College Football: Catawba Notebook

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Catawba football notebook…
There was a time, not so long ago, when a 2-0 start by the Catawba Indians would have meant automatic national ranking in the Division II poll.
Times obviously have changed, but a SAC road win this Saturday at Newberry, which is also off to a 2-0 start, might at least propel the Indians into the “others receiving votes” category.
Picked seventh in the SAC in the preseason – Newberry was tied for third in that poll – Catawba still has a lot to prove to a lot of people.
“We’re 2-0, and that certainly beats being the opposite,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said at Tuesday’s weekly press conference. “We had some guys do an outstanding job on Saturday, but everyone understands there are things we have to improve upon.”•WEEKLY AWARDS: Catawba was enthused enough about Saturday’s 49-17 Mayor’s Cup win against Livingstone that five players received player of the week recognition.
Senior cornerback Jumal Rolle was honored by the team and the league for his work on special teams. Rolle blocked a field goal and blocked a punt that set up a Catawba touchdown. Senior long snapper D.J. Davis, also a perennial All-SAC performer, shared Catawba’s special teams award. Besides snapping well, he made two tackles on punt coverage.
Junior receiver Nate Charest (seven catches, 119 yards, one TD) and redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Sherrill (317 passing yards, three TD passes) shared team offensive honors, while the defensive player of the week was sophomore lineman C.J. Barksdale, who produced two sacks.•GROUNDED: Everyone agrees Catawba has some work to do as far as running the ball if it’s going to make major strides this season. Being able to establish a running game is essential to take some pressure off a freshman QB.
After wins against West Liberty and Livingstone, Catawba stands sixth in the SAC in rushing with 104 yards per game and the Indians rank seventh in the league with a meager 2.6 yards per carry.
“Part of that is we haven’t been running the ball against tackling dummies,” Hester said. “West Liberty and Livingstone both had good defensive fronts. We need to get better and would like to be more explosive, but it’s not like we’ve just been getting stoned every play. We’ve been able to run time off the clock, and that’s something that often goes unnoticed.”
Catawba running back Bobby Morrison does have three rushing TDs and is tied for first in the SAC in that category.•BARK AND BITE: Barksdale, a former wrestler, is a hulking hunk of humanity who wouldn’t be out of place in an NFL locker room.
The youngster already bench-presses 450 pounds.
“You needed to be able to bench 450 to tackle Livingstone’s quarterback (freshman Drew Powell),” Hester said. “Barksdale is extremely strong and extremely quick. He’s just very tough to block.”
Barksdale gave the defense a C-plus or maybe a B-minus for Saturday’s performance.
“The defense was just all right,” Barksdale said. “Livingstone’s quarterback is good, but we didn’t get enough pressure on him and gave up way too many passing yards. We had a good rotation of players on our defensive front, but we still got a little winded.”•DANDY DEBUT: Sherrill’s first college start was an overwhelming success, to say the least.
“Going into it, I just didn’t want to mess up and didn’t want to make big mistakes,” he said. “I knew if I didn’t mess up we’d win, whether it was 60-0 or 35-32.”
Sherrill threw one pick and was sacked twice, but he also found 10 different receivers for those 317 passing yards. Charest and Payton McCollum helped his stats out with some great runs after their catches.
Sherrill directed West Rowan to three 3A state titles, so Hester wasn’t surprised at his successful debut.
“B.J. had a 70-percent completion rate, which is just outstanding,” Hester said. “But we weren’t shocked. He was very well coached in high school and was in multiple huge playoff games in high school. The stage on Saturday was not too big for him.”
Sherrill said he’d received so many congratulatory calls and texts that he’d never be able to answer them all.•BACKUP: With Sherrill suddenly thrust into the starting role a year earlier than expected, Catawba doesn’t have an experienced backup.
Sophomore Richard Shuping would get the call if anything happens to Sherrill.
Freshmen Mike Sheehan and Brad Rooney are the other QBs on the roster.•NATE WAS GREAT: Charest is having a tremendous career with 69 catches for 1,012 yards and added to his numbers on Saturday.
He will be a focus of Newberry’s defense this week because he had a monster day – six catches, 172 yards – when Newberry won 21-13 at Shuford Stadium last season.
One thing that will help Charest continue to be productive is the emergence of Payton McCollum as a serious threat. McCollum accounted for two long scoring plays on Saturday and has three TDs.
“Payton has really seized the opportunity to show out, and we’ve got some other guys who we expect to catch a lot of balls,” Charest said.
On Saturday, Charest and McCollum helped each other have long runs after catches with nice downfield blocks.
“We don’t want to let either of us get hit,” Charest said with a laugh.•LUCAS WHO? Catawba’s leading tackler against Livingstone was Lucas Riebe.
Riebe, a freshman linebacker from Florida, was credited with nine stops against the Blue Bears.
“Maybe he doesn’t run the 40 time of an ideal football player,” Hester said. “But put a helmet and shoulder pads on him and he’s a football player.”•INJURY REPORT: Tra Ingram, a starter at outside linebacker, missed the Livingstone game after suffering a concussion in the contest at West Liberty. Hester is optimistic he’ll play Saturday.•TOUGH OPPONENT: Hester said Newberry has a host of capable players on offense who are equally dangerous, but there’s no question who leads the Wolves’ defense.
That would be inside linebacker Apollo Stretch, an All-American who has the talent to match his world-class name.
Apollo should wear No.13, but he fills up the No. 45 jersey.
He has 25 tackles in the Wolves’ two wins.