SAC Football: Wingate 34, Catawba 28, OT
By Mike London
WINGATE - Catawba's Jumal Rolle blocked a Wingate field-goal attempt and would've returned it for a touchdown if he'd gotten a good hop, but the football squibbed sideways.
Rolle also just missed a pick-six when he jumped a route in the flat, but that ball trickled off his hands.
"Any one play at any time can decide a football game," said Rolle, who produced his 15th career pick and had broke up four passes. "We had a lot of almosts today, but almosts aren't good enough."
Almost was the operative word for Catawba in Saturday's draining 34-28 overtime loss at Wingate's Belk Stadium that was finally decided by Robbie Nallenweg's TD pass to Bryan Caffrey.
Caffrey held the ball for only a half-second a half-inch past the goal-line, but that's how it's gone for Catawba.
"We fought all day," Catawba Chip Hester said. "It's frustrating."
There's not a lot of difference in the Indians, who dropped their fourth in a row, and the Bulldogs, who are tied for first in the SAC.
But Wingate (5-3, 4-1) is finding ways to win league games, while that knack has eluded Catawba ( 3-5, 1-4).
Catawba got pass interceptions from Rolle, L.J. McCray, Scottie Floyd and Jason Taylor and got another takeaway when a big hit by Cory Johnson forced a fumble that Javon Powell recovered.
But even with a 5-1 edge in turnovers, Catawba came up short.
"We've struggled with consistency all year," Wingate coach Joe Reich said. "We did not play well at all. The number of turnovers and penalties we had are usually going to be disastrous for any football team, but I was proud that we didn't get down and we did enough to win."
Between interceptions, Nallenweg, who threw 58 times, passed for 385 yards. Caffrey and Chris Bowden, the school's all-time receiving leader, had 100-yard games. Bowden's 10 catches included a startling, flying, one-handed grab.
It was usually Bowden vs. Rolle, one-on-one, and both coaches had confidence in their guy in that matchup.
"I knew it would be a great challenge and a long day," Rolle said. "I knew he'd get catches, but the goal was not to let him take over the game."
Rolle did that - Bowden is capable of 15 catches for 200.
"You can tell Bowden works really hard at his craft," said McCray, Catawba's star safety. "His routes are always crisp."
Freshman Xavier Bond rushed for 112 yards for Catawba, and B.J. Sherrill threw for 196 yards with zero picks.
Catawba was in a 14-0 hole shortly after it got off the bus. The Bulldogs breezed 76 yards to score on their first possession, and Catawba handed Wingate seven more points with an early turnover.
A 28-yard run by Bond keyed Catawba's first scoring drive late in the first quarter.
McCray's kickoff return to the Catawba 47 led to the Indians' second score. Sherrill got the TD from the 12, and the Indians trailed 21-14 at halftime.
Floyd produced his interception in the third quarter, and it should've turned the game.
"The receiver tipped the ball as I was breaking on it, and I was able to grab it," Floyd said. "I thought I might be able to walk in for a touchdown."
He was tackled on the Wingate 3 after a 77-yard return, but Bond punched in the touchdown, and it was 21-21.
Wingate drove from its 14 to the Catawba 8, but Rolle blocked a field-goal try, and the Indians seized their only lead at 28-21 when Bond scored on the first snap of the fourth quarter.
Bowden caught a touchdown pass for a 28-28 tie with 8:34 left.
McCray's leaping pick held off the Bulldogs, but Catawba's offense couldn't make a first down on its last two possessions in regulation.
Catawba was fortunate to get to OT when Wingate missed a point-blank field goal in the closing seconds of regulation.
Wingate won the toss and chose to play defense first.
Bonds got 6 yards on two carries, but Sherrill threw incomplete on third-and-4, and Chad Hollandsworth missed a 37-yard field goal try.
Nallenweg then drilled his game-winning pass on third-and-6 from the Catawba 21.
Third down was the difference for the Indians.Catawba was 4-for-12 moving the chains on third down, while the Bulldogs were an efficient 15-for-21.
"When it came down to it, we just didn't get it done on third down," Hester said.