All-SAC teams announced
All-SAC football teams were released Monday and were dominated by double-figure selections from Tusculum and Carson-Newman, two of the three teams that shared the title.
Catawba placed seven players on the All-SAC teams. In addition, middle linebacker Lakeem Perry was chosen SAC Defensive Freshman of the Year.
Perry, an East-West All-Star from Louisburg, became an immediate starter, recorded 74 tackles, recovered a fumble and broke up three passes.
Running back Jamelle Cuthbertson, offensive tackle Terence Crosby, defensive tackle Melquan Fair and outside linebacker Charles McAfee were the Indians voted to the first team by league coaches.
Cornerback Jasmon Carpenter, defensive tackle Brandon Sutton and long snapper Phillip Case got nods for the second team.
Hester was disappointed in the absence of offensive tackle Hunter Carnes, defensive end Marqus Davis (six sacks) and receiver Brandon Bunn (six TDs) from the squads, but he was philosophical.
“When you accomplish team goals, the individual goals will come right along with that,” he said. “The teams that had the most players selected won a championship, and we didn’t. We made too many mistakes. On the field, it was a disappointing season.”
Cuthbertson, Catawba’s No. 4 all-time rusher, rolled for 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns, posted seven 100-yard games and had the highest yards per carry (7.9) since Pete Stout in 1957.
Crosby repeated as a first-teamer and anchored a line that pounded out 184 rushing yards per game.
McAfee posted 81 tackles, including 18 for loss.
Fair had 16 tackles for loss, including 61/2 sacks.
Sutton collected 51 tackles, including 14 for loss, and was credited with four sacks.
Carpenter had three interceptions and three breakups.
Case, a freshman, handled snaps on punts and excelled in punt coverage.
Tusculum quarterback Corey Russell, a Harlon Hill Trophy finalist, and Newberry linebacker Will Newell were the players of the year. Tusculum’s Frankie DeBusk, who will lead the Pioneers in their first-ever D-II playoff game on Saturday, was named SAC Coach of the Year.
It was a balanced SAC season that saw Carson-Newman qualify for the playoffs with a 7-3 record.
Three SAC teams finished at 5-2 in the league. Three more, including Catawba, posted 4-3 marks. Had Catawba prevailed against Carson-Newman in a game it had a very good chance to win, the Indians might be practicing this week for a playoff game.
“It was a wild year,” Hester said. “Everybody beat everybody, but the teams going onto the playoffs are the one that had those great veterans at quarterback.”
Catawba ended the season on a positive note with a pair of victories, including an impressive road rout of Lenoir-Rhyne.
That’s a nice springboard into the offseason, and Catawba should be improved in 2009. Both lines return intact. The biggest chore will be replacing seniors Cuthbertson, McAfee and Carpenter.
“We finished with the kind of performance we were looking for at L-R, and hopefully, some guys who weren’t All-SAC will use that as good motivation,” Hester said.
Now attention turns to Catawba’s recruiting efforts.
“With so many guys returning, this is one of those years we can’t sign very many,” Hester said. “That means we’ve got to sign the right ones.”