SAC Football: Catawba 14, Tusculum 6
By Mike London
SALISBURY – This one was about stops.
There was a long lightning stoppage of 97 minutes early in the fourth quarter, the first weather delay anyone could ever remember at Shuford Stadium.
There also were a ton of key Catawba defensive stops in a hard-nosed 14-6 SAC win against Tusculum.
And most important of all, Catawba stopped strugging to run the ball. The Indians pounded for 230 rushing yards, 158 of them by Bobby Morrison, and that was the key to a hard-earned victory.
“Huge credit goes to our offensive line and the running backs,” safety Chad Endres said. “The defense was only on the field four times in the first half, and that made it a lot easier for us. That’s how much our offense controlled the ball and controlled the clock.”
Except for the crazy weather, it went just the way Catawba coach Chip Hester drew it up on the chalkboard.
Catawba QB B.J. Sherrill has a sprained foot, and there was no way the Indians were going to win a track meet with one of D-II’s most proflic offenses. Tusculum QB Bo Cordell entered the game with 11 touchdown passes.
“We won the only kind of game we could’ve won,” an emotional Hester said. “We weren’t going to win throwing it around and we knew if it was a shootout, it wasn’t going to end well for us. In our wildest dreams, you never, ever imagine 14-6, but we played a very physical football game. Our defense and offensive line stepped up big-time.”
Punching away on the ground, Catawba (3-1, 1-1) drove for a score on its opening possession. Xavier Bond (63 yards) got the TD from the 1.
“Our offensive line was playing so well that all I had to worry about was not getting my foot stepped on,” Sherrill said. “Those guys were great.”
Sherill did manage to throw a 20-yard TD pass to Nate Charest, who squirmed and snaked his way into the end zone in the second quarter.
Catawba’s defense held Tusculum to a field goal in the first half.
Linebackers Cory Johnson and Tra Ingram forced that field goal by stoning a Tusculum running play on a third-and-1 situation.
Then Johnson broke up a fourth-down pass late in the first half to stop Tusculum once again and head-butted and high-fived his teammates.
The third quarter brought more of the same, with Catawba chewing clock on offense and bending but never breaking defensively.
But the start of the fourth quarter brought sudden lightning, and that draining delay threatened to sap the Indians’ momentum. They didn’t let it happen.
“There’s no way you can coach to prepare for something like a weather delay,” said Hester, who recalled one on the road at IUP. “You do worry about losing momentum, but our guys handled it with a lot of maturity.”
Jumal Rolle picked off a pass for the Indians shortly after play resumed.
Cordell, who would finish 33-for-58 passing for 254 yards, kept flinging, and Tusculum moved within 14-6 with 6:07 remaining on Logan Cornelius’ second field goal of the night.
Now it was a one-score game, but Catawba kept plowing. Morrison barged for one huge first down, and when Chad Hollandsworth punted to the Tusculum 13, Cordell only had 1:23 left to work with.
Tusculum reached its 32, but on a fourth-and-4, Endres pounded receiver Xzanvion Smith for the tough breakup that sealed the game.
“I saw what the route was, and I was able to make a hit,” Endres said.