Mayor's Cup Football Notebook
By Mike London
The Mayor’s Cup notebook ...
More than half the battle for Catawba’s football team on Saturday was just getting there.
“It was a haul,” said junior receiver Peyton McCollum of the Indians’ eight-hour voyage to West Liberty, W.Va., a venue where Catawba prevailed 24-3.
The trip — well, at least the anchor leg of it — was literally an uphill struggle.
“The longest part of a long trip was those last few miles winding back and forth through the mountains,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said. “West Liberty has a beautiful campus, but they’ve got the right nickname — the Hilltoppers. They’re at the top of the hills.”
Catawba AD Dennis Davidson made the trip by car and felt like he was on an amusement park ride.
“Those last eight miles took us 25 minutes,” he reported. “Lots of hairpin turns.”
The Indians made the voyage on Friday, so they had recovered by Saturday afternoon and put a decent effort together.
“When it came right down to it, it was still a football game like any other,” the Winston-Salem native said. “We did OK, but we can get better at everything. There’s a lot of improving to do.”
Hester will take the 1-0 start and run with it.
The Indians began the last two seasons in an 0-1 hole.
“The hope is that making a trip like this brought everyone together a little bit,” Heser said. “The players seemed to enjoy being around each other.”
BREAKOUT? McCollum, part of a deep receiving group, had eight catches for 37 yards in 2011, so his three catches for 63 yards and his first college touchdown seemed to amount to a breakout performance.
He shrugged it off.
“I was just competing and trying to win the same as I do every game,” he said. “It was just a good game for the offense as a whole and the team as a whole.”
Hester said the 5-foot-10, 175-pound McCollum’s effort was valuable. He’s a bright guy, an economics major who spent part of his summer interning with U.S. senator Richard Burr.
“He’s the kind of a story you love to see,” Hester said. “He’s worked hard to get an opportunity, and then on Saturday he made the most of it.”
SACK MEET: Catawba’s 11 sacks against West Liberty tied a school record that was set in 2005 against Mars Hill.
That Mars Hill game was the one in which Catawba’s Ron Ellington made a name for himself nationally with seven sacks.
The QB takedowns against West Liberty were a lot more spread out. Richard Miller, Jonathan Jean and Gabe Evans were in on two each.
Evans, a 6-3, 245-pound sophomore who played in 10 games and had eight tackles last season, said he learned a lot from film study with Brandon Weedon last year and has learned some more this season from veterans such as Damein Lee.
“I wasn’t doing anything special Saturday other than just trying to keep them off the scoreboard,” Evans said.
Evans has football bloodlines.
His father is Vince Evans, although it’s not the Vince Evans from USC who was an NFL quarterback for many years. Instead, he’s the Vince Evans who is remembered as a fine running back for the N.C.State Wolfpack in the 1980s.
Evans was the Pack’s leading rusher in 1984 and 1985 and once rushed for 201 yards against East Carolina.
“I call him every day,” Gabe said. “He’s told me all about those days at N.C. State and he was with the Saints for a while in the NFL.”
Hester expects big things from young Evans.
“You can see the frame Gabe has got and you know he has a chance to be a really good football player,” Hester said. “He’s just getting to the point now where his body is catching up to his instincts.”
RUSH HOUR: Livingstone’s freshman quarterback Drew Powell was sensational in a 70-35 loss to Chowan, a college debut that made him the CIAA Rookie of the Week.
But he was sacked five times, so how well and how long Livingstone can protect him from Catawba’s pass rush will be one of the things to watch when the Blue Bears play at Catawba at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“They’ve got a lot of speed at receiver and a young quarterback who threw for 343 yards and put up 35 points,” Hester said. “Livingstone presents a huge challenge for our defense.”
Catawba had four picks against West Liberty. Free safety Chad Endres led the way with an interception and two breakups.
LOOKING TO IMPROVE: The biggest issue for LIvingstone in the loss to Chowan on opening night was defending the pass. The Blue Bears didn’t get much pressure (one sack late in the contest) and didn’t make an interception as Chowan piled up 285 efficient passing yards. Chowan’s starting QB Cameron Stover was 23-for-30 for four TDs.
“We were missing six key guys and we didn’t do so well as a defense,” Livingstone’s veteran linebacker Tyheim Pitt said. “But the peformance of our offense gave us hope, and we’re going to put in the extra work this week to get better.”
COACHES: It doesn’t make much sense, but Catawba is 36-22 on the road under Hester and 28-20 at Shuford Stadium. Livingstone coach Elvin James will be looking for his second win as Livingstone’s head coach and first road win.