KUTZTOWN, Pa. — Shepherd developed a bit of a rivalry with Kutztown during the Rams’ brief time in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
The pair have been the top two teams in the Eastern Division for the past two seasons, with Kutztown first and Shepherd second in the final standings.
The Bears own the regular season and Shepherd the playoffs.
While Kutztown won regular-season championships in 2019 and 2021, with Shepherd second, the Bears fell victim to the Rams in the playoffs. Shepherd has won regional championships at the expense of Kutztown, with those wins coming in 2010 and 2021.
“I hope the visiting team will win again this year,” joked Shepherd coach Ernie McCook.
The Rams visit Andre Reed Stadium for a midday game to take on Kutztown in the Premier League game of the season.
The Rams are 3-0 and the Golden Bears are 2-1.
The previous four games between the two programs have been decided by score.
The most exciting game came in the playoffs last season when Tyson Bagent’s Hail Mary pass landed in the hands of tight end Alex Wetzel from 42 yards out.
“They haven’t lost an East Division game since 2018,” McCook said.
The fifth-ranked Rams were picked as East favorites with Kutztown second.
“I have a lot of respect for Kutztown and their coaching staff,” McCook said. “It’s a good football team, and the rookie is good.
“It’s a great environment when you play at Kutztown, and we’re going to face a tough football team.”
The one who broke free from his slump a week ago in a 50-31 win over Mercyhurst.
The Golden Bears were shut out in their first game and went the next three quarters with a touchdown. They scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to win against California from Pennsylvania in their second game.
Shepherd had to come back 10 points in the fourth quarter last week against Cal and won in overtime.
Bagent threw for 490 yards and three touchdowns last week to earn Division Offensive Player of the Week honors, an award Shepherd has brushed aside this season. He ranks second in the nation in assists.
Ronnie Brown, who earned offensive honors after Week 2, is the nation’s No. 5 rusher.
Shepherd averages 38 points per game and Kutztown 25.
In terms of yards, the Rams have a huge advantage at 545 yards per game, compared to Kutztown’s 253.
Much of the Bears offense is generated on the field.
“They’re very good up front,” McCook said. “They are determined to run.”
However, McCook doesn’t want his team to overemphasize the ground game, even though quarterback Donny Blaine is passing less than 50 percent and not even averaging 100 passing yards.
Running back Darryl Davis-McNeil averages more than 100 yards per game on the rush.
He will face a defense giving up just 39.7 yards per game rushing to rank fifth nationally.
“Our defense played very well,” said McCook. “They will face a challenge as good as we have done all season.”
The same goes for Shepherd’s offense.
Shepherd has the second-best offense in Division II.
“It’s a big game,” said Shepherd kicker Jacob Haynie, who had the game-tying and game-winning field goal last week.