Catawba football notebook: Grand Valley's Kircus a flying circus

By Mike London, The Salisbury Post

ALLENDALE, Mich. — Catawba coach David Bennett worried all week long about Grand Valley’s spectacular junior receiver David Kircus, even though no one knew for sure who was going to be throwing the ball to Kircus.

There was good reason to fret about the 6-foot-3 Kircus, because he’s been a one-man circus. And because he was going to have a sizeable height advantage on Catawba cornerbacks, Ryan Norman and Jamel Jackson.

Kircus’ numbers coming into the game looked like science fiction — 74 catches, 1,546 yards, 32 TDs.

Kircus not only looks like a basketball player, he jumps like one. He was even averaging a basketballish 16.8 ppg. entering Saturday’s game, and is breaking records held by guys like Jerry Rice.

In the first half, Norman did a great job on Kircus, leaping with him to knock down one pass and tackling him behind the line of scrimmage on a screen.

Kircus did beat Jackson once in the first half, out-muscling the Concord native for an apparent second-quarter TD. But a holding call wiped out that catch, leaving Kircus with an uncharacteristic and embarrassing first-half stat sheet of 1 catch for minus 1 yard.

Kircus made up for it with three big second-half plays.

He blocked a PAT, caught a screen pass to set up a TD, then made perhaps the biggest play of the game in the fourth quarter.

Catawba trailed just 20-16 after scoring a TD and Grand Valley had the ball at its 28. “Running” quarterback Ryan Brady was in the game. But this time Brady didn’t run. Instead, he threw toward Kircus, who was being defended by Jackson, on a deep out.

“Brady threw a great ball. The ball was to the outside and the defender was to the inside,” explained Kircus. “I bobbled it. Then I caught it.”

Meanwhile, Jackson was slipping to the turf on the soggy sideline and Kircus was off to the races on a 66-yard game-swinger.

After Jackson went down, Kircus made a dazzling cutback move that left safety Corey Reese clutching air. Somehow, the other safety, Jemonte Battle, caught Kircus from behind at the Catawba 6 to temporarily delay a touchdown.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever been caught from behind,” said Kircus. “My teammates were kidding me, but I’ve got an excuse. I had to make that cutback.”

“Kircus is a big ol’ boy,” said Bennett. “Real good at using his body and giving you a little push to get position. Not that he’s doing anything wrong.”

As further proof that Kircus was living a charmed life in the second half, he fumbled a punt only to see it bounce directly into the arms of a teammate.


COREY STORY: The miss on Kircus might have been Reese’s only rough moment.

The senior safety had 12 tackles, including 10 solos.


MIGHTY MORRIS: Darris Morris, another senior, had the best day among Catawba’s linebackers, with eight tackles, three for losses.

Morris’ most interesting sequence came late in the first quarter after Grand Valley decided to go for it on fourth-and-inches at their own 42, down 7-0, and clearly struggling.

An anxious Morris jumped the gun, but danced back to his side of the line of scrimmage before the ball was snapped.

Then when a low snap wasn’t fielded cleanly, he and fellow LB Shawn Sanders buried Brady for a loss at the 39. It looked like that play would be a huge one, but Catawba failed to convert that fine field position into points.


SIX MEN UP: Catawba never could establish the run (less than 3 yards per try) and never could force Grand Valley out of its base defense no matter what it tried.

“They were determined to stop our run first,” said Bennett. “Even when we went with five receivers, they didn’t care. They kept six in the box. They are not going to let anyone run on them.”


CONFIDENCE: Catawba QB Luke Samples threw for 238 yards to cap a remarkable rookie season that included 17 TD passes and over 1,800 yards.

Samples said he still felt confident the Indians could pull the game out at halftime when they were down 13-7.

“We always feel like we can move the ball down the field and get the job done,” he said. “Grand Valley had a good offense and a good defense, but this was far from our best day. We just fell short.”


THEY’LL BE BACK: Bennett understandably expressed pride in a great 11-2 season and optimism for the future.

“You’re not gonna win every game, but I’m real proud of this team,” he said. Our O-line is still gonna be around in 2003.”

Grand Valley coach Brian Kelly agreed the future is bright for the Indians.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach Bennett,” he said. “What he’s done at Catawba in a short time is unbelievable. They’re going to be right there in the playoffs every year.”

Most went to Squirewell, who had eight catches for 51 yards.


SENIOR CITIZENS:Catawba’s senior Shawns Sanders and McBride combined for nine tackles. Sanders broke up a key pass.

Senior Arnold Gaither, who had some drops at Valdosta, finished in style with two big catches for 53 yards.

Samples tried to hit senior tight end Mark Sintich on one long pass play, but it appeared that Sintich was held and couldn’t get downfield.

Senior D-lineman David Huey had two tackles and senior David Hamilton had two big hits on special teams.

Senior receiver Derrick Stokes was one of the game captains.

On a day when kicking conditions were tough, senior Matt Gross was 1-for-2 on PATs and 1-for-2 on field goals. Gross had 16 field goals this season and will be missed.

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