Sean Marion with 2:25 left in the game, bringing the final score to 49-23 in favor of the Rams. Several players had outstanding games, including senior quarterback Bobby Cooper. He threw for a school record 430 yards and three touchdowns on 27-of-38 passing.
Jihad Rasheed had 17 attempts for 95 yards and two touchdowns, while Marcus Smoot gained 42 yards on just seven carries. Freshman Allen Cross also added two touchdowns, while rushing for 33 yards on 12 attempts.
Larry Lowe and Billy Brown each caught seven balls apiece, while Mac MacKenzie added four catches for 53 yards. Trevor Turner caught three passes for 57 yards.
Earls had a strong day for the Rams. “It really is cool knowing that we claimed the final WVIAC title, but now it’s time to move on and focus on the postseason,” the redshirt freshman kicker told The Picket.
De’Ontre Johnson led the team with seven total tackles, while cornerback D.J. Scott added two interceptions. Defensive end Howard Jones, inside linebacker A.J. Parrish and Tim Durant each had one sack for the Rams.
“It was a total team effort on our side of the ball. I was pumped to see all my teammates playing hard so we could get that final WVIAC title,” sophomore linebacker Nick Pugh said. “We all wanted this one for coach Cater.”
The Rams’ next opponent was unknown at press time. They will most likely face either the University of New Haven or Bloomsburg. This is the Rams’ first playoff appearance since the 2010-2011 academic year.