Shepherd Pulls Away from LHU for 62-28 Win
By BILL ALBRIGHT
EasternPAFootball Senior Writer
LOCK HAVEN – With five minutes left in the opening period of the PSAC football game between Shepherd University and Lock Haven University Thursday night, the Bald Eagles had battled the favored Rams, trailing by a 21-14 count.
However, from that point on, it was pretty much Shepherd having its own way as the Rams butted the Bald Eagles 62-28 in rainy and cold Jack Stadium.
Despite coming off a short week (they played Saturday) and the horrible weather conditions things didn’t go the way LHU head coach Dave Taynor had hoped they would.
In Saturday’s game with East Stroudsburg, the Bald Eagles were operating with two healthy quarterbacks. Unfortunately as a result of happenings in that game, both Ethan Persa and Kyle Knight went down with injuries, relegating the signal-calling duties to Gage Ocker.
Despite having limited experience at quarterback, Ocker still drew some positive comments from Taylor following the game.
“I want to commend Gage Ocker for preparing getting himself ready to go out and play tonight,” said Taynor. “We had a short week and all of a sudden we are down to our third-string quarterback. The reality of that situation is that he had not taken as many reps at quarterback as he did at tight end. It was a preparation process to get him into position. He threw two interceptions and the one was a bad choice, but the second one bounced off one guy into another guys hands. He made some mistakes, but he played hard. He made some mistakes, but he competed and did a couple of things well. He is an older freshman so he hasn’t played on a football field since the 2013 season. I worked a ton with him this week and I am very happy he got to the point where he was.
“As a team, we have to get better and that starts with taking care of the ball,” continued Taynor. “Our first two quarterbacks have a lot of experience so they didn’t make bad decisions with the ball. Overall, I thought we competed pretty well and although we gave them a couple of easy touchdowns, considering the number of freshmen and young guys we had on the field, I thought we battled relatively well. We just have to learn from this and grow from it.”
The Bald Eagles struck first when they took the initial kickoff on their own 30.
Eight plays later, Ocker called his own number from six yards out for the score. Charles Hess made it 7-0 LHU with the PAT. The big play on the drive was a 40-yard pass connection from Ocker to Williamsport Millionaire Jalen Jackson. For the game, Jackson finished the game with three catches for 64 yards.
Shepherd wasted no time getting even as on the first play following the kickoff, Deonte Glover took the ball to the house for a 75-yard touchdown.
Answering the call, the Bald Eagles went back on top 14-7 when Chantz Swartz broke through the line and outraced the Ram secondary for an 87-yard score. Hess made it 14-7 slightly more than six minutes into the game.
The game of back-and-forth, ping-pong style continued following the Swartz score when the Rams moved the ball 48 yards on five plays, Ty Hebron bulling into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown. Scriven August made it 14-14 with his second conversion.
Shepherd took its first lead of the game when Zane Lewis returned a LHU punt 67 yards for the score. August made it 21-14 Rams with five minutes still left in the opening period.
With rain pelting the Jack Stadium turf, the Rams increased their lead to 28-14 at the first turn on a 1-yard run by Glover.
After the Rams built their lead to 35-14, LHU scored its third touchdown of the game when Swartz went in from one yard out for the score. Hess’s PAT made it 35-21 Shepherd with six minutes left before halftime.
Swartz completed his fine first half with 140 yards and the pair of touchdowns. For the game, Swartz finished with a season-best 173 yards rushing, the 173 yards also a new single-game career mark for the former Juniata standout.
“Once I get a few carries under my belt I get into a little bit of a groove,” explained Swartz. “We just kept pounding the ball and running through the holes. My (offensive) line did a great job of moving people and when they made good blocks, I was just able to read off of them. They (linemen) are the guys who make the plays go and without them I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing.”
Already up 35-21, Shepherd tacked on 13 unanswered points in the third period for a commanding 48-21 lead at the turn for home.
With the game out of reach, the Bald Eagles scored their final points of the night when Ocker tossed a 3-yard pass to Camron Abalos. On the touchdown drive, Millionaire Jalen Jackson contributed with a 19-yard juggling catch to keep the drive alive.
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