College Football: Catawba 58, Lenoir-Rhyne 23
By David Shaw
HICKORY ó Jamelle Cuthbertson and Patrick Dennis weren’t counting the hours until the end of Catawba’s football season Saturday night.
They were too busy making them count.
Cuthbertson ran for 223 yards and broke three school records while Dennis threw touchdown passes to four different receivers. Together they gave the adding maching a thorough workout and lifted the Indians to a 58-23 season-ending win at Lenoir-Rhyne.
“That’s exactly what we were trying to get out of them,” coach Chip Hester said at Moretz Stadium, where Catawba (6-4, 4-3 SAC) collected 27 first downs and 601 total yards. “It’s something we can take into the off-season and use as a springboard. We had some injuries and some things that were concerning, but I thought our guys really came to play.”
One of his concerns involved senior safety Chris Noel, whose father passed away Monday night. Yet it was Noel who set the stage by intercepting an L-R pass before the game was a minute old and triggering a 97-yard scoring drive.
“We went to the funeral this morning,” said Cuthbertson, a 5-8, 185-pound senior. “Chris got up there and said that his dad was a real fan of mine. That meant a lot to me.”
There was much to like. Cuthbertson finished the season with a school-record 1,141 yards, surpassing Kory Fisher’s mark by 62. He also enjoyed his seventh 100-yard game ó another record. And finally, he became the first Catawba runner with two career 200-yard games. Ironically, the first (218) came on this same field in 2006.
“I was playing right tackle that day, too,” said junior lineman Hunter Carnes. “Cutty’s so dangerous. All he needs is a crack and he’s gone.”
Cuthbertson rushed for 100 yards in the opening quarter, when he scored the first of his two touchdowns. He added a nice finishing touch ó and his 12th TD of the year ó when he closed the scoring midway through the fourth period.
“I had the easy part,” he said. “I did what they recruited me to do. It’s sad that it’s over and we’re walking away, but at least we’re walking away with a win. It’s really not a sad ending.”
It’s more of a bright beginning for Dennis. He tossed scoring passes to Grayson Downs, Gerron Bryant, Brandon Bunn and senior Antwan Strong, who closed his career with 118 receptions.
“If we didn’t have these records to get, we could’ve just played to win,” said Carnes, part of an offensive line that returns intact next season. “But we were motivated. Our game-plan was 162. That’s how many yards Cutty needed tonight.”
It served as a unified rallying call ó and a heck of a closing argument.
“Cutty’s done so many things for us all year long,” said Dennis, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 239 yards. “Yeah, it all starts with the OL. But once Cutty gets that corner, I’m not sure anybody’s gonna bring him down.”
Not on this night, with so much to play for.
“They knew exactly what they were trying to accomplish,” Hester said. “And they did it by working as a team.”
NOTES: Lenoir-Rhyne (3-8, 1-6) closed up shop riding a six-game losing streak. The Bears have lost 13 of their last 14 meetings with Catawba, including eight straight in Hickory. … Melquan Fair and Leon Agner had fumble recoveries for Catawba. … Cuthbertson, the fourth-leading rusher in school history, said he plans to start training for the pro combine. “Maybe somebody will give a small guy a chance,” he noted. “That’s all I need.” … For those planning ahead, Catawba returns to action next Aug. 29 at St. Augustine’s. … The Catawba-Lenoir-Rhyne summary will appear in tomorrow’s Post.