Catawba dominates All-SAC football team

By Ronnie Gallagher, The Salisbury Post Catawba football coach David Bennett has a simple rule he thinks all coaches should follow when voting on all-conference teams. “If your team wins the championship, you should get the most guys,” he said. This season, the South Atlantic Conference coaches agreed with him.Catawba’s 9-1 champions dominated the 2001 All-SAC team, placing 11, including eight on the defensive side of the ball. Catawba also took most of the individual awards. Included was Shawn Sanders, who was named Defensive Player of the Year. Bennett won the Coach of the Year award for the third straight season and Rodney Wallace was the Offensive Freshman of the Year. *** Sanders continued a trend. He is the fifth straight Indian to win the defensive award. Sanders, from Lee County High School in Sanford, follows Maurice Miller, Michael Robinson, DeVonte Peterson and Radell Lockhart. He anchored a defense that gave up just 10.9 points per game and 244 yards. He had 5.5 sacks, forced three fumbles and had 18 quarterback hurries. “Shawn played great in the first seven games,” Bennett said of the senior linebacker. “The last three, he has been OK but not up to his standards.” Wallace burst onto the scene, breaking the Catawba freshman rushing record with 816 yards. He shared the award with Carson-Newman’s Shane Kelly, who was forced into duty this season due to injuries. But was he better than Catawba’s signal-caller, freshman Luke Samples, who led the SAC in quarterback rating? “I’d have taken Luke and Wallace,” said Bennett, who couldn’t nominate both. Bennett played down his award for the third straight year. “They ought to change that,” he said. “It should be the staff of the year or coaches of the year.” *** Speaking of standards, Catawba has always had quite a corps of linebackers. This season, all four — Sanders, Shawn McBride, Darris Morris and Todd McComb — were named. “It’s very rare that all four linebackers are named,” Bennett chuckled. “It was nice to see McComb on there. He had made all-Region but never all-conference.” Defensive backs Corey Reese and Ryan Norman also made the team. Reese is a senior, Norman a junior. McComb, Morris and Norman were second team. The one selection that really made Bennett smile was that of defensive lineman Richard Scott. “When we announced him (to the rest of the team), they started chanting, ‘Bull! Bull!’ ” said Bennett. “He’s another guy who stayed over the summer and worked extra hard. I’d hate to get in a working contest with him.” Scott was first-team as was kicker Matt Gross, who shared the honor with Tusculum’s Paul Czerniak. “Matt deserved that,” said Bennett. He kicks off, kicks extra points and field goals. And he led the league in field goals this season.” Receiver Nick Means continued his fabulous junior season with an all-SAC selection. He is tied with Cedric Squirewell for the team lead in receptions and is closing in on several school records. Bennett said he was also proud of tight end Mark Sintich and his second team appearance, especially after scoring in the last regular season game against Lenoir-Rhyne. The coaches picked on Sintich all season about never getting any yards after a catch. But the 6-4, 235-pound hulk, known as “Sure Hands,” made a couple of dazzling moves to dive across the goal line. “He has been banged up on that ankle but in his mind, he was going to prove he could make a move,” said Bennett. And perhaps the best surprise for Catawba was that the young offensive line had a representative: Cole Beane. It was somewhat of a surprise because Beane missed the first three games due to disciplinary reasons. “We have other good, young linemen but what Cole Beane has that they don’t is strength,” Bennett said of his 300-pound sophomore. “He can bench press 500 pounds. The other coaches saw how he dominated the defensive linemen.” *** In what was no surprise, Presbyterian’s Todd Cunningham was the SAC Offensive Player of the Year. He ranks first all-time in Division II with 11,235 yards of total offense. Mars Hill freshman Maurice Jackson, who set a school record with nine interceptions, is Defensive Freshman of the Year. Mars Hill tight end David Cassell won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy. Carson-Newman had nine on the team. Tusculum, which finished 8-2, placed eight players. Presbyterian also had eight. ######

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