College Football: Catawba 49, Livingstone 17

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 8, 2012

SALISBURY – Catawba’s record against Livinstone stayed unblemished, but the Indians’ 49-17 victory on Saturday night had a different look.
Catawba won its 13th straight in the series, but this wasn’t one of those over-before-halftime, play-everyone-with-a-uniform, hide-the women-and children Mayor’s Cup massacres that fans have gotten accustomed to.
“This was a football game,” agreed Catawba’s L.J. McCray, who made an interception and returned three kickoffs for 133 yards. “The truth is Livingstone came over here and played like they believed they would win it.”
Both young quarterbacks – Catawba redshirt freshman B.J. Sherrill and Livingstone true freshmen Drew Powell – were sensational.
Sherrill threw for 317 yards and three TDs. Powell accounted for two scores, threw for 305 yards and was the Blue Bears’ leading rusher with 65 yards.
“Livingstone’s passing scheme was great, and the quarterback was very good,” McCray said. “Every time they got a man open over the middle, he completed a pass.”
Fast-paced Livingstone (0-2) held a wide edge in first downs (28-19) and there were only 3 yards difference (399-396) in the offensive output of the clubs. The reason Catawba won handily on the scoreboard was special teams.
“Livingstone is on the right track, but special teams were the tipping point,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said.
Besides McCray’s returns, Livingstone failed on three field-goal attempts and had two decisive disasters on punt attempts.
Hester explained that Sherrill was informed he would be the quarterback on Thursday, replacing Jacob Charest, who started all of 2011 and was set to be the starter again this season. Charest’s football career at Catawba is over after a second offense regarding a team rule.
“B.J. was the story today,” Hester said. “When he found out Thursday he was our quarterback, he went out and had the best practice he’s ever had here. How he’s performed and how he’s carried himself the last few days were very important. He gave all his teammates confidence.”
Sherrill’s teammates are aware of his track record. He became a local legend by directing West Rowan to 46 straight wins after becoming the starting QB. Sixteeen of those wins and a third straight state 3A title came a year after West graduated its great running back K.P. Parks. Besides leading, Sherrill can throw a football through a keyhole. He holds the county prep record with 66 touchdown passes.
“B.J. stepped up big for us tonight,” said receiver Payton McCollum, who caught two TD passes. “He’s a natural leader. The offensive line blocked very well, and B.J. made some great passes.”
Sherrill couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. His first official pass was a 65-yard connection with a streaking McCollum that gave the Indians a 7-0 lead.
Powell answered immediately by directing an impressive, 76-yard march by the Blue Bears that tied the game.
After both defenses settled in, the turning point came late in the first quarter when Livingstone experienced its first punting disaster and handed Catawba the ball on the Livingstone 2. Bobby Morrison punched in the touchdown that put the Indians ahead to stay.
Sherrill scored on a sneak and threw a dart to McCollum for another TD pass, and Catawba’s edge was 28-7 at halftime.
Catawba grabbbed firm control when Sherill passed to Nate Charest (Jacob’s younger brother), and he completed a dazzling, 35-yard scoring play with his wheels and tackle-dragging strength.
“We came in with a lot of respect for Livingstone, and we knew we’d get their best shot,” Nate Charest said. “But B.J. played the way we knew he would.”