Catawba notebook: Perry impresses in first season
By Bret Strelow
The Catawba notebook …
Lakeem Perry passed the eye test and pleased his coaches just as much by being a pest.
Perry, a true freshman from Louisburg, is tied with Charles McAfee for the team lead in tackles this season. A starter at middle linebacker, Perry had 17 stops and one fumble recovery in Catawba’s loss at Newberry.
Perry made a favorable impression as soon as he arrived in Salisbury.
“Once we put the pads on, guys like Lakeem stand out,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said. “When we’re wearing our jerseys for the first time, the upperclassmen, seniors and juniors, are saying, ‘Who is (No.) 50?’ That’s usually a good sign. Immediately the offensive line starts to dislike guys like Lakeem, and that’s probably a good sign too.”
Perry started his first collegiate game and made 10 tackles in a loss to St. Augustine’s. He had seven solo tackles and 10 assists last Saturday.
Perry has totaled 35 tackles in four contests, and his per-game average ranks fifth in the conference leading up to Carson-Newman’s visit to Shuford Stadium.
“I was just surprised how good I played the first game,” Perry said. “I didn’t think I’d produce like I did.”
His most impressive stop against Newberry came on a pass play.
Three receivers bunched together on one side of the field, another receiver went to the opposite side and a running back lined up on the weak side of the formation. The single wideout went in motion toward the side with trips, and quarterback Eric McCollom fired a screen pass to receiver David Pressley.
Perry, who had seen the same formation during film study, tackled Pressley after a 1-yard gain.
“A lot of guys can watch a bunch of film, then during the game they see it a little too late,” Hester said. “Lakeem just has a great feel.
“Great linebackers are a lot like tailbacks in that they have good vision. They’re kind of playing tailback on the other side, so they feel areas they need to get to and have good body awareness. They know where they can fit and where they can’t.”
STILL THE SAME: It doesn’t appear that news of St. Aug’s committing NCAA violations will impact Catawba’s record. The Indians lost 14-7 in their season opener against the Falcons.
This is the 2008-09 academic year, and St. Aug’s allowed ineligible athletes ó including 15 in football ó to compete from 2003-04 through 2007-08. The school must vacate all wins in which it used those ineligible players.
The latest CIAA standings reflect a Bowie State forfeit that has improved Livingstone’s league record to 3-0, and St. Aug’s is still listed at 2-4 overall.
SPECIAL EFFORTS: Perry and Julian Samolu were Catawba’s defensive players of the week against Newberry. Jamelle Cuthbertson (12 carries for 108 yards and one touchdown) repeated as the offensive player of the week and won the honor for the third time in four games.
No special teams player was recognized one week after the unit excelled in a win at Mars Hill.
“We thought we had turned the corner,” Hester said.
Newberry forced four turnovers and blocked three kicks against Catawba.
Catawba trailed 7-2 before Cuthbertson scored on a short touchdown run. Kamaal McIlwain blocked the PAT, and Andre Moyd’s return produced two points that enabled Newberry to regain the lead.
That sequence started a string in which Newberry scored 26 consecutive points.
“We talk in our special teams meeting all the time about having one game-changing play,” Hester said. “That’s what we’re looking for, and they’ve got three.
“I was disappointed we never could change the momentum back.”