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SAC Football: Catawba-Lenoir-Rhyne preview

By Ronnie Gallagher
rgallagher@salisburypost.com
The forecast for this afternoon is for sunshine and warm temperatures. No one’s happier about that than Catawba coach Chip Hester, especially after last week.
Catawba and Brevard wallowed in a mud bath that turned into a 7-6 Catawba loss. It left the Indians an unheard-of 1-5 in the SAC and 4-5 overall.
“It was the worst field conditions I’ve ever seen,” Hester said.
Today, the conditions should be ideal as Catawba ends its season at Shuford Stadium against rival Lenoir-Rhyne.
Game time is 1:30 p.m.
It will mark a bittersweet ending to the college football careers of 12 seniors. Thought to be a national playoff contender in August, the Indians have slumped and are in danger of the school’s first losing record in 15 years.
“It’s very weird,” Hester said. “It’s the most frustrating season ever. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. It has been a fight every single week. We just can’t make enough plays.”
For one Saturday at least, Hester is expecting his players to forget everything but today’s opponent. This will be the 88th meeting between Catawba and Lenoir-Rhyne.
A .500 record is on the line.
“It’s not where we want to be,” Hester said with a shrug. “It is what it is.
“.500 is better than a losing season. And any time you play a rival team, there’s a lot to play for.”
Hester compared Lenoir-Rhyne (1-5, 4-6) to Brevard, a run-first option team.
“They’ve scored a lot of points,” he said. “They’re a good team on offense and defense. They’re good on all levels.”
Hester is hoping a large crowd shows to appreciate what his seniors have meant to the program over the past four seasons.
Catawba will lose several offensive linemen, including Hunter Carnes and Kevin Hamaker, two four-year starters, and Terence Crosby a 2008 All-American. Roy Carter Jr. is another lineman leaving.
Local products such as linebacker Julian Samolu of West Rowan and defensive back Jaspen Gray of Davie County are ending their careers.
Running back Antonio Hall and wide receiver Travis Landrum have been offensive forces at times.
Defensive lineman Melquan Fair and defensive back Calvin Hall will wave goodbye today. So will linebacker Leon Ager.
Cam Sexton, who came from North Carolina for one graduate student season, has spent much of the season injured.
“We want to send them out in the right fashion,” Hester said. “We want to try and end on a positive note in a season where there have been a lot of negatives.”
Hester and his staff will begin working toward next season on Sunday.
“I am dadgum committed to making sure we’re a better football team when August rolls around,” Hester said.

NOTES: The game will be aired by WSAT 1280-AM. … Junior Brandon Bunn has 12 touchdown catches this season, two off the record of 14 by Ike Hill in 1968. Bunn’s 21 career TD grabs is four behind Nick Means. He is just 13 career catches behind Harry Balesteir (1969-72). Bunn enters today with 69. … Landrum has a good chance to finish sixth in kickoff return yardage. He needs 67 yards to pass O.J. Lennon.

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