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SAC Football: Catawba's Perry not quiet anymore

By Ryan Bisesi
rbisesi@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — With all the injury trouble that’s plagued Catawba at wide receiver, maybe Lakeem Perry is a viable option.
Perry says that’s silly, but his one-handed interception in Saturday’s win at Tusculum says otherwise.
The Indians’ run defense has garnered a lot of attention so far, but Perry gave the pass defending some good pub. The middle linebacker’s first pick of the year set up an Indians touchdown early in the fourth quarter that resulted in a 23-14 lead which held for the team’s first win of the year.
“I played the running back and at the last minute, saw the ball,” Perry said. “I stretched out for it.”
It’s not a stretch to say Perry is one of the anchors of the Catawba defense.
The senior linebacker was named the SAC Defensive Player of the Week after his interception, fumble recovery and nine tackles earned him the accolade. Perry was credited with nine tackles against Tusculum, one sack and two tackles for loss.
Catawba has allowed a Divison II-best 16.25 rushing yards per game and finally was rewarded for it with Saturday’s SAC win.
Tusculum managed just minus-4 yards on the ground, making it the second game the Indians have allowed negative rushing yardage. The Indians are third in tackles for losses, averaging 12.25 a game.
Perry and his 6-foot, 220-pound influence has been instrumental.
“He’s what you want in a senior linebacker,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said. “He is physically tough, mentally tough and what you’re looking for.”
Through four games, Perry leads the squad in tackles for loss with 6.5 and is second on the team in tackles with 27.
Perry, who came to Salisbury from Louisburg as a reserved, starry-eyed 18-year-old, has matured into a guy who can be loud on and off the field.
“When he first got to Catawba, he was as quiet as anyone you could ever talk to,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said. “It’s been fun to watch him grow as a young man and become more vocal. He’s playing at a very high level right now.”
Linebacker has been one of the steady positions for the Indians with Perry and Cory Johnson being the defensive anchors. Johnson leads the team in tackles with 35 and was the team’s defensive player of the week against St. Augustine’s.
“Those two guys feed off of each other,” Hester said. “Individually, they’re really good ballplayers, but together, they’re great ballplayers.”
With the Pioneers known for their aerial-laden offense, Catawba’s linebackers found themselves dropping back into coverage. Tusculum backup Kyle Dickey completed 23 of 38 passes for 303 yards. It was circulated by the middle of the week that Tusculum starter Bo Cordell would not play.
Perry’s pick hopes to ignite the pass defense, which has only caused two interceptions this year.
“I feel like we can turn the season around,” Perry said. “That could have been the game.”
Catawba faces UNC Pembroke Saturday at Shuford Stadium.
The Braves (3-1) have scored 49, 42 and 33 points in their wins.
Hester sees it as the team’s biggest defensive challenge so far.
How is Catawba going to stop them?
“Sticking to what we know,” Perry said. “It’s going to be tough, but these are the type of games that you look forward to.”

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