Things were back to normal at Shepherd College following last Saturday's football game against Concord in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
A field goal in the final eight seconds had given Concord a three-point victory, marking Shepherd's fourth straight loss to the team. Concord has been the only team to beat the Rams on the field the past three seasons. (Shepherd forfeited three games last year because one of the players was academically ineligible.)
By winning its first six games, Shepherd had vaulted to the No. 3 ranking among NAIA schools; the setback dropped them to 10th. Despite that, the hearts of more than a few families in the Washington, D.C., area have been gladdened by the Rams' prominence. One-third of Shepherd's 60-man roster calls the D.C. area home.
"This is probably one of my better all-around teams," said Coach Walter Barr, who in 1971 took over a program that had produced only two winning seasons in eight campaigns. Under Barr, the Rams have had winning seasons every year but one.
Shepherd recruits within a 70-mile radius of the campus - one of the five coaches personally visits each high school in that area.
"We try to stress that it's a little over an hour's drive from Washington," said Barr. "Because of the proximity, the students here are more oriented toward Washington and Baltimore than to the rest of West Virginia." Only nine members of the Ram squad are from the Mountain State.
Barr added, "Our goal every year is to get a few good athletes rather than a lot of players at each position. I believe our players are just a fraction under those in major colleges in ability."
The fruits of Shepherd's recruiting include senior defensive end Larry Salley, whose older brother Ernie played for the University of Maryland. "Larry's got great speed and talent," said Barr. Salley, a 6-foot-2 224-pounder, runs the 40 in 4.7 seconds, made all-conference last season and has recorded six quarterback sacks this year.
Salley, who played at Oxon Hill High School, was wooed by Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and others. "I didn't want to go to Maryland because I would be in my brother's shadow," said Salley. "The recruiters told me I could start as a freshman here. At first I was skeptical, but after visiting Shepherd I was impressed with the overall program.
"It's completely different here. Everybody knows you, the air is clean and there are lots of outdoor activities . . . canoeing and hiking."
Salley's defensive line mate, 210-pound tackle Tim Cook of Falls Church's Stuart High, also made All-WVIAC last season.
Although Shepherd is small (enrollment: 3,000), the football practices require a big heart. Late summer practices call for three full-equipment workouts per day and there is a grueling weight program required of all players.
"I feel that they have to be totally committed to football, to pay the extra price," explained Barr, a former quarterback at the school. "The players stay in good physical shape and very rarely get beat in close games. Plus, the extra strength they develop results in a great deal of confidence and eliminates injuries."
Barr said that an average of from eight to 10 players drop out because of the offseason weight program and another 12 to 15 leave during the first week of three-a-days.
One who didn't is 230-pound fullback Gregg Warfield of Baltimore, who recently surpassed 3,000 career yards rushing. Warfield, recruited by Clemson and Colorado State, said he did not believe Shepherd when he was told he would carry the ball 30 times a game.
"At first," said Warfield, "I thought they were putting me on. I said, 'What kind of con artists are they?' But they never lied."
Warfield, halfbacks Ken Russell of Potomac High in Hillcrest, Md., and Wayne Wilson, Ellicott City, Md., are given numerous chances in the Rams' run-oriented offense. Shepherd sets up a fullhouse backfield, uses two tight ends, alternates two quarterbacks and throws the ball every other leap year.
Wilson, who along with Salley has drawn the attention of pro scouts, covers the 40 in 4.5, averages 5.2 yards per carry off the Rams' option offense and can bench press 395 pounds. "He will probably be drafted," said Barr. Russell completes the sprinter backfield with his 9.8 speed in the 100.
The team is not hurting for fan support, drawing 4-5,000 spectators per game. Shepherdstown has a population of fewer than 2,000.
Some of the fans go to great lengths to follow the Rams on road games. One was refused a spot on the team bus for a game at Baldwin-Wallace. So a team member stuffed the veteran Ram-watcher in a duffel bag that then was placed in the bus' luggage compartment. He arrived hot, half-suffocated but happy.