College Preview: Catawba at Newberry
By Ronnie Gallagher
Will Newell’s name came up quickly during Catawba’s weekly press conference.
Coach Chip Hester’s reaction was something to the effect of, “He’s still playing?”
Yes, the Newberry linebacker is, and the SAC is feeling the pain. After a 27-21 overtime win over Carson-Newman last week, Newell was named the league’s defensive player of the week for the third time in four games.
“He’s been there 81/2 years,” Hester joked. “He’ll be one of those classic SAC players. I’ll be glad to see him graduate.”
Newell will definitely be the player on Newberry’s defense to keep an eye on when Catawba (3-1, 1-0) invades Setzler Field for a 7 p.m. clash tonight. Newberry (2-2, 1-0) is one of the favorites to win the league title.
“Defensively, its probably the best team we’ve seen in a couple of years,” Hester said. “It’s one of the best we’ll play, period. They’re fast, they’re big up front and they have great secondary players.”
Zak Willis’ offense is just as effective.
Newberry alternates quarterbacks. Junior Brandon Gantt played most of the way against Carson-Newman, going 14 of 23 for 130 yards. Eric McCollom was 8 of 16 for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
Hester pointed out that four Newberry receivers are at the top of the stats. Against Carson-Newman, David Brown had 10 receptions. Speedy Kelton Tindal had four catches and a touchdown.
When Newberry runs the ball, it turns to big Tharry Salley, who stands 6-2, 220 pounds.
“They have weapons all over the field,” Hester said. “They can take it the distance at any time. And they’ve got their confidence going now.”
Willis has turned around Newberry during his tenure. He is 35-23 at the school but only 2-3 against Catawba.
That means little to Hester, who has a youthful group.
“This will be a good test for our young team,” Hester said. “Newberry has, I think, the best athletes in the conference.”