Division II football: Catawba 51, Livingstone 0
By Mike London
Catawba athletics director Dennis Davidson joked that he felt his grip on the massive, gold Mayor’s Cup slipping away at halftime, but he never had anything to worry about.
Catawba led Livingstone only 6-0 at the break, but a 35-point third quarter ignited a 51-0 rout in the annual contest between Salisbury’s Division II programs.
Catawba has prevailed in the rivalry every year since the series was renewed in 2000. Only the 2002 meeting at Livingstone came close to going the other way.Running back Antonio Hall and receiver Gerron Bryant scored two touchdowns apiece, and Catawba’s defense held the Blue Bears to negative rushing yardage.
“At halftime, we knew we were a lot better than that 6-0 score,” said Hall, who pounded for 118 rushing yards.
Catawba (3-0) suffered adversity when starting center Zane Gibson hobbled to the sideline with a knee injury on the Indians’ second offensive snap. That forced two changes. Guard Daylon McAlexander moved to center. Roy Carter Jr., who began his college career as a Livingstone Blue Bear, came off the bench to fill in at guard.
The Indians managed their only first-half points shortly after a pass on a faked punt backfired on the Blue Bears. Catawba took over on the LC 41, and Patrick Dennis passed 36 yards to a wide-open Brandon Bunn for a touchdown as the first quarter expired.
Livingstone’s band was exceptional at halftime, but the stat sheet showed that Catawba’s defense, especially the defensive line, was in complete control. The Blue Bears (0-3) had rushed 17 times for 17 yards. It was only a matter of time.
“We were frustrated that we’d left a lot of points on the field in the first half, but we weren’t worried,” said Dennis, who stepped in for injured Cam Sexton and passed for 182 yards. “We were moving the ball, but we hadn’t finished drives. “There wasn’t much yelling and screaming at halftime. We knew the gameplan was a good one. We knew that everything we wanted was right there.”
If there was a single game-changing play it was Hall’s return of the second-half kickoff. He refused to go down and enabled the offense to start from the Catawba 46.
Six brisk rushing plays later, Hall was in the end zone. Thomas Trexler’s PAT made it 13-0.
“I thought the second half we really settled in and played football,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said. “That first possession was very important in order to get control of things. Hall’s kickoff return was great. He ran with a very high level of effort all day.”
Catawba’s Melquan Fair and Cory Johnson buried Livingstone’s first play of the second half for a 3-yard loss. The Blue Bears went three-and-out, shanked a punt, and the Indians were knocking on the door again at the LC 31.
On first down, Hall broke a run to the 5. Defensive back Alkeem Deloatch shook the ball loose, making one of his 11 tackles, but Catawba’s All-America offensive tackle Terence Crosby recovered.
Two runs by Josh Wright produced a touchdown. Trexler’s PAT was good, it was 20-0, and a huge snowball was rolling downhill.
Then Bryant took over. His 38-yard reception set up the TD that made it 27-0.
With 4:13 left in the third quarter, Bryant caught a 47-yard TD pass from a scrambling Dennis to make it 34-0.
Two minutes later, Bryant reeled in a 48-yard TD pass from Daniel Griffith for a 41-0 edge. In a span of six minutes, Bryant made three catches for 133 yards and two TDs. He helped Catawba put 35 points on the board in a little over 10 minutes.
“That halftime score was like a punch in the groin for all of us,” Bryant said. “It was a gut-check. But our coaches have taught us to play right, and the second half we went out and performed the way we’re supposed to. We played Catawba football.”
Trexler blasted a 46-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Catawba special teams accounted for the final TD when Jaspen Gray smothered a punt and Aaron Cauble recovered in the end zone.
Livingstone never turned it over, but it was forced to punt 11 times. Quarterbacks Steven Williams and Bryan Aycoth passed for 93 yards, but Livingstone’s 23 rushing attempts went nowhere. The Blue Bears were 2-for-15 converting third downs.
Marqus Davis had two sacks and another tackle for loss to lead Catawba’s defense. Terrence Porter also contributed a sack.
“The word on the defensive side was domination,” Catawba lineman Brandon Sutton said. “We were missing our starting quarterback but with or without him the game goes on.”
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