By Mike London
The Catawba notebook …
SALISBURY ó Catawbaís football team is 2-6 with three games left and will be a decided underdog in two of those ó Saturdayís 3:30 p.m. game at North Greenville and the Nov. 12 finale against Lenoir-Rhyne.
North Greenville (6-2) is ranked fifth in the region, while L-R (4-3) is 10th.
A 3-8 season looms as a distinct possibility for the Indians and 2-9 ó beating Brevard on the road on Nov. 5 is no sure thing ó isnít out of the question.
Dating back to last season, Catawba has dropped eight of 10 games in its roughest stretch since 1994.
ěWe shouldnít be sittiní where weíre sittiní and Iím sick over it,î head coach Chip Hester said. ěWeíve had our good moments, but then weíll hit a lull and find a way to lose a football game.î
WEIRD: Catawba is actually plus-5 in turnovers this season ó the best figure in the SAC ó which makes 2-6 even harder to swallow.
YOU NEVER KNOW: By its high standards, Carson-Newman (3-5) is having an awful year. But wouldnít you know it, the Eagles played their finest game of the season when they buried Catawba 55-21 on Oct. 8.
Carson-Newman lost to UNC Pembroke by an astounding score of 42-14 on Saturday. One of Catawbaís two wins came at home against UNC Pembroke.
SHINING STAR: Junior quarterback Jacob Charest had his best game Saturday, throwing for 384 yards and accounting for four TDs in a 51-41 loss to Wingate. He also led Catawba in rushing with 52 yards and was named the teamís offensive player of the week.
Charest turned in a SAC Player of the Week sort of effort, but itís hard to get that award if your team loses.
ěWe had to get a lot more one-dimensional than we wanted against Wingate, but Jacob really competed,î Hester said. ěHe was pressured but he made plays with his arm and his feet and was a big reason we were able to stay in the game. Weíve made some adjustments that have put him in position to use his talents better. Thatís a big reason weíve had some growth offensively.î
MORE POSITIVES: Sophomore Nate Charest had a spectacular receiving day Saturday (eight catches, 146 yards) as did senior Eric Morman (nine for 93).
ěThose two competed at a high level and did a nice job,î Hester said. ěBut the thing is we need to be talking about eight or nine guys on offense and eight or nine guys on defense doing a nice job every week. But we just havenít had that kind of consistency.î
BE WARY OF PERRY: Catawba boasts two of the top tacklers in the SAC in veteran linebackers Lakeem Perry and Cory Johnson.
Catawbaís defensive player of the week, Perry was in on 12 stops and forced a fumble against Wingate. He has 75 tackles for the season to rank third in the league.
ěHe brings everything heís got every week,î Hester said. ěHeís fast and physical and goes about his business. Heís not just tackling people ó heís hitting them.î
Perry is likely on his way to All-SAC honors in spite of the teamís struggles.
ěI had a pretty good game against Wingate,î he said. ěBut what it comes down to is getting wins. We didnít get the win, so itís hard to feel good about it.î
MR. CONSISTENT: Mario Washington is Catawbaís special teams player of the week on a regular basis and earned his third award in the last four weeks on Saturday.
ěThree tackles, but no big highlights, really,î Washington said. ěIíd take a win over three tackles any day.î
KILLER PLAY: Catawbaís downfall on Saturday can largely be traced to one bizarre play ó a Catawba field goal was blocked and returned for a touchdown by the Bulldogs for a sudden 10-point swing.
Washington was on the sideline on that play ó most of the protection unit was comprised of big linemen ó and watched in horror as the disastrous play unfolded, almost in slow motion.
ěIíve never seen that happen,î he said. ěI just kept hoping someone would make the tackle, but no one did.î
BY THE NUMBERS: Stats can lie, but the numbers explain some of Catawbaís struggles. The Indians are last in the SAC in offense and rank seventh in defense.
And while theyíve made strides lately, theyíre still last in red zone efficiency. Catawba has had 11 empty trips inside the red zone.
BANGED UP: Injuries donít explain everything, but theyíve had a role in Catawbaís struggles. Three key defensive players are out long-term ó DBs Scottie Floyd (broken kneecap) and L.J. McCray (ribs) and linebacker Jeb Bass (shoulder).
ěWeíre missing key veterans, and while young guys have stepped up, theyíve had some very big shoes to fill,î Perry said.
Hester is optimistic Floyd will be able to run by spring. Catawba is seeking a medical redshirt for McCray, an All-America candidate when the season began.
Hester is optimistic that deep snapper D.J. Davis (medical) will be cleared for duty on Saturday.
WRIGHT TIME: Senior Josh Wright took a beating Saturday, but Catawbaís leading rusher kept hobbling off only to return to the action. Expect him to play Saturday if he can walk.