College Football: Lenoir-Rhyne-Catawba Preview Box
LENOIR-RHYNE (3-6, 2-4 SAC) at CATAWBA (8-2, 4-2 SAC)
Kirkland Field, Shuford Stadium
Today, 1:30 p.m.
Radio: WSAT Memories 1280. Live stats: www.gocatawbaindians.com
LAST WEEK: Catawba edged Newberry 17-13 with plenty of defense and two TD catches by Keyon West. Lenoir-Rhyne was outscored by Carson-Newman, 42-28, in Hickory.
COACHES: — Catawba’s Curtis Walker is in his fifth season and is 34-21. Walker is 2-2 against Lenoir-Rhyne. Walker played linebacker for the Indians and is still in the school record book for tackles in a game (25 vs. Wofford in 1991). He was the 2015 South Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year.
Lenoir-Rhyne’s Mike Kellar is a native of West Virginia and played quarterback for West Virginia colleges Glenville State and Fairmont. Kellar experienced lots of success as the head coach at California University of Pennsylvania before being hired by L-R in December, 2015. He’s 0-1 against Catawba.
SERIES: This is the 97th meeting. Catawba leads 48-44-4. Catawba has played Lenoir-Rhyne more times than any other opponent. Newberry is second. Catawba has played Newberry 81 times. Lenoir-Rhyne beat the Indians six straight times from 2009-14, but the Indians have won the last two meetings.
KEY PLAYERS: Catawba quarterback Patrick O’Brien has 23 touchdown passes (tied for first in the South Atlantic Conference) and accounts for 238 yards per game through the air. O’Brien throws to two of the SAC’s best receivers in Sam Mobley (52 catches, 973 yards, 8 touchdowns) and West (48-524-7). Linebacker Kyle Kitchens has 10.5 sacks. Linebackers Trey Evans and Michael Peppers are the Indians’ leading tacklers.
Nelson Brown is the workhorse for Lenoir-Rhyne’s offense. He’s rushed for 969 yards and nine touchdowns. He netted 122 rushing yards last week. Sophomore free safety Kyle Dugger is a reigning SAC Player of the Week. He leads the SAC in solo tackles. Dugger has scored touchdowns for the Bears on a punt return, a blocked punt return, a fumble return and a blocked field goal return.
WORTH MENTIONING: Coach Kellar has two sons who play for the Bears, including Jarrod, a sophomore who starts at quarterback. Anthony Kellar is a freshman linebacker.
Catawba’s offense is balanced, third in the SAC in rushing yards and second in passing. Catawba also is second in sacks.
Catawba’s offensive line got banged up some last week. Star guard Quinzavious Sands missed the game. He hopes to play today.
Ranked sixth in the region, Catawba anticipates a return to the Division II playoffs (the Indians made it in 2015) if it can win today. Seven teams from the regional will go.
While it’s unlikely to be a blowout, it is a Blue Out. Catawba fans are requested to wear blue. Honoring Veterans Day, it’s also a Military Appreciation Game. Those serving in the military and military veterans will be admitted free with ID.
Lenoir-Rhyne’s victories were against North Greenville, Tusculum and Limestone.
“This is a rivalry and we’ve got to win,” West said. “We want to put our best foot forward. We need to come out strong and dominate.”
OUTLOOK: This game doesn’t need any artificial hype. Catawba is competing for a playoff berth and the Indians are at home on the last day of the regular season against the school that is their biggest traditional rival.
It’s going to be an emotional Saturday, the last home game win-or-lose (unless amazing things transpire today in the region) for stars such as Kitchens, Peppers, Evans, West, running back Eamon Smart and offensive tackle Brandon Floyd. They’ve been towers of strength for the program for a long time. Catawba is also going to say goodbye to shorter-term players who made a huge impact in O’Brien and Mobley.
“If we take care of us, then we won’t be packing any shoulder pads and we won’t be cleaning out lockers,” Walker said. “If we win, we’ll play again.”