Catawba football outlook: Schedule is menacing
By Mike London
SALISBURY ó Catawba football coach Chip Hester says the blue collars on his teamís uniforms ó the white ones as well as the brand new navy ones ó are very appropriate.
ěThatís the theme for 2011,î said Hester, who offers a carefully considered theme every season. ěBlue collar. Weíre a blue-collar team thatís got to come to work every day. If we donít …î
Thereís no need to finish that sentence. Catawba has a schedule that Hester, who is entering his 10th season, calls the most challenging the program has ever undertaken.
The SAC never gets any easier ó long gone are the good olí days when Lenoir-Rhyne and Newberry were automatic wins ó and Catawba has added rising powers UNC Pembroke and North Greenville to a serious gauntlet of stout opponents.
The Indians also will travel to play FCS school Coastal Carolina, piloted by former Catawba coach David Bennett, who guided the school to national prominence from 1999-2001.
Thatís probably a suicide mission akin to the Indiansí trip to Wofford back in 2003. While thereís going to be all sorts of hype, hoopla and hysteria about that exciting matchup, Catawba is going to be outgunned 63 scholarships to 25, so Indian fans should keep expectations realistic.
Catawba, 6-4 last season, is 63-34 during Hesterís very solid tenure and has been picked fifth by the SACís coaches in the eight-team leagueís preseason poll.
Hester doesnít sound thrilled with being picked fifth, but heís not exactly surprised. Actually, the way the SAC stacks up, being picked fifth might be a compliment.
ěWingateís picked first and they should be,î Hester analyzed. ěWhen you win the league and have a lot of people coming back, then you should be voted No. 1. But Carson-Newman is going to be awfully good. Tusculumís still got their All-American quarterback (Bo Cordell). Mars Hillís got an All-American tailback (Jonas Randolph) and a good, experienced quarterback (Jon Richt) returning. Newberryís just loaded with talent. Then thereís Lenoir-Rhyne. They were playing as well as anyone in our league at the end of last season.î
Catawba should be favored when it takes on Brevard, but no matter where you look, there wonít be any breathers ó even in the out-of-league games.
North Greenville went 9-3 in 2010 and has Clemson transfer Willy Korn playing quarterback, while UNC Pembroke was a D-II playoff team in 2010 and laid a fearsome beating on Carson-Newman last September.
Catawba opens with CIAA club St. Augustineís on the road on Sept. 3, and while the Indians have, as a rule, handled CIAA teams, the one CIAA squad that has given them fits is ó you guessed it ó St. Augustineís.
St. Augís surprised Catawba at Shuford Stadium in 2008, then did it again in 2010 just to prove the first upset wasnít a fluke.
ěI guess we could lose them all this year, but I also believe that we could win them all,î said Hester, who led the Indians to the D-II playoffs in 2002, 2004 and 2007. ěObviously, weíve got our hands full and weíve got to show up and play at a high level every week. But I really feel good about our senior class. I feel good about this team.î
A look at Catawbaís personnel is upcoming.