College Football: Catawba notebook
By Bret Strelow
Julian Hartsell entered Ridge View High School in Columbia, S.C., with lofty expectations.
Hartsell dressed out with the varsity team as a freshman and watched his older brother, Alex, excel as a senior.
Their roles have changed at Catawba, where Julian is a sophomore starter at defensive end. He had three stops behind the line of scrimmage, including 1.5 sacks, in a season-opening loss to St. Augustine’s.
Alex, a former lineman at The Citadel, is in his first season with the Indians. He spent time in the workforce after leaving the Southern Conference school before enrolling at Midlands Technical College in Columbia.
Alex, who is three years older than Julian, is also a sophomore.
“It was different back at Ridge View when he was the older brother teaching me things,” Julian said. “Now, since he’s been out a little bit and this is a new defense to him, I’m kind of teaching him a little bit.”
Julian has stepped in to replace departed senior Ron Ellington, a Division II All-American, at one of the defensive end spots.
He was a running back prior to his arrival at Ridge View, and he learned more about defense from Alex.
Julian said he considered The Citadel, but he wanted to blaze his own trail.
“He didn’t really say much, but it was hard to miss his 6-3 frame walking around school,” Julian said. “People always called me little Alex throughout high school, but I didn’t really want that.
“I had a chance to go to The Citadel, but I felt like I would have been following in his footsteps too much. That’s what people wanted me to do, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to make a name for myself. I’m Julian Hartsell; I’m not Alex.”
The brothers get along well, and they enjoy working in close proximity during practice.
“Having him out there on the field, it’s like we hold each other up to a higher standard,” Julian said. “We know what we can do ó we grew up with each other.
“With him by my side on the field, I can trust him.”
MAKING STRIDES: Catawba coach Chip Hester said the Indians need to improve in areas such as conditioning and tackling. He will also reevaluate some personnel decisions leading up to Saturday’s home game against Elizabeth City State.
“To me, this season, I think the worst thing we or anyone could say is the season’s over now,” Hester said. “It’s not. There’s a lot of football to be played.”
The Indians gained only 64 yards on 33 rushes in the opener, and the coaches counted 21 missed tackles.
Hester said it’s tough to strike a balance when it comes to hitting in practice.
“Do you tackle a lot and maybe get a little better at tackling and maybe get people hurt or do you go the opposite way and not tackle enough?” Hester asked. “We try to walk that line. We had three pretty good opportunities to tackle (leading up to the game), but it was obviously not enough. The defensive coaches have devised ways to help tackling a little bit.”
Offensively, running the ball effectively is a priority.
Hester said he liked the way sophomore quarterback Howard Williamson, a first-time starter, competed in his debut. Williamson was 14 of 22 for 171 yards and one touchdown, and eight of the Indians’ 12 first downs came through the air.
“I thought Howard made some big-time throws,” Hester said. “After watching film, I’m more impressed with some of the throws he did make.
“I think, when it’s all said and done, as an offensive football team, we’ve got to take responsibility for being able to run the football better. Great talent is super, it’s exciting, but until all the parts are working together as one, you’re going to have some issues.”
YOUTH IS SERVED: Redshirt freshman Mike Benton and two true freshmen (Bryant Vennable, Lakeem Perry) started defensively.
Hester said the secondary, which included Benton at safety and Vennable at cornerback, did a nice job of being in position to make plays. Perry, a linebacker from Louisburg, led the team with 10 tackles.
“He’s bringing something to the table that’s very exciting,” Hester said. “He’s very, very aggressive. He plays at a great speed and has got great instincts. Those ingredients are what I think can be a great football player.”
IN A SNAP: Redshirt freshman Philip Russ handles the snaps on field goals and PATs. True freshman Chad Case, an Independence product, snaps for the punting unit.
Case, who weighs 180 pounds, used his speed to sprint down the field and deliver a big hit. He appeared to recover a muffed punt, but officials awarded the ball to the Falcons.
“He gives us something we’ve not had, and that’s someone who can run down and make a play on the punt team,” Hester said.
* LOCAL GRADS: Julian Samolu (West Rowan), Jamey Small (East Rowan) and Aaron Cauble (East) played in Saturday’s game.
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