SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va. (WDVM) – Almost two years ago; on November 30th, 2019; the Shepherd Rams played their last meaningful game, making their exit from the NCAA DII Championships, with a 51-30 loss to Slippery Rock.
In less than 12 days, the Rams will head to Columbus, Ohio; to take on Ohio Dominican for the start of their 2021-2022 campaign.
“Just to be able to coach football, and to have officials throw flags; is a welcoming sight.” said Head Coach Ernie McCook, when asked how challenging was it without Shepherd Football. “We’re looking forward to all the things you don’t like, and the things you really love. We can’t wait to kick it off, we love being together, we love coaching the game, we love playing the game, and being around the game of football.”
On August 21st, the football team held their Media Day; ending with an open scrimmage allowing fans, and members of the media a chance to watch the Rams in Ram Stadium.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic; the Rams were kept away from a football field, until April 10th, 2021; for a single game against Mercyhurst University. Despite limited action, members of the team had to find their own ways to stay ready.
“Being home, and trying to simulate football things; but you can’t simulate football.” said Chris Layne. “Just gotta study a lot, look through your playbook, and re-evaluate yourself as a player. Know what you did, find all the things wrong, and try to make yourself better.”
Head Coach Ernie McCook confirmed there were 26 seniors on this team, 13 of whom are graduate students, exercising their 5th year of eligibility, as granted by the NCAA.
“Well thankfully there’s not many young guys. We’re a pretty veteran group.” said graduate student Alex Wetzel. “Especially on the offensive side. We got a couple of freshman coming in. The tight end group, we’re all coming back. Thankfully everybody knows the offense, usually gel together pretty good. Offensive line is also pretty veteran.”
“When you see guys that say ‘hey I’m gonna put off my professional career, so I can go and play the game of football.’ it just – I feel the burden of – I better do a daggone good job for them.” said Coach McCook. “I feel that, we need to do a good job, for all the kids that have made sacrifices, to be here.”
Back in 2019, in their first season with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), the Rams lost to Ohio Dominican 24-21, at home.
“We thought we outplayed them, made some mistakes, had turned the ball over which is something we can’t do, and we know that now.” said senior quarterback Tyson Bagent. “I think they’re going to come in with a good football team, a well coached team, and we’re gonna do the same, and hope for a good battle.”