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Shepherd, Glenville vie for WVC lead

Chip Ellis
Shepherd's Shaneil Jenkins tries to bat down a pass by West Virginia State QB Ricky Phillips.

CHARLESTON -- The West Virginia Conference football championship will likely be decided Saturday when Shepherd and Glenville State, tied atop the league standings, meet in a noon showdown at Shepherdstown.

The Rams and Pioneers are the only WVC teams with just one conference loss, both standing at 5-1 in WVC games. With just one game left in the regular season after Saturday, the Glenville-Shepherd winner will nail down at least a share of the regular-season title.

Shepherd's inclusion in the championship picture comes as no surprise, as the Rams (6-2 overall) were the No. 1 team in the WVC preseason poll. On the other hand, Glenville (5-4) was picked to finish sixth in the conference in the preseason.

The Pioneers ride a league-best three-game winning streak into Saturday's game, including last week's 14-10 win over the University of Charleston, vaulting Glenville State ahead of UC (7-2, 4-2) in the late-season standings while ending the Golden Eagles' four-game winning streak.

Like UC, Glenville's bread and butter is its running attack, led by freshman tailback Rahmann Lee, who has rushed for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 112.9 yards per game and 6.4 per carry. In last week's home win over UC, Lee rushed for 128 yards.

The Pioneers, though, will be facing NCAA Division II's top-rated defense against the run. Shepherd yields a microscopic 39.1 yards per game and a measly 1.4 yards per carry.

UC can attest to the strength of Shepherd's rush defense. The Golden Eagles, whose ground game ranks No. 1 in the WVC (and 14th nationally) with 233.8 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry, were limited to 47 rushing yards in the loss to the Rams. UC's Jordan Roberts, who ranks ahead of Lee with a WVC-best 1,210 rushing yards (134.4 per game), was held to just 20 yards on 12 carries against Shepherd.

Shepherd defeated Glenville State 37-20 in Glenville in last year's meeting, but the Pioneers have prevailed against the Rams in their last two trips to Shepherdstown, winning 28-24 in 2010 and 21-14 in 2008.

With Saturday's showdown putting the winner in the driver's seat for the WVC championship, Glenville State closes out the regular season next week at home against winless Seton Hill (0-9, 0-7) while Shepherd finishes with a home game against Fairmont State (3-5, 3-3).

UC, which lost to both Shepherd and Glenville, and Concord (5-4, 4-2) are still mathematically alive for a share of the conference title.

Concord, which handed Glenville State its only league loss to date (14-9 on Oct. 6) faces West Liberty (5-4, 4-3) Saturday and finishes up at West Virginia Wesleyan (3-6, 2-4) on Nov. 10.

The University of Charleston visits Wesleyan for a 1 p.m. game Saturday and closes out the season against West Virginia State (2-7, 1-5) Nov. 10 at UC Stadium.

Also Saturday, West Virginia State is at Fairmont State and Seton Hill visits St. Anselm (1-8) of Manchester, N.H.

Reach Nick Scala at 304-348-7947 or nscala@wvgazette.com.

 


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