College Football: Carson-Newman 42, Catawba 7
By Mike London
SALISBURY – Well, there were no lightning delays, the band performed efficiently at halftime and linebacker Cory Johnson made 19 tackles.
Other than that, a search for positives in Catawba’s 42-7 loss to SAC rival Carson-Newman on Saturday proved fruitless.
“There’s nothing positive about this,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said dejectedly. “There’s not a single, solitary thing that’s positive. We put in a lot of hours and a lot of work, so to have this kind of effort is frustrating. It’s disheartening.”
It was the fifth straight season Catawba (3-3, 1-2) has fallen to Carson-Newman, so the loss at Shuford Stadium wasn’t surprising. The magnitude of the loss was. Catawba’s offense managed a not-so-grand total of 135 yards, while Carson-Newman (3-2, 2-2) churned for 377 rushing yards and was 4-for-4 passing for another 44.
“We had more energy than we’ve had,” said Carson-Newman head coach Ken Sparks, who racked up his 302nd career victory. “We got in attack mode early. We stayed there and we beat a good football team.”
Brandon Baker rushed for 121 yards for the Eagles. B.J. Sherrill passed for 111 yards for the Indians.
Catawba has placed emphasis on winning time of possession, but it lost that battle badly. The Indians barely touched the ball in the first half.
Carson-Newman won the toss, asked for the ball, and shoved it down the Indians’ throats on a 65-yard march straight out of the split-back veer textbook. Johnson made a stop for no gain to put the Eagles in a third-and-8 situation, but they converted with a 16-yard pass from Brandon Hawyood to Anthony Eubanks and went on to score.
Catawba’s meek answer was two rushes for 3 yards, an incomplete pass and a punt against a Carson-Newman defense that was scorched for huge numbers in recent losses to Newberry and Wingate.
“Very proud of our defense today,” Sparks said. “They established a tone on Catawba’s first series. They played with some purpose.”
On its second possession, Carson-Newman marched again. It took 11 plays – one pass, 10 runs, – to move 61 yards and make it 14-0.
“They were perfect on offense, executing at the top of their game,” Catawba defensive lineman Damein Lee said.
They were just getting started.
Catawba’s second straight three-and-out was followed by Carson-Newman’s third consecutive scoring drive, and it was 21-0.
Sherrill’s 15-yard scoring pass to Diante Hodges pulled the Indians within 21-7, but the halftime stat sheet was alarming. Catawba had rushed seven times for 7 yards.
It never got much better after the break.
“It was just a complete whipping all around,” Hester said. “It was an embarrassing defeat.”
Down 21-7, Catawba was driving in the third quarter, and there was some noise from 2,163 fans when Bobby Morrison ran for a first down at the Carson-Newman 35. But Sherrill was picked off on the next play.
Baker then broke a 40-yard run to set up the TD that stretched the Eagles’ lead to 28-7.
Even L.J. McCray’s 60-yard kickoff return to the Carson-Newman 37 didn’t lead to anything. Sherrill was sacked on third-and-5 from the 32 and his desperate, fourth-and-10 pass fell incomplete.
Catawba safety Chad Endres tried to create a spark when he forced a fumble in the Carson-Newman backfield, but the Indians failed to make the recovery, and the Eagles were able to finish off an 11-play, 65-yard scoring drive early in the fourth quarter to seal victory.
“We just couldn’t catch any momentum,” Lee said. “There’s blame all around for this one.”
Catawba plays at Mars Hill next week, so it has to regroup.
“We’ve got to keep moving, put this one behind us and get ready for the next one,” said defensive end Jacob Hanes, who made nine tackles. “We’re not going to give up.”