College football: Indians are underdogs again

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 13, 2022

By Mike London

SALISBURY  — The football season will grind on for the Catawba Indians on Saturday with a 6 p.m. kickoff.

Newberry (5-1, 3-1) will be at Shuford Stadium looking to pile on head coach Curtis Walker’s young, beleaguered Indians, who can be found at the bottom of the Piedmont Division standings of the South Atlantic Conference.

SAC divisions, Piedmont and Mountain — are new, in case you missed it — with the league championship game set for Nov. 12.

The Indians (1-5, 0-4) have dropped five straight since traveling across town to beat Livingstone, so they’re not going to have to worry about adjusting the schedule for a SAC title game. Their home game with Carson-Newman on Nov. 12 should take place as scheduled.

SAC divisional play hasn’t done the Indians any favors, at least not for the 2022 season. The three biggest bullies in the SAC appear to be Piedmont squads Lenoir-Rhyne, Newberry and Wingate. Limestone and Barton aren’t bad.

There are some Mountain teams that Catawba would have a 50/50 chance to beat, but, unfortunately, the Indians won’t get to play them.

Newberry, ranked 17th nationally in Division II, always bring exceptional athletes to Salisbury. Head coach Todd Knight recruits about 95 percent of his players from the state of South Carolina, from football hotbeds such as Dutch Fork, Summerville and South Pointe. If someone from outside South Carolina turns up on a Newberry roster, he’s probably special.

Newberry’s offense looks balanced and productive. Running back Mario Anderson can bang it or break it, and he has 595 rushing yards (7 per carry) and seven touchdowns. He was the key guy last week when Newberry beat Barton 42-21. He had 159 yards and three TDs.

Newberry QB Dre Harris owns 789 passing yards and is a running threat with 204 yards. He’s accounted for eight touchdowns. Newberry always has exciting receivers, and Deshun Kitchings is the latest in a long line. He has 18 catches for 353 yards and three scores.

Luke Taylor, a linebacker, is the leading tackler for the Wolves, who average 30 points per game, while allowing 18.

This one may look hopeless for the Indians on paper, but Catawba lost by a touchdown to Newberry last season — and the season before that.

The other reason to hope is Newberry isn’t infallible. The one loss for the Wolves so far this season came on the road at Carson-Newman, so maybe they’ll turn in another shaky road performance on Saturday.

Newberry is a 20-point favorite over a Catawba team that hasn’t found any offensive consistency and sank to rock bottom in last week’s 28-0 shutout at the hands of Wingate.

Catawba’s redshirt freshman QB Ridge Jacobs is 10th in the SAC passing stats, while freshman running back Leroy Bracey is the top Indian in the SAC rushing stats. He’s 15th.

As far as receiving yards, you won’t find any Indians in the top 25 in the 12-team league.

Clayton Crile has had two punts blocked, but he’s doing what he does, averaging 43 yards on punts, with some boomers. He’s 3-for-6 on field goals, including a 53-yarder.

Kujuan Pryor has averaged an insane 37.4 yards on kickoff returns for the Indians, but he’s had to return way too many kickoffs. Teams aren’t required to kick it to him, and Newberry probably won’t.

The all-time series could not be more even. It’s 41-41-3. The Wolves won the last four to deadlock it.