Catawba dominates Livingstone 55-0

By Bret Strelow, The Salisbury Post

Catawba used a shortened Shuford Stadium field to create a long and agonizing afternoon for Livingstone.The Indians took control of the game early behind a dominating defense and an opportunistic offense en route to a 55-0 victory against the Blue Bears on Saturday.

Catawba scored on six of its seven first-half possessions to take a 35-0 lead into the locker room. The Indian offense averaged starting its possessions on the Livingstone 38 during the first 30 minutes.

“When you start of with field position like that, you just hope you can capitalize on it,” Catawba coach David Bennett said. “We were very proud of the guys for getting points.”

Bennett said prior to Saturday’s game that he didn’t expect to see anything similar to last year’s 49-0 score, but another lopsided victory was in the works from the outset.

Livingstone started just one of its seven first-half series past its own 20, and the Indian defense allowed only 20 yards on 23 plays. The Indians also forced two turnovers in the first half.

The defense’s stingy play gave the offense prime chances to put up points — and plenty of them.

Catawba’s longest scoring drive was 44 yards, and its mostly lengthy drive lasted 3 minutes, 32 seconds.

“We really didn’t have any legs because we kept going out on the field,” said Livingstone linebacker Jason Ocean, who had 16 tackles.

“Every time they were inside the 30; there wasn’t much we could do. They couldn’t drive the ball on us. Everything they got they got because of field position.”

Livingstone was its own worst enemy at the start of the game. The Blue Bears committed two personal fouls and had one 5-yard face mask penalty on Catawba’s opening drive.

New starting quarterback Scott Sensing completed 3-of-4 passes for 18 yards on the drive and finished the first half 7-of-11 for 78 yards.

Catawba’s ground game finished off the opening series, then did most of the damage for the rest of the half.

Rodney Wallace, who started at running back, scored on a 2-yard run to put Catawba on the board first.

The trio of Wallace, Marcus Bland and Mark Melvin combined for 86 rushing yards on 21 carries in the first half, including two TD runs by Bland.

Sinseng went back to work on Catawba’s final drive of the half, throwing a 38-yard scoring strike to O.J. Lennon with 1:27 left to put Catawba ahead by 35 points.

Catawba had 12 first downs in the first half, 10 more than Livingstone.

“We just have to reassess where were are right now and go from there,” Livingstone coach Greg Richardson said. “I didn’t see anything I enjoyed.”

Richardson did get to play all of his quarterbacks in the game, but none of them stood out for Blue Bears.

Joel Ward started the contest and finished 5-of-13 for 57 yards with three interceptions, including one in the first half by Indian defensive back Jemonte Battle.

Malcolm Weed entered the game in the second quarter and did not attempt a pass. David Melton came in late in the third quarter and was intercepted by Grant Cain on his only attempt.

The Indians had to replace several players from last year’s team, but Saturday was also the debut of a new defensive coordinator, Curtis Walker.

Walker’s defense more than passed its opening test. Catawba forced six turnovers in the game and limited Livingstone to 19 yards rushing and 57 through the air.

The defense even chipped in with a score of its own, a fumble recovery in the end zone by Khanis Hubbard.

“If you get 11 people to the ball, moving around, you’re going to get turnovers,” said linebacker Shawn Sanders, who had 2.5 sacks and seven tackles. “We knew coming into this game that we needed turnovers.

“We do have a young team, we’ve got so many holes to fill, but I guess all the questions were pretty much answered today.”

Catawba’s special teams got into the act, as well.

Kicker Matt Gross converted two field goals to reach 41 for his career and move into first on Catawba’s all-time list.

On the rare occasion the Indians weren’t scoring, punter Danny Jenkins was pinning Livingstone deep in its own territory. Both of his punts were downed inside the Blue Bear 5-yard line. The Indians also blocked one punt.

Said Richardson, “If we didn’t win the kicking game, and we had turnovers, we weren’t going to win the game, and that’s what happened.”

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