College football: Can Catawba continue comeback at Newberry?
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Catawba’s football season was widely written off as a disaster after the injury-plagued, snake-bit Indians lost five of their first six games.
There also was a home game with a high win probability that was washed away by Hurricane Florence. That stung like another loss.
There were dark days, dark weeks, but head coach Curtis Walker is still clutching his towel. He hasn’t thrown it in.
Walker, his staff and his team are still determined to salvage something from this weird season, and maybe the Indians will. They’ve won two straight to get back to 3-5. There was a tough, dig-deep win against Tusculum, followed by a taking-care-of-business romp against last-place Limestone.
With its modest two-game winning streak, Catawba is actually the third-hottest team in the South Atlantic Conference. Lenoir-Rhyne has won eight straight. Wingate has won its last four.
“Sure, we think about what where we could have been and what we might have done,” Catawba defensive end Cameron Davis said. “But the only thing left to do now is ball out, to finish strong.”
The announcement of the rescheduling of the hurricane game (with 2-5 UNC Pembroke) for Nov. 17 means that Catawba now has a mathematical chance to finish 6-5. To send the seniors out winners, and all that. It’s something to shoot for, something to play for, in addition to pride.
Getting to 6-5 would require upsetting a stout Lenoir-Rhyne team on the road, but now that the Indians are reasonably healthy, they’ll have a fighting chance in Hickory.
But don’t ask Walker about L-R or UNCP. He isn’t interested in talking about 6-5. Or 5-5.
He will talk about trying to get to 4-5 overall and 3-3 in the league. That’s the task at hand, the only thing that matters right now. That’s what the Indians will be seeking to do on Saturday at 1 p.m. when they play a SAC game at Setzler Field in Newberry, S.C.
Newberry, head-coached for the 10th season, by Todd Knight is never easy. Walker is 3-2 against Newberry. Catawba is 41-37-3 against Newberry. Catawba won a struggle at Shuford Stadium, 17-13, last November.
It’s going to be Senior Day for the Wolves. That will make it that much harder.
Newberry has a roster that is 95 percent from South Carolina and always boasts some of the best talent in the SAC. That never changes.
Defensive lineman Jamarcus Henderson (27 career sacks) is a terror. Catawba’s offensive linemen have to keep him from tearing the limbs off freshman QB Ken Avent III. Inside linebacker Joe Blue has a great name and is great at tackling people. David Vereen is one of the SAC’s top DBs.
The biggest concern for Catawba’s defense is receiver Markell Castle, who has 23 career TD catches and has put 11 100-yard games in the books. Newberry has used a variety of quarterbacks, but Castle is always the No. 1 target.
Newberry’s defense has been superb on third down most of the season. That’s not good news.
The Wolves led Wingate at halftime, 14-7, last week before faltering and losing, 31-17.
Knocking off Wingate would have been huge for Newberry, which has pin-balled its way through a so-so campaign. The Wolves (4-5, 2-3) picked up their SAC wins against Limestone and Carson-Newman, with the home victory against Carson-Newman on Sept. 22, serving as the season highlight.
In the league, the Wolves have lost to Lenoir-Rhyne, Tusculum and Wingate. They lost all three by two touchdowns.
Catawba-Newberry figures to be a defensive-minded struggle. Three TDs might be enough to win it. In conference games, Newberry has allowed 95 points, fewest in the league.
Catawba will count on Avent, the reigning SAC Offensive Player of the Week, to continue his progress. Catawba is still minus-4 on interceptions for the season, tossing 15 picks, while getting 11.
Tight end Jourdan Osinskie, receiver Will Sweeper and back Kenyatta Greene figure to be playmakers for the Indians.
Linebacker Jeremiah Ferguson is Catawba’s leading tackler. Davis has seven sacks.
Channel 64 will televise the action. Memories 1280 will provide the radio broadcast.