Davis leads defense against Newberry
SALISBURY — There’s less of Catawba nose guard Stephen Davis this season, but he’s doing more.
Davis is listed at 6-foot-2, 300 pounds, but he looks like a shadow of his former self. He’s 30 pounds lighter — and much more active — than he was a year ago.
Catawba defensive coordinator Keith Henry was the guy who encouraged the burly senior to trim down.
“He said I’d feel better, and he was right,” Davis said. “I worked out all summer and ate the right things, and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since high school. It’s a good feeling. I’m enjoying it.”
Davis figures to be a major factor on Saturday at 6 p.m. when the Indians open South Atlantic Conference play at Newberry’s Setzler Field. Both teams are 1-1.
Davis has five tackles in two games, but his most eye-catching stat is the three passes he batted at the line of scrimmage.
“We’re taught that if we can’t get to the quarterback, to get our hands up,” Davis said. “I joke with our defensive backs that I’m going to lead the team in pass breakups.”
Another guy the Indians need to play well at Newberry is strong safety Chris Carpenter. Carpenter was ill before and during Catawba’s 35-17 loss at Western Carolina last Saturday, but he still made six tackles. He had two on kickoffs and was the Indians’ special teams player of the week.
“I felt bad Friday, weak and I could barely breathe,” Saturday,” Carpenter said. “But the team was depending on me, so I fought through it.”
Catawba did OK at Western Carolina.
“We had a great showing in the first half,” he said. “But their depth was a factor in the fourth quarter and we needed to play with more discipline than we did. Discipline is what we’ve stressed all week.”
Catawba hasn’t won a SAC championship since 2007 and hasn’t done better than 4-3 in the league in the last six seasons. If the Indians are going to contend this year they really need to win Saturday.
The teams squared off in the rain at Shuford Stadium in 2013, and Catawba had its worst offensive effort of the year in an ugly 27-0 defeat.
On its last trip to Newberry, Catawba lost 35-28. The last time the Indians beat the Wolves was a 28-25 victory at Newberry in 2010. Catawba holds a narrow 38-36-3 lead in the all-time series.
Newberry lost to FCS school Charleston Southern 16-10 before crushing new program Limestone 70-20.
Against Limestone, Newberry scored 56 points in the second half.
Newberry is usually as talented as anyone in the SAC and is again led by QB W.T. Murden. A second-team All-SAC pick in 2013, Murden accounted for four TDs before sitting down against Limestone.
The Indians hope that if Murden does any sitting down on Saturday, it will be with Davis on top of him.
“Newberry will be a big challenge,” Davis said. “Their offensive line is always as good as anyone that we face.”
Follow Mike London on Twitter at @mikelondonpost3.
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