Eppard, Warren sign letters of intent
STEPHENS CITY – Sherando High School seniors David Eppard and Kyle Warren have long envisioned themselves playing football at the collegiate level. The two took a major step toward accomplishing that goal Wednesday afternoon.
In a ceremony attended by family, coaches, teammates and friends in the high school’s library, Eppard and Warren signed national letters of intent to play Division II college football in West Virginia next school year. Eppard will attend Shepherd University in nearby Shepherdstown, while Warren will compete for Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi.
For Eppard, there was no shortage of reasons why he chose to continue his football career at Shepherd.
“I did a bunch of overnights and I stayed, talked to all the coaches and stuff and I really like their level of competitiveness,” the Sherando linebacker said. “I like watching their practices, watching them hit, make fun of each other, mess around with each other – they’re a team. They win, that’s always good, you know. My dad actually went there when he was younger and I’ve just kind of liked it, the stories I’ve heard about it and all that. I went there and I was like, ‘Dad, I like the air here, I belong here. I like being around here.’ And just one day I was like, ‘Dad, I know where I’m going to school.'”
Eppard, who said he also received interest from a pair of Division I FCS programs in James Madison University and Virginia Military Institute as well as Division III Randolph-Macon College, made a handful of visits to Shepherdstown before ultimately making his college decision about two months ago.
While he didn’t receive an official scholarship offer from Shepherd, Eppard said Rams longtime coach Monte Cater – who is entering his 30th season at the school – informed him that he will get the chance to earn athletic scholarship money once he officially joins the team.
“Once they see promise in you they will invest in you, so it’s a pretty good system,” Eppard said. “It gets you to compete.”
Last season, Shepherd reached the Division II national championship game for the first time in program history. The Rams – who finished 13-1 overall and 10-0 in the Mountain East Conference – lost to No. 1 Northwest Missouri State, 34-7.
Eppard, who had 83 tackles (13 solo), 4.5 sacks and two interceptions for Sherando and was a first-team all-Conference 21 West offensive lineman last fall, said he will play middle linebacker for the Rams.
Shepherd, which has reached the playoffs in four of the last six seasons and nine times overall under Cater, ranked 18th in the nation in scoring defense (18.9 points allowed per game), 19th in total defense (310.1 yards allowed per game) and 11th in rush defense (97.7 yards) in 2015.
“I believe they can enhance my abilities a lot,” said Eppard, who was listed at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds in the fall. “They can bring me to the next level, to the competitiveness (where) I need to be. They will maximize my potential.”
Warren, meanwhile, became the second Warrior to commit to Alderson Broaddus in as many years, as he will join former Sherando standout running back LeeQuan Johnson Jr. on the Battlers’ roster.
Warren, a defensive lineman, said he chose Alderson Broaddus over a walk-on opportunity at VMI, as well as chances to play for Division III programs Randolph-Macon College, Emory & Henry College and Bridgewater College. Warren will attend Alderson Broaddus on a full tuition scholarship and plans to study business.
The school rebooted its football program – coached by Dennis Creehan – in 2012 after an 85-year absence, and Warren said the chance to help build a legacy at Alderson Broaddus was too good to pass up.
“AB was one of the first Division II schools to reach out to me. Being a younger program, it gives you a better chance to create history,” Warren said. “I like the coach. I think he created a great atmosphere up there. They kind of have the ability to be something so great and, I don’t know, I’d rather be a part of it than be reading about it somewhere else.”
The Battlers finished the 2015 season 7-4 for the second straight year and won the inaugural Great Midwest Athletic Conference Founder’s Cup Game with a win over Kentucky Wesleyan in the season finale. The G-MAC does not yet operate as a full football conference.
Warren, who expects to play defensive end at Alderson Broaddus, had 38 tackles (nine solo) and six sacks for Sherando last fall and was a first team all-Conference 21 West pick.
“Obviously the ultimate goal was to play big-time football. To me, I don’t feel like I left anything in the tank,” Warren said of his final season with the Warriors. “I felt like I tried everything. I did the best I could. I worked as hard as I could.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org