After trip to national semifinals, where will Shepherd land in 2022? | News, Sports, Jobs

Anybody scanning Shepherd University’s preseason football team roster will quickly see that Harlon Hill Trophy recipient Tyson Bagent is returning at quarterback for the 2022-2023 school year. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Shepherd used its last-seconds magic to reach all the way to the national semifinals in 2021.

Will this season’s Rams win another 13 games and scramble through the Super Region One playoffs like they did a year ago?

Anybody scanning Shepherd’s preseason roster will quickly see that Harlon Hill Trophy recipient Tyson Bagent returns at quarterback. He threw for 5,000 yards last season. And he completed final-play scoring passes against both Notre Dame and Kutztown to get Shepherd wins in the pulsating playoffs.

Bagent has quicksilver receiver Ryan Beach with him again. Helping the Rams and a new offensive coordinator will be all-conference candidates Joey Fisher and Adam Stilley on the interior line.

Running backs Ronnie Brown and Avaughn Holley should provide the well-thought-of Rams with rushing yardage.

The defense seems less settled and could be an early-season work in progress.

Fewer starters from last year are back and no all-conference standouts give their defensive talents to the cause.

Kyle Smith is an all-out effort kind of defensive end and Enelio Pena and Terrell Lindsey are returning starters. Matt Bednarski worked his way into the starting lineup by the end of the season.

But the PSAC is not a league where learning by your mistakes is often allowed.

Kutztown is the defending East Division winner as well as the league’s overall champion from 2021. The other two more mencing teams from the East Division to Shepherd’s chances are West Chester and Shippensburg — both of whom the Rams have to meet on the road.

The West Division has three teams with national stature in Slippery Rock, California and Indiana.

The three West Division teams on Shepherd’s schedule this year are Edinboro, California and Mercyhurst. The lone non-conference game happens to be the season opener on Sept. 1 at Southern Connecticut State.

There weren’t many areas that needed upgrading concerning the 2021 glory days, but the punting game was one of them. And making field goals was always a gray area that could have used improvement.

Shepherd has always been able to bring in contributing replacements from its annual lode of transfers. Attempting to figure just how competent the Rams will be can’t be done with much confidence until the capabilities of its transfers can be evaluated.

Kutztown’s defense, West Chester’s overall skills, Shippensburg’s continued rise, Slippery Rock’s scoring punch, California’s team-wide athleticism and Indiana’s yearly competence are all in Shepherd’s path this season.

But the Rams have ways to exploit opponent’s weaknesses . . . and they have varied ways to win other than with their obvious tradition and large fan following.

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