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Catawba notebook: Dennis expected to start against Tusculum

By Bret Strelow
bstrelow@salisburypost.com
Backup quarterback Patrick Dennis put up Corey Russell-like passing numbers in his first career start.
Dennis likely will start again when Catawba faces Russell and Tusculum at Shuford Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Russell, a senior, has thrown 19 touchdown passes this season. He ranks third nationally in Division II with an average of 320.4 passing yards per game.
Catawba starter Howard Williamson broke a finger on his non-throwing hand in a 21-14 loss to Carson-Newman four days ago, and Dennis’ 34-yard touchdown pass to Gerron Bryant gave the Indians a fourth-quarter lead.
Williamson will have surgery this week and miss the Tusculum contest.
“I think we’re talking about at least a week, and then we’ll go from there,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said. “I think we’re looking at two or three weeks. That’s Dr. Hester’s prognosis.”
Dennis, who has appeared in all six games, started for an injured Williamson against Livingstone on Sept. 13 and tied a school record with five touchdown passes. Dennis went 6 of 11 for 97 yards against Carson-Newman, and he has thrown seven of Catawba’s 12 touchdown passes this season.
A shoulder injury forced Williamson, in his first year as a starter, to sit out the Livingstone game.
“I was talking to Howard and his mom and talked about the old ‘Hee Haw’ line that if it wasn’t for bad luck he’d have no luck at all,” Hester said. “It’s just been that kind of year.”
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TOUGH TIMES FOR TOUGH-MINDED BELL:Senior running back George Bell didn’t dress against Carson-Newman, and he’s out indefinitely following an uplifting return to Catawba’s lineup.Bell had his thyroid removed on Sept. 10, and he played 17 days later in Catawba’s league opener at Mars Hill. He had nine carries for 6 yards in the first two SAC contests.
“He’s going to take some time ó he’s just not himself,” Hester said. “He gave it a go and just couldn’t perform at the kind of level he felt like he needed to.”
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REST EASY: The efforts of defensive linemen such as Brandon Sutton, Melquan Fair, Terrence Porter and Marqus Davis helped keep Carson-Newman’s option attack in check, and linebacker Charles McAfee made a team-leading 12 tackles. He also recovered a fumble.
“I think our defense really played as well as I’ve seen anyone play against them in a long time,” Hester said.
The Eagles scored a tiebreaking touchdown in the final minute, and the result dropped Catawba into a tie for fifth place in the SAC.
“I’ve always told our guys from the moment I got to be the head coach that if they’ll give me their best, if they’ll give complete effort and we lose, I won’t like it but I’ll be able to sleep at night,” Hester said. “I think all our guys can sleep at night because they played hard.”

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