College Football: Catawba vs. Wingate preview
By Ronnie Gallagher
One thing Catawba won’t have to worry about when it faces off against Wingate today at 1 p.m. at Irwin Belk Stadium:
A lack of confidence from the home team.
The Bulldogs (7-1, 3-1) have a senior class that has won 28 games in its career. It’s the group that has helped turn Wingate into an annual contender in the South Atlantic Conference.
In fact, Wingate enters the week second in the region. And the Bulldogs don’t want Catawba spoiling another run for the Division II playoffs.
“When you look at the last few seasons, Wingate has been in a position to win the conference and go to the playoffs,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said. “We’ve been a stumbling block and prevented them from reaching some of their goals. I don’t think they like Catawba.”
The Indians (4-3, 2-2) would like to keep that trend going, but they’ll have to stop one of the SAC’s top quarterbacks in J.D. Moore. He is one of several offensive stars who returned for coach Joe Reich.
“He played outstanding last year (29 touchdowns) and this year,” Hester said. “He reminds me of (former Catawba quarterback) Luke Samples. He has been around the block. Having a senior quarterback means a lot.”
But Wingate is much more than that. Last season’s SAC offensive freshman of the year, Nelson Woods, rushed for 1,174 yards a year ago. Shawn Barrett and Jordan Softcheck make up one of the league’s top receiving tandems. In all, Reich (42-34 at Wingate) has seven offensive returners.
“Wingate has become a huge rivalry for us,” Hester said. “There’s the proximity, and we recruit a lot of the same players. We’re good friends with their coaching staff. It’s a game between Wingate, which is trying to make a name on the national scene, against Catawba, a team that has been there.
“It’s always a hard-fought game. There have been some emotional wins and some emotional losses. Playing against buddies makes it an emotional game, too.”
This appears to be Wingate’s most important game of the season.
“They’re in the catbird seat,” Hester said. “If they win out, they’ll be in the playoffs.”
Catawba is the one team that knows how to spoil that party.
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