Rain and pain for Catawba in SAC opener

Catawba's  David Burgess #3 hit by Newberry's  Edmond Robinson #30. photo by Wayne Hinshaw, for the Salisbury Post
Catawba's David Burgess #3 hit by Newberry's Edmond Robinson #30. photo by Wayne Hinshaw, for the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — Newberry’s preseason camp was a dreary disaster, with rain pouring down on the Wolves 10 out of 15 days.

“It was monotonous, but we sort of got used to it,” Newberry coach Todd Knight said. “I told the guys there would come a point where being able to deal with wet conditions would really help us, and I believe that point was tonight.”

It rained soft at Catawba’s Shuford Stadium on Saturday, and then it rained medium, and then it rained hard, and then harder.

It never stopped.

Conditions were soggy and dismal, but the Newberry Wolves may as well have been the Newberry Ducks. They thrived in conditions that rendered Catawba’s aerial game helpless.

“The quarterback (Danny O’Brien) Catawba brought in is dang good, and we won’t see anyone any better than he is all season,” Knight said. “Catawba has a receiver (Nate Charest) who is one of the best. The freshman running back (David Burgess) will be a great player. They’ve got a lot of talent. They’re well-coached. They’re a very good team. It just all went our way tonight.”

Catawba (2-1, 0-1 SAC) had scored in its previous 211 games and hadn’t failed to score a point since 1994. The last time Newberry (3-0, 1-0) shut out Catawba was in 1992.

“Newberry was physical and fast and they’re good, a solid team,” Charest said. “But I’m embarrassed right now. That was the sloppiest game I’ve ever been part of, and not being able to move the ball was embarrassing.”

Catawba’s defense forced punts on Newberry’s first two possessions, and Catawba had field position in a still-scoreless game, with first-and-10 at the Newberry 49.

Had the Indians been able to produce there, it all may have played out differently, but on first down, pressured by Letavious Williams, O’Brien threw incomplete.

Jalen Hunter and Mike Hopkins stoned Burgess for a loss on a second-down run, and O’Brien’s third-and-11 pass was incomplete. Then Chad Hollandsworth punted — one of his 10.

Newberry then drove 81 yards to strike first, with W.T. Murden passing 34 yards to Corey Washington for the TD and a 7-0 lead.

An illegal block on the ensuing kickoff return pinned Catawba inside its 10, the Indians were quickly forced to punt, and Jason Livingstone made a daring return down the middle to the Catawba 24.

Murden found Washington with another TD pass, and it was 14-0. Catawba was in trouble and stayed there.

“We’ve got to start off better,” Catawba coach Curtis Walker said. “We got behind the 8-ball, and in those conditions, it was tough to come back. Hats off to Newberry, but we’ve got to prepare our guys to play better in bad conditions.”

Catawba had the ball 13 times without seriously threatening. The Indians did get to the Newberry 18 late in the game.

O’Brien threw for 72 yards. Burgess rushed for 63, and Trey Mashore had 58.

“Defensively, Newberry controlled the line of scrimmage,” Walker said. “They got the offensive matchups they wanted with their tall receivers and converted.”

Basically, it was rain and pain and little gain.

“We’ve got a lot to work on,” Charest said. “It’ll be interesting to see how we bounce back from this.”

A trip to Carson-Newman is on deck.

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