College Football: St. Augustine’s 14, Catawba 7
By Mike London
St. Augustine’s quarterback Anthony Brown calmly took a knee, and a moment later his linemen were jubilantly jumping around in celebration.
St. Augustine’s shocked the Division II world Saturday night with a 14-7 win that spoiled Catawba’s opener at Shuford Stadium.
“I know a lot of people didn’t see this coming,” St. Augustine’s coach Michael Costa said. “Catawba is a very good football team, but my kids stuck together, we got a few breaks and our lines did a great job.”
In winning, the Raleigh-based Falcons, who were 2-8 in an injury-plagued 2007, overcame a pile of negative numbers higher than the Great Wall of China.
Catawba had never lost to a CIAA team. The Indians also had won 13 straight openers and were 21-6 at Shuford during Chip Hester’s coaching tenure.
But as Hester has said repeatedly in the past, on any given Saturday, history doesn’t mean a thing. An inspired St. Augustine’s team proved him right.
“They sure took care of the ball better and made a lot fewer mistakes,” he said. “That’s the team that usually wins a football game.”
Catawba never scored fewer than 28 points in 2007, but it couldn’t budge in the first half and couldn’t turn yards into points in the second.
“The opportunities were there, but we didn’t finish things off,” said quarterback Howard Williamson, who threw for 171 yards in his debut as a starter. “Everybody understands now we’re not that good. We can’t get down. We’ve got to keep working.”
Catawba got off on the wrong foot when its first two kickoff attempts to start the game sailed out of bounds. Catawba had to re-kick for a third time from the 20-yard line, Richard Boone returned 40 yards to Catawba’s 38, and the Indians fought a losing field-position battle that lasted the entire first half.
Catawba’s Brian Terwilliger briefly electrified the crowd by dashing 80 yards for a score, but the touchdown was called back by penalty flags.
Instead, St. Aug’s struck first. Linebacker Steven Stanback intercepted a pass by backup QB Patrick Dennis while seated on the grass at the Catawba 35, and St. Aug’s scored on the next play on a variation of the old-fashioned flea flicker. Catawba DBs weren’t fooled, but Lendell Bembo made a remarkable catch in the back right corner of the end zone.
That 7-0 lead help up until Williamson connected with Brandon Bunn on a 29-yard TD on the last play of the first half. Bunn made a nice adjustment in the end zone, Thomas Trexler’s PAT tied it 7-7, and Catawba carried some momentum to the locker room.
Still, St. Aug’s didn’t blink. The underdogs came out just as determined for the second half.
“All week, the coaches pounded into us in the heat in practice that we could win in their house,” said St. Aug’s left offensive tackle Sherman Cauthen, who starred at A.L. Brown. “And right from the start of the game, we all believed it could be done.”
Catawba got great efforts from freshman linebacker LaKeem Perry and defensive end Julian Hartsell, but it stayed tied until St. Aug’s got the big break ó a punt that scraped an Indian and set off a scramble. St. Aug’s recovered at the Catawba 12, and on the next snap, Brown battled his way in to the end zone for the decisive TD with 13:24 remaining.
Travis Landrum’s 57-yard kickoff return to the St. Aug’s 26 provided Catawba with another chance, but the Indians fumbled the ball away on a reverse.
Catawba’s last shot came when it got the ball on its own 6 with 8:51 left. Williamson hit big completions to Grayson Downs (twice) and Landrum as Catawba pushed frantically all the way to the St. Aug’s 11. But on fourth-and-5, Stanback’s sure tackle brought down Jamelle Cuthbertson just shy of a first down, and Catawba was doomed.
After Markese Long rushed for a clock-killing first down, it was time for kneeling and celebrating.
“Usually, we don’t sleep on any team,” Hartsell said. “But today the defense didn’t wrap up and the offense just couldn’t put it in the paint.”