The Shippensburg University football team hung tough against 2022 NCAA Division II national semifinalists Shepherd in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Eastern Division battle Saturday at Ram Stadium, losing 30-23.
Shippensburg (1-4, 1-1 PSAC East) freshman Sam Stoner (York, Pa./William Penn (West Virginia)) made a positive impact in what was his first collegiate start at quarterback, converting 19-of-35 passing attempts for 272 yards and rushing for a pair of touchdowns. Junior Jaxson Montross (Tunkhannock, Pa./Tunkhannock Area) also helped keep the scoreline close, converting three field goal attempts of 40-or-more yards.
Shepherd (4-1, 1-1) used 16 consecutive first half points to play the role of front-runner. They edged the Raiders in total yardage 354-to-320. Rams’ QB Seth Morgan threw for 254 yards and pair of touchdowns in the win.
Montross provided the Raiders with the initial lead with a season-long 45-yard field goal on the visitors’ opening drive.
Shepherd’s Nazhir Russell would close the first quarter with a six-yard TD run, and a blocked Shippensburg punt attempt would result in a safety on the Raiders’ next drive, resulting in a 9-3 deficit.
Shepherd would add a second touchdown with 43 ticks remaining in the half on a six-yard pass from Morgan to Cameron Dorner, but Shippensburg would get some momentum back with a Montross 43-yard field goal just before the halftime whistle, 16-6.
The Raiders received the ball to begin the second half, where they then engineered an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive to trim the margin to just three points, 16-13. Stoner sparked the drive with a 34-yard deep ball to junior Redd Douglas (Youngstown, Ohio/Chaney (Wooster)) on third down, and capped it with a 12-yard run to paydirt.
Shepherd tailback Malakai Brown broke a 43-yard TD run late in the third to stem the tide for the hosts.
Montross added a 40-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter before the Rams seemingly put the game away with a 16-play, 86-yard TD drive that ate almost eight minutes of fourth-quarter clock. Morgan connected with receiver Barry Hill from 30 yards out for the Ram score.
Stoner and company continued to make a game of it, however, driving down to the Shepherd 14 yard-line in less than three minutes of game time on their next possession, but a sack on fourth and short resulted in a turnover on downs.
A Shepherd three-and-out gave the Raiders another opportunity, and this time they grabbed it, traveling 62 yards on 11 plays in just 2:03 to reach the endzone. A 25-yard catch by freshman Karim Brice (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty) on fourth down kept the drive alive for Stone, who eventually ran it in from 5-yards to make it a one possession game with 14 second left, 30-23.
The Raiders attempted an unsuccessful onside kick in the waning moments, wrapping up the Shepherd win.
With the agile Stoner behind center, Shippensburg had some of its longest sustained drives of the season. They won the possession battle against the Rams 32:46-to-27:14 and the first down battle 20-to-17.
Redshirt-freshman Jaimen Bryant (Somerville, N.J./Somerville) led the Raider receiving corps with five receptions for 92 yards. Douglas added six catches for 90 yards.
Redshirt-sophomore Tanner Hess (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield) followed up his 100-yard performance last week against Bloomsburg with 43 yards on the ground.
Brown finished with 87 yards rushing on 16 carries for the Rams.
Sophomore Dechaune “DJ” Jackson (Philadelphia, Pa./Science Leadership Academy at Beeber) had a career-best game for the Raiders defensively. Jackson led the visitors with nine tackles, including seven solo, added a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
The SU defense got to Morgan four times Saturday, with sacks from redshirt-sophomore Jeremiah Carothers (Carlisle, Pa./Carlisle Area), Redshirt-sophomore Garrett David (Mansfield, Pa./North Penn-Mansfield), redshirt-sophomore Terrance Peterson Jr. (Hopewell, N.J./Hopewell Valley Central) and senior Jacoby Sherard (Lawrenceville, N.J./Lawrenceville).
Redshirt-junior Isaiah Gilmore (West Lawn, Pa./Wilson) added an interception.
The Raiders return to action Saturday with a home date against the West Chester Golden Rams. Kick-off from Seth Grove Stadium is slated for 1 p.m.