Catawba football notebook: Sickness didn’t slow QB at Mars Hill

By Ronnie Gallaghner, The Salisbury Post Coach David Bennett kept looking at how Luke Samples was throwing the football and didn’t like what he saw. Something’s wrong, he’d tell Samples. “I couldn’t put my finger on it,” Bennett said. I’m OK, Samples would say. No one in the crowd thought there were problems, considering Samples, a redshirt freshman, tossed four touchdown passes in a 28-21 victory over Mars Hill Saturday at Shuford Stadium. Afterward, Bennett heard the real story.“Luke’s dad told me, ‘Luke’s been sick for two days but he ain’t gonna tell you.’ ” Mars Hill was the team that turned out to be sick. Samples threw three scoring passes in the first half as Catawba led 21-0 at intermission. Samples said it wasn’t that bad. His throat hurt a little bit, “but physically, I wasn’t weak. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t play with.” *** GREATEST CATCH? It will go down as one of the greatest catches in Catawba history. And certainly one of the most important. Five plays into Catawba’s win Saturday, Samples lofted what appeared to be an overthrown ball to an open Nick Means. Somehow, Means tipped the ball several times, made the grab and loped into the end zone. The big play motivated the Indians to keep the lead. On film, it was even more miraculous, said Bennett. “We watched it from the end zone,” he said. “Nick turned on just enough speed and tipped it with his right, tipped it with his left and tipped it with his right until he could get under it.” *** WHAT ABOUT CEDRIC? Means has 107 receptions, five from fourth place on Catawba’s all-time list and four from third place. But with all of the Means hoopla, people have forgotten how close Cedric Squirewell is. He is only seven catches from 100. Squirewell already holds the school record for consecutive games with a catch (32). *** RECORD WATCH: Here are players closing in on milestones: Wallace needs 69 yards Saturday to break the freshman rushing record. Samples currently holds the top quarterback rating by 12 points. Catawba needs 34 points to set a new school mark. *** OFFENSE:Samples shared the team award for offensive player of the week with Rodney Wallace, another first-year player. Rodzilla ran for 123 yards. “And a lot of those yards came after broken tackles,” praised Bennett. *** DEFENSE:Linebackers Shawn McBride and Darris Morris shared the defensive award. McBride had 11 tackles, two for losses and broke up a pass. Morris had six tackles. *** HE’S SPECIAL: The special teams player of the week was also shared. Kicker Matt Gross kicked four extra points and Danny Jenkins punted nine times for a 40-yard average. Three of his kicks ended up inside the 20. “And his best punts were under pressure,” Bennett said. *** POLLS:Catawba, ranked 10th in the nation, needed the win over 25th-ranked Mars Hill to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Indians are fourth in the South Region and the top four teams in each region go. Catawba has hosted first-round games the past two years but if Central Arkansas wins this week, it will stay No. 3 and Catawba will be forced to go there. Bennett was no help when asked for directions to Central Arkansas. “Central Arkansas? It’s in the middle of the state,” he shrugged. *** GET READY: Don’t be fooled by Lenoir-Rhyne’s 2-7 record when Bill Hart’s club visits Shuford Stadium Saturday. “In my years, they have hit us the hardest of any team,” said McBride. *** INJURIES:Offensive lineman Joe Nixon was seen on the sidelines with ice wrapped around his right knee. Bennett said it happened when he tried to block Mars Hill All-American linebacker Khalid Abdullah. But Nixon is expecting to play this week, as is McBride, who has bruised ribs. *** CHALLENGE:The top offseason challenge will come from offensive lineman Daniel Lynch, who won the state wrestling title at heavyweight as a senior at East Surry. Bennett said the team is looking forward to watching Lynch wrestle Wallace, who won state titles at his South Carolina high school in three different weight classes. *** SAC REPORT: Last week’s winners were Presbyterian over Tusculum 48-41, Carson-Newman over Wingate 54-7 and Lenoir-Rhyne over Newberry 10-0. This week’s schedule has Mars Hill at Tusculum, Presbyterian at Newberry and Wingate at Belhaven. Last week, three SAC teams were nationally ranked. Catawba was followed by 13th-ranked Tusculum and 25th-ranked Mars Hill. *** NOTES: Bennett is 60-16 in seven years. ... Catawba has won 17 straight regular season games at home. ... Catawba has scored in 86 straight games, dating back to 1994. ... Catawba has been ranked nationally for 25 straight weeks. ######

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