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College Football: Catawba-Limestone preview box

 

CATAWBA (6-2, 2-2 SAC) at LIMESTONE  (4-4, 3-2 SAC)

The Reservation at Gaffney High,  Gaffney, S.C.

Today, 1 p.m.

Radio: WSAT Memories 1280. Live stats: www.golimestonesaints.com

Coaches — Catawba’s Curtis Walker is in his fifth season and is 32-21, a .604 winning percentage. The Indians have been solid (19-9) on the road during Walker’s tenure. Walker is 1-1 against Limestone.

Mike Furrey (9-10) is in his second season at Limestone and is 1-0 against Catawba. Furrey was an NFL receiver from 2003-09. He made 221 pro receptions and had big seasons for the Detroit Lions in 2006-07. He had 98 catches for 1,086 yards and six TDs in 2006. Furrey coached wide receivers at Marshall before arriving at Limestone. He was head coach at Kentucky Christian prior to Marshall. Furrey played college football at Northern Iowa.

Last game: Catawba put together its most complete effort of the season, focused and furious, and dismantled Tusculum, 40-13, on the road.

Limestone staged a comeback from a 17-0 halftime deficit, scored three TDs in the third quarter, and won at Newberry, 27-24, with a field goal in the final seconds.

Series: Tied 1-all. Catawba’s 10-3 win at Limestone in 2015 and Catawba’s 6-0 loss to the Saints at Shuford Stadium last season had something in common. Both were played in miserable field conditions. Butter-fingered Catawba turned it over seven times in 2016, and the Saints prevailed with an early defensive TD.

Today’s forecast? To the surprise of no one, rain is likely.

Players to watch: Limestone’s sophomore dual-threat quarterback Ivan Corbin Jr. was doing OK  (231 rushing yards, 10 TD passes), but Furrey started Marshall transfer D.J. Phillips, a redshirt freshman, for the first time last week and all heck broke loose. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound Phillips threw for 400 yards and blew up the school record book. Phillips played at Overhills High in Spring Lake, N.C., before signing with Marshall. Catawba’s defense had to prepare for two very different QBs this week, but it’s hard to imagine Phillips won’t start.

Slot receiver D’Anta Fleming (5-10, 175) and wideout Vyncint Smith (6-3, 195) combined for a whopping 363 receiving yards against Newberry.  Fleming has eight TD catches this season.

While Phillips was the SAC Offensive Player of the Week, Limestone linebacker Joey Felder was the SAC Defensive Player of the Week. He had a fumble return for a TD against Newberry.

Catawba’s players of the week for the Tusculum game were receiver Keyon West, defensive lineman Ryan Watts and kicker Lee Brackman (four field goals), while running back Kenyatta Greene (10 carries, 146 yards) was named game MVP. But no one had a bad game. Catawba’s defense was at its best — five sacks, three forced fumbles, 11 tackles for loss, 9 rushing yards allowed.

Senior Kyle Kitchens has 10 of Catawba’s 22 sacks. Dijonne Williams,  a backup linebacker, had nine tackles last week.

“We executed, simple as that,” Catawba defensive lineman Trevor Bembry said. “We got to the quarterback and we pressured him.”

Worth mentioning: Limestone has caused more heart palpitations than any team in Division II. The Saints are a handful of plays away from being 0-8, but they won three overtime games (Benedict, Tusculum, Mars Hill) before making the best fourth-quarter rally in school history last week.  While the Saints lost to Lenoir-Rhyne, 35-7, and probably are fortunate to be 4-4, they have to be respected. They are ahead of Catawba in the SAC standings.

Limestone beat Catawba last year and Newberry this season. That means the Saints have knocked off the defending SAC champion two straight years.

“They’re building a solid program by adding depth,” Walker said. “They brought in transfers and they’ve got good freshman. They’ve battled all season.”

Catawba is ranked seventh in the Southeast Region. Seven teams from the region will make the playoffs, so if the Indians can finish 9-2 — that would require beating Limestone, Newberry and Lenoir-Rhyne — they’ll make the playoffs. Unbeaten Wingate appears certain to seize the SAC title, but there’s a lot to play for today.

“It was good to see that No. 7 ranking,” Walker said. “The coaches knew where we stood, but it was good for our players to see that visual confirmation. It helped guys refocus. A lot of goals are still attainable if we play the way we’re capable of playing. Our destiny is still in our control.”

Artificial turf  has been installed at The Reservation since Catawba’s 2015 visit. That alleviates some of  the concerns about field conditions.

Excitement for Limestone football has escalated after so many dramatic victories. The game should attract a nice crowd to a 10,000-seat stadium.

Outlook: Catawba would have beaten about anyone in the region last week. If the Indians can duplicate that effort, they should improve to 7-2 no matter who takes the snaps for Limestone and no matter what the weatherman brings.

NEXT WEEK: Catawba returns home to host Newberry at 1:30 p.m. Limestone will visit undefeated Wingate for a 6 p.m. contest.

 

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