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College Football Preview: Catawba, Livingstone both at home today

By Ronnie Gallagher
rgallagher@salisburypost.com
Local football fans will have the chance to watch two Division II games within Salisbury’s borders today.
Livingstone (0-4) looks for its first win of the season when it takes on Lincoln (2-2) at Alumni Stadium at 1 p.m.
Catawba (3-0) plays host to Mars Hill (2-1) in the South Atlantic Conference opener for both teams at 7.

Catawba is ranked 13th in the AFCA poll and one of the reasons is good play from its defensive line. It will be tested by Jonas Randolph, who was named SAC Offensive Player of the Year in Mars Hill’s last win, 20-14 against Saint Augustine’s.
Randolph, a sophomore, set a school record with 43 carries and finished with 216 yards.
Those stats didn’t surprise Catawba coach Chip Hester, who said Lions coach Tim Clifton always seems to produce a workhorse in the backfield.
“The names change and numbers change but the players are still the same,” Hester said. “Coach Clifton does a great job of identifying tailbacks that fit their system. Obviously, they’re a team that loves to run the football.”
Hester said Randolph was much more than a bruiser.
“He is big enough to break tackles but he has agility as well,” Hester said.
Georgia coach Mark Richt’s son, Jon, is the Mars Hill quarterback. He is only 26-of-70 with seven interceptions. So while the defensive line may be the focus, the defensive backs have to be wary of the passing and not get too comfortable.
“You can tell Mars Hill has potential,” Hester said of the passing game. “They haven’t started clicking yet but they’ve got some weapons at wide receiver.”
So does Catawba, and the receivers may have their starting quarterback returning. Cam Sexton, who was injured in the second game, has nursed a bad ankle for two weeks. Patrick Dennis was the starter against Livingstone two weeks ago.
“He’s been practicing all week,” Hester said of Sexton. “He’s good to go.”
But it could all come down to stopping the ground game.
“This team runs the ball better than any we’ve seen,” Hester said. “They’re as big as any team we’ve played.
Catawba’s “CIAA schedule” is complete with wins over Saint Augustine’s Fayetteville State and Livingstone.
“Sometimes, (athletic director) Dennis Davidson and I get a hard time but our schedule is perfect, We got two solid tests (Livingstone was beaten 51-0). We made some mistakes but we still won. We’re better going into the fourth game than we were going into our third. And that’s a positive.”
Hester is also anxious to get the SAC schedule under way.
“Everyone knows the conference is what it’s all about,” Hester said. “Our guys have familiarity with the conference. Our preparation has been really good.”

Despite being winless, Livingstone is favored against Lincoln. The Blue Bears defeated the Lions 27-10 last year.
The man who coached that victory will not be on the sidelines today, however. Lamonte Massie was fired early in the week and has been replaced by assistant head coach Eric Brown in an interim position.
“The first thing you’ve got to do is take care of the kids,” Brown said. “Make sure they know we’re still with them. The last couple of games, we didn’t finish. This situation right here will make some people not finish.
“It’s important that we move on with the task at hand.”
Brown was a four-year starter for South Carolina at middle linebacker under Sparky Woods and called the defensive signals as a true freshman. He has also coached at high schools in Gastonia and in Kentucky, as well as Johnson C. Smith and Methodist.
Massie said after he was fired that he suggested Brown as his successor. Brown worked with Massie at Edwards Waters.
“”I’ve worked with him for so long, it was good that he saw some traits in me that would allow me to be a head coach,” Brown said. “He’s done a lot of instrumental things to put me in a leadership role.”
One thing that can do nothing but help is having three straight home games.
“Anything that can help morale is a good thing,” Brown said. “Not having to leave at night. Not getting out on the road. Being home with your family.”
Brown called Lincoln very athletic, but added, “We’ve got skill guys ourselves on both side of the ball that we need to allow to open up and make good things happen with their athleticism.”
Brown wouldn’t say who his starting quarterback would be ó Steven Williams or former West Rowan star Bryan Aycoth.
“The best guy plays on Saturday,” Brown said.

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