College Football: Catawba's Charest, Rolle determined to finish strong
By Mike London
SALISBURY - Catawba coach Chip Hester says his pregame conversations with opposing SAC coaches have changed this year.
"We used to talk mostly about the weather," Hester said with a laugh. "Now coaches usually want to ask me about No. 5. They love to watch him on fim."
No. 5 is junior receiver Nate Charest, and it's not hard to find him on film. He's everywhere. He's holding for kicks, he's returning punts, he's blocking, and he's catching passes.
In Catawba's 35-28 loss at Mars Hill on Saturday, Charest was even called on to throw a pass.
The result? A touchdown.
"Well, it wasn't pretty, but it got there," Charest said of his 24-yard TD toss to Jarrid McKinney.
Charest had caught a touchdown pass from B.J. Sherrill early in the fourth quarter to cut Mars Hill's lead to 28-14. Then with Catawba facing fourth-and-5 at the Mars Hill 24 three minutes later, Catawba called on Charest to execute a gadget play.
"It was a play we just put in last week," Charest said. "It was supposed to look a regular bubble screen to me, and we knew their corners would bite hard. We knew Jarrid would be open. I didn't even have the laces, and I threw it ugly, but Jarrid made a great adjustment."
Charest's first career pass was accurate enough to lift Catawba within 28-21, but the Indians never could climb all the way back from a 21-0 halftime hole.
"Coach Hester reminded us at halftime that we still had 30 minutes," Charest said. "A lot can happen in 30 minutes, and we responded well. We did a great job of keeping our heads up."
At 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Charest could pass for Catawba's shortstop or point guard, but he's all football player. There's a reason he was a three-year starter at the state's top 4A program (Butler) and an All-State and Shrine Bowl pick.
When Catawba recruited Charest, Hester hoped he could replace the excellent production of Brandon Bunn at slot receiver.
That's happened. Assuming continued good health, Charest will eventually surpass the career numbers of Bunn, who had a school-record 247 yards in receptions the last time Catawba visited Wingate.
Charest went over 100 receptions for his career on Saturday and now has 1,372 career receiving yards. He's already 15th on Catawba's career receptions list.
"As a team we're not performing with consistency, but Nate is," Hester said. "I hope our young guys are watching him. If everyone plays like him, we'll have a chance to be mighty good."
Catawba has lost three straight outings to slide to 3-4, so lofty preseason goals such as playoffs and conference titles are long gone. Yet, Charest doesn't have a problem staying motivated.
"It's a privilege to play college football and I'll play every play to the best of my ability," said Charest, who was named Catawba's offensive player of the week. "We can still finish strong. We can still have a winning season."•Catawba's defensive version of the do-everything Charest is cornerback Jumal Rolle, a 6-foot, 185-pound senior whom Hester regards as an NFL prospect.
"He's a legit prospect," Hester said. "We've had about 20 NFL teams come in and check him out. It's hard to find corners that have some size but can still move like Jumal moves. And he's really good running down on special teams. That's another big plus for him."
Don't ask Rolle about the NFL yet, though. Sure, it has to be in the back of his mind, but Catawba's season, disappointing though it may be, is still the priority.
"It would be selfish of me to talk about the NFL until after this season ends," Rolle said. "I've still got four games left at Catawba, and we want to win every game we can."
While he'd gladly trade all his stats or a 6-1 record, Rolle is having a phenomenal individual season. He has four interceptions, three blocked kicks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He has 34 tackles and six pass breakups.
Rolle, a conference player of the year at Wilson Beddingfield, has five career forced fumbles and 14 career interceptions. Keith Henry and Brent Miller share the school record with 20 picks.
Rolle's biggest contribution at Mars Hill came in a new role. He was a gunner on punt coverage.
"Mars Hill is good on punt returns, so I asked to cover the punts," Rolle said. "I'm a team player and I want to help any way I can."
Catawba had to punt nine times. Mars Hill had a meager 7 return yards.
Part of that was punter Chad Hollandsworth getting hang-time, but part of it was Rolle.
"He was beating the hold-up guy, getting down there in a hurry and making them fair-catch it," Hester said. "Jumal always finds a way to help."
Rolle shared Catawba's special teams player of the week award with Trey Mashore. Rolle also shared then award for the Livingstone game.
Like Charest, Rolle says motivation for the remaining four games won't be any problem at all.
"I try to put myself in my coaches' place," Rolle said. "If I was a coach, I wouldn't want my players to quit, and we're not going to quit. When you're a senior, every day matters, and I'll do everything you can to keep everyone focused."
Rolle has his toughest assignment of the season Saturday when the Indians go to Wingate.
Wingate QB Robbie Nallenweg leads the SAC in passing, and Wingate receiver Chris Bowden leads the SAC with 66 receptions for 880 yards. Bowden had an astounding 16 catches for 262 yards against Mars Hill and is Wingate's all-time leader in pass receptions.
"Bowden is a great route-runner, but I'll prepare the same as I do any other week to do my job," Rolle said. "It's a challenge, but it's challenge I look forward to. The team has a tough exam Saturday, but we want to pass it."