College football: Catawba Indians on the road at Limestone
By Mike London
SALISBURY — When Catawba started this football season, Limestone resided in the file marked “sure wins.”
Limestone exited that file last week when it beat UNC Pembroke, 41-25, to end a 15-game losing streak. UNC Pembroke, as you may recall, beat Catawba, 28-14, on Sept. 21.
Limestone also owns a respectable 10-point loss to the West Georgia team that smacked Catawba by 28.
Catawba will take on Limestone on Saturday at 1 p.m. at “The Reservation at Gaffney High School.” While it’s a high school stadium, it’s a big-time high school stadium with artificial turf and a seating capacity of 10,000.
The game is now regarded as almost a 50/50 proposition. The Massey Ratings system gives Catawba a 55 percent win probability and projects a final score of Indians 27, Saints 24.
It’s a contest between 1-3 teams fighting for survival. With one SAC loss and three overall losses, there’s still hope, albeit slim hope, of postseason berths and championships, of achieving serious goals. But a fourth loss and a second SAC loss transforms most goals into dreams.
Catawba did make strides last week against unbeaten and nationally ranked Wingate.
“Our best game,” Catawba head coach Curtis Walker said. “The first game we’ve competed for all 60 minutes.”
The Indians improved in many ways, ran it, threw it, had zero turnovers and only had one penalty. The area where Catawba came up short was stopping Wingate on third down. Wingate was 13-for-18 on third-down conversions. Catawba’s defense played well enough to limit Wingate to 13 points, but the Bulldogs kept the ball for long periods and moved the chains consistently. Wingate had the ball almost two-thirds of the time.
Walker said some players were in tears after the 13-10 loss to Wingate. He took that as a positive sign. You’d rather for players to care too much than not enough.
Walker also said players couldn’t wait to get back to practice on Monday to start preparing for their next opportunity to taste victory.
“Wingate hurt, but I think the Wingate game still helps us more than it hurts,” Catawba cornerback Cris Page said. “We know we should’ve won, but we didn’t. What we can take away from it is confidence. We competed very well against a very good team.”
Limestone ran it and threw it efficiently last week to beat UNC Pembroke and was 6-for-11 on third-down conversions
Extra-large quarterback DJ Phillips (6-foot-7, 230 pounds) threw for 192 yards. Jerko’ya Patton ran for 117.
Catawba’s key offensive weapon at Limestone figure to be QB Kendall Davis, running back Demonte Good and receivers Chylon Thomas and Gavin Rose.
Defensive leaders for Catawba include Page, safety Brenden Westbrook and linebackers Jeremiah Ferguson, LJ Melvin and Adam Rowson.
“The way we played last week, we know we can compete with top teams,” Rowson said. “If we keep putting that kind of effort in, we’ll be all right. We’re still confident.”
Walker (40-31 in seven seasons) owns 21 road wins and 19 home wins. That’s an unusual split. Catawba’s only victory this year was on Sept. 14 at Winston-Salem State, so maybe the Indians are due for more road success.
Limestone’s coach is Brian Turk. The former South Carolina assistant was named interim coach for the final two games of the 2018 season. The interim tag was removed after the season ended.
Catawba leads the all-time series 3-1. Limestone’s 6-0 bad-weather win at Catawba in 2016 would get votes as the ugliest D-II game ever played.
WSAT radio will broadcast Saturday’s game.
Limestone did beat Catawba once, 6-0, but that 2016 game contested in adverse weather, may have been the ugliest Division II game ever played.
The last two seasons, Catawba did what it expects to do against Limestone, winning 45-28 and romping 43-6 to take a 3-1 lead in the all-time series.
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