College football: Catawba home vs. Barton in Hester’s homecoming

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 16, 2021

By Mike London

SALISBURY — So far, so great for Catawba football, and enthusiasm will be high at Shuford Stadium on Saturday when the Indians play their third straight home game.

Catawba will welcome a Chip Hester-coached Barton team for a 1 p.m. kickoff.

Hester and current Catawba head coach Curtis Walker served on staffs together during the Indians’ glory days of two decades ago. Hester took the reins of Catawba’s program after head coach David Bennett, Walker and others departed for South Carolina to get the Coastal Carolina program off the ground. Hester guided the Indians to a 70-49 record in 11 seasons (2002-12). Walker was named to replace Hester in December 2012.

Hester was South Atlantic Conference and region coach of the year in 2007. Under Hester’s leadership, Catawba appeared in national polls from 2002-2009, but that’s when things began to taper off.

Hester was hired in the summer of 2018 to lead a football comeback at Barton. Known as Atlantic Christian for many years, the school had not played a football game since 1950.

The Bulldogs anticipated starting play in the fall of 2020, but the pandemic delayed the season. Barton was able to play four games in the spring of 2021, plus a scrimmage with Louisburg. Barton was scheduled to visit Catawba (2-0) last fall, and rescheduled to visit last spring, but a game set for April 3 was canceled by the depleted Indians.

Now a much-anticipated matchup finally will happen. It will be a Salisbury homecoming not only for Hester and his family, but for several recruits who chose Barton — receiver Gabe Hinceman (East Rowan), running back Malcolm Wilson (North Rowan) and offensive lineman Edwin Fuentes-Barrios (West Rowan). Barton’s offensive coordinator is former East Rowan head coach Will Orbin.

Barton (1-1) was thumped 31-7 by Newberry in its opener, but the Bulldogs beat Erskine 38-25 last week on the road for the first official win for the re-started program. That game was similar enough with Catawba’s victory over Erskine to suggest that the Catawba-Barton matchup will be competitive and entertaining.

Catawba’s somewhat wild 37-27 opening win against Erskine was followed up with a more solid and impressive 28-6 victory against Winston-Salem State. Catawba’s defense didn’t allow a touchdown against the Rams, while the offense ran the ball with authority and passed efficiently. Improvement from a healthier and more experienced offensive line has allowed Catawba to control games. Catawba also has benefited tremendously from punter/kicker Clayton Crile, who has performed like an All-American.

Barton rode redshirt freshman running back Jordan Terrell hard last week. He powered for 229 rushing yards, so containing him is where Catawba defensive plan obviously will start.

Barton’s offense presents a dual-threat quarterback. Redshirt freshman Jaquan Lynch broke a 74-yard scoring run against Erskine. He only threw 10 passes, but he had 134 yards through the air.

Barton had seven sacks last week. Redshirt freshman defensive end Toney Black, a Hickory Ridge graduate, had 3 1/2 sacks.