Catawba ends season on down note
SALISBURY — Catawba tight end Tyler Hamilton soared for a catch, had his helmet knocked off by a wicked hit, and still held onto the football for a 26-yard gain that set up a touchdown.
It wasn’t like Catawba didn’t fight on Saturday, but it was battered 48-15 by a Lenoir-Rhyne team with more experience — and more everything else.
L-R (10-1) rushed for 445 yards, including 84 by former Salisbury High standout Ike Whitaker, and completed a 7-0 stampede through the South Atlantic Conference.
“Going undefeated in a league is something I’ve only been part of twice in my entire career,” Catawba coach Curtis Walker said. “So give L-R credit for a great job this year. But I thought our guys laid it all on the table today. That’s something we can build on, and I promise you we’ll get better.”
Catawba’s Nate Charest broke a school record. Four catches gave him 73 to break the single-season mark that had been held by Catawba receivers coach Corey Ready.
Charest concluded a remarkable career with 184 catches for 2,302 yards.
Ready presented Charest with a gameball signed by all the receivers, and Mike Newsome, the current A.L. Brown coach who was Charest’s prep coach at Butler, was among those on hand to congratulate Charest.
“That was kind of a tear-jerker when Coach Ready handed me that ball,” Charest said. “It’ll be good to look in the record book years from now and see my name and know Catawba didn’t waste their money on me.”
With 22 Charests, you could go undefeated and rule the world, but Catawba (6-5) only had one. That wasn’t enough.
L-R never trailed, taking the opening kickoff and marching 77 methodical yards to lead 7-0. The game began like this: Whitaker for 4, then Whitaker for 2, and then Whitaker for 5 on third-and-4 to move the chains.
“The gameplan was to establish the inside, and then work outside,” Whitaker said. “Coach (Mike Houston) tells us that champions don’t do anything extraordinary, they just do the ordinary things better than anyone else. That’s us. We just went hard, and we executed.”
Houston said that ordinary-and-extraordinary quote was borrowed from the wisdom of Chuck Noll, who coached the Pittsburgh Steelers to Super Bowl titles.
“Our guys definitely aren’t flashy,” Houston said. “We don’t have a lot of guys that you’d pick when they get off the bus, but our staff does a good job with schemes.”
L-R QB Teverrius Jones completed only one of his six passes — it went for a touchdown — but the Bears rushed the ball 81 times with consistently positive results.
Catawba played without QB Danny O’Brien (hand), but Mike Sheehan threw for 175 yards and ran for 61.
“Mike had big shoes to fill against a really tough defense, but I thought he did great,” Charest said.
Walker and Houston praised Sheehan’s effort.
“We had to prepare for both Catawba quarterbacks, and Sheehan presents a different kind of problem from O’Brien in that he’s more of a threat to run,” Houston said. “I thought Sheehan played very well, and he’s going to be a good one for Catawba.”
Sheehan’s best moment was a a 74-yard strike to Carlos Tarrats on a post pattern for Catawba’s first TD.
Down 14, Catawba faced fourth-and-goal at the LR 2 and elected to take a Chad Hollandsworth field goal. That cut the Bears’ lead to 20-9 at halftime and gave the Indians a little momentum.
It didn’t last. A pick by LR linebacker Stephen Amoah came right after Catawba had gotten a stop and was a backbreaker. Amoah’s play set up a third-quarter TD run by Graham Duncan, and the Bears pulled away.
“L-R is sound, they’re disciplined, they’re hard-hitting, and they’re greatly coached,” Charest said.
They’re ordinary guys who play extraordinary.
NOTES: Seniors Jacob Hanes (13) and L.J. McCray (12) combined for 25 tackles in their final game.