Catawba Football Wins Close Season Opener
“It sure wasn’t pretty, but I’ll take a ‘W’ like that any day of the week.”
It is hard not to agree with head coach Curtis Walker about Catawba’s season opening 10-9 victory over visiting West Liberty this past Saturday. While the new-look spread offense struggled for much of the second half, the defense came to play, holding the Hilltoppers to three field goals after stopping them multiple times in the red zone to preserve the win.
Catawba started the game sloppy with All-American safety LJ McCray fumbling the opening kickoff before recovering it deep in Catawba territory. This was a unfortunate constant for the Catawba special teams unit all afternoon long, as they squandered many opportunities at good field position with muffed returns.
The offense, directed by Wisconsin-transfer Danny O’Brien at quarterback, did not fare much better until a drive near the end of the first quarter. True freshman runningback David Burgess provided a massive spark for the running game on that particular drive, breaking tackles and making defenders miss left and right, as the offense began to gain some traction with some screen passes sprinkled in. The drive ended with a 10-yard connection from O’Brien to senior wideout Nate Charest for the game’s lone touchdown. The offense produced their final three points of the afternoon on the very next drive, as kicker Chad Hollandsworth connected for a career-long 47-yard field goal to make the score 10-3.
After halftime, the offense struggled mightily, as they produced five third-and-out drives in the second half. Fortunately, the Catawba defense came ready to take care of business. McCray and fellow senior Jacob Hanes were all over the field, making plays against the run game or effecting West Liberty’s passing game all afternoon long. McCray finished with 4 tackles on the day and Hanes had 8, including 1.5 tackles for losses. Freshman cornerback Terrence Williams also held his own, with two passes broken up, both in the end zone.
When the fourth quarter rolled around, the offense closed the game out late with a couple of first downs on their possession of the game. While it was not a high scoring game, the offense piled up close to 350 total yards on the day, while the defense held the Hilltoppers to their three field goals on 284 yards of offense. Charest was the main offensive weapon, with nine catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.
Walker expressed after the game that while the team has a bunch of room for improvement, he was proud of the effort and fight by his players to close out a close contest against a team that defeated two top-25 teams in the final two weeks of last season. ”You guys didn’t give up, you kept fighting and finished.”
Catawba (1-0) will travel to in-town rival Livingstone (0-1) this coming weekend. Kickoff is set for 6 pm.