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Catawba football: Indians face rival Lenoir-Rhyne on the road

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

CATAWBA (4-6, 4-2 SAC) at LENOIR-RHYNE (3-7, 3-3 SAC)
Moretz Stadium — Today, 2 p.m.
RADIO: WSAT Memories 1280
COACHES: Lenoir-Rhyne — Mike Kellar. Kellar was hired last December after four seasons as head coach at California University of Pennsylvania. He played quarterback at Glenville State in West Virginia, although he graduated from Fairmont State.
Catawba — Curtis Walker. Walker, in his fourth season at Catawba, is 25-19. He’s 1-2 against the Bears. Catawba clinched the SAC title last season by beating L-R, 28-14, at Shuford Stadium.
LAST WEEK: Catawba was upset by Tusculum, 38-28. Lenoir-Rhyne got past Brevard, 21-14.
SERIES: Catawba leads 47-44-4. It’s an ancient rivalry that used to be played annually on Thanksgiving Day. Because of the tradition and the closeness and longevity of the series, the Bears are still Catawba’s biggest rival, although Wingate and Carson-Newman might get some votes.
WORTH MENTIONING: Both programs have seen better seasons. Lenoir-Rhyne was in the Division II title game just three years ago and had a final national ranking of No. 8 just two years ago. Catawba was league champ and in the D-II playoffs last fall.
• Catawba needs a win today. For one thing, 5-6 is better than 4-7, and finishing third in the league will be better than falling into a tie with L-R. A win might even sway a few recruits who are deciding between Catawba and L-R. The seniors who were part of last season’s championship run would like to win their last game. The guys who will return could use a win as a springboard into the offseason.
• It’s been a disappointing season no matter what happens because Catawba has taken a giant step back from last year’s excitement. “You never want that last game of the regular season to be the last game,” Walker said. “But that’s what it is.”
• It’s going to be the final game for a lot of good Catawba players, including six-year guys T.J Olsen and C.J. Barksdale, the respective anchors of the offensive and defensive lines.
• Catawba inside linebacker Trey Evans had a monumental outing against Lenoir-Rhyne last season with three fumble recoveries.
• Lenoir-Rhyne beat Tusculum, Carson-Newman and Brevard in SAC play, but it was clobbered by Newberry, Mars Hill and Wingate.
WATCH FOR: Lenoir-Rhyne led the nation in rushing in 2010, 2013 and 2014. Now the Bears throw it frequently (261 attempts), although not with overwhelming success. Catawba is ranked 127th nationally (out of 170 teams) in passing yards, while the Bears are 152nd.
The widely held theory is that L-R is playing spread football without spread personnel, but Kellar, who has a fine track record, can fix that with a few recruiting classes.
Catawba also has stronger defensive numbers than the Bears, but it’s enough of a rivalry that the stats probably won’t matter a lot. The bottom line in a game like this is pride. It will come down to who wants to win more.

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