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London column: Catawba has new theme

Catawba coach Chip Hester annually announces a theme for each new football season.
It was “Walk the walk” in 2007, evidence Hester was more interested in deeds than words after a couple of frustrating seasons in which the walk hadn’t measured up to the talk.
Catawba was 10-11 in South Atlantic Conference games from 2004-06, but the walk was walked last fall, and Catawba reached every reasonable goal
The Indians were 11-2. They won a game for the ages at Carson-Newman. They returned to the top of the SAC. They broke school offensive records, and they actually scored 66 ó count ’em, 66 ó points in a playoff game in front of an exuberant home crowd.
It was like old times. Like it felt in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
“Walk the walk, yeah, that one worked pretty well,” Hester said with a laugh. “Maybe we should stick with it every year.”
But Hester finally decided “Walk the walk” had served its purpose and had its day.
“Walk the walk” enters the history books alongside a senior class that was short on numbers but long on class and production.
Brad Roach, Kory Fisher, Ron Ellington, Brent Johnson, Shane Timmons, Brandon McIntyre and all the rest ó great job. You won’t be forgotten as long as football is played on the natural grass of Kirkland Field inside Shuford Stadium.
Hester announced this year’s theme is simply “Let’s get it.”
Short and hopefully sweet.
There’s uncertainty and anxiety about 2008. The bull’s eye is back on Catawba’s back and the preseason national ranking (19th in the AFCA Poll) is back.
Star tailback George Bell is sidelined, but there’s excitement in the air as Saturday night’s 7 p.m. home opener with St. Augustine’s approaches.
With Roach, Johnson and Ellington, we all knew what was coming. With new faces like QB Howard Williamson, we don’t know what to expect, but at least we’ll see it unfold.
Last season, Catawba opened with marathon road trips to Chowan and Elizabeth City State.
There’s reason for optimism. Catawba’s lines are outstanding, and games are won in the trenches where the tough guys operate.
Williamson emerged as the starting QB after healthy spring and summer competition with Patrick Dennis and former North Rowan star Daniel Griffith.
“I thought I might be frustrated with our offense at this point, but I’m not,” Hester said. “We lost so many quality guys, but it’s a challenge and it’s fun to try to recreate a team.
“I guess a lot of people expect a dropoff in our offense, but I’m not so sure that will be the case.”
The good news for Catawba fans is Williamson didn’t win the QB job by default. He earned it.
Patrick Dennis, who will be the No. 2 man entering the season, performed well. Williamson was a bit better.
“Howard gives us a new dimension ó the ability to win games with his legs,” Hester said.
Williamson’s teammates have faith in the junior. They don’t expect him to be Roach, but they do expect him to be very good.
“It’s not like Howard just came in here,” star receiver and captain Antwan Strong said. “We’re all used to being around Howard and we’re anxious to see what he can do. Everyone talks about his legs, but his arm is what impresses me. He can get the ball downfield.”
Williamson, whose father passed away during spring drills, has impressed his teammates with his athletic ability, his ability to lead and his ability to keep plugging.
“After what he went through with his family, football will be the easy part for him,” Strong said.
“Let’s get it” gets its first chance to be a successful theme on Saturday.

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