Smiles all around for Catawba tight end Mark Sintich

By Ronnie Gallagher, The Salisbury Post

The 37-0 victory over Austin Peay was a few days old and Catawba College’s head football coach David Bennett sat inside Western Steer for his weekly press conference. He wondered aloud who was still wearing the biggest smile: Mark Sintich or Joe Todd.

Sintich, a tight end, had scored on a 75-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Todd, the tight end coach, had scored in the film room.“(Todd) was grinning like a mule eating briars,” said Bennett.

Todd was simply a very proud coach. Tight ends at Catawba seldom catch touchdown passes — or headlines. At the sixth-ranked Division II team in the nation the plaudits always seem to go to the receivers — the wide receivers.

Last year, Bennett raved about names like Means, Squirewell and Gaither.

Sintich? Who the heck is he?


In 2000, he was definitely the forgotten man. He could have easily written a book similar to the one Keyshawn Johnson penned while with the Jets.

The title could have gone something like, “Throw me the dadblame ball!” (Johnson used another choice adjective on the cover of his book, but this is a family newspaper, after all).

“I wasn’t getting the balls,” said the 6-foot-6, 240-pound moose. “But the important thing was, we were winning.”

To the tune of 11-1.

When Sintich did make catches, they were big ones. In fact, he may have made the most important reception of the season.

In Game 4, with the jury still out on Catawba, a talented Presbyterian club entered Shuford Stadium. In a tight game, Mitch Ellis found Sintich for a 20-yard score and the Indians never looked back.

“I had dropped one the year before against Presbyterian with us up 17-0 that could have wrapped it up,” said the Lawrenceville, Ga., native, still grimacing over the memory. “So that felt good.”


Sintich finished with just three catches, but two went for touchdowns.

Over the summer, he prepared hard for his senior season, following defensive stalwarts like Shawn Sanders and Darris Morris to the weight room.

“I figured if they’re getting bigger and stronger, I can too,” Sintich said. “I’d say, ‘When camp comes, I’m going to have to block these guys. And if I can block them, I’m OK, because they’re the best of the best.’”

He caught one pass in an opening 55-0 rout of Livingstone, and then, against Austin Peay, he got his scoring chance.

Late in the third period, quarterback Scott Sensing called for Sintich to run a flag pattern.

“The safety bit on the run,” he recalled, “and I knew I had a couple of steps on him.”

Sensing hit Sintich in stride.

“I was running scared,” Sintich laughed. “I was telling myself, ‘Don’t get caught. Don’t get caught.’”

He didn’t, racing in for a 75-yard score, the longest of his career.

“The first guy to hit me in the end zone was Derrick Stokes,” Sintich said of the wide receiver. “The more I looked at it, Stokes threw a good block for me.”


One thing about forgotten men. They don’t gloat.

“The touchdown was a total offensive team effort, not just me and Sensing,” Sintich said, throwing praise all around. “The running game had to be working for that to work.”

Sintich wonders who hit him the hardest after the touchdown: Stokes or Coach Todd.

“He just came up to me with a big smile on his face and said, ‘I’m just glad you didn’t drop the ball.’”

Bennett says Todd hasn’t stopped smiling.

“He’s a newlywed and I know his wife, Martha, will cook him up some real good food,” Bennett said. “She takes care of him. She fixes him mashed potatoes, country style steak, corn and macaroni and cheese. But he probably told her, ‘I coached the player of the week’ so she might cook him up a steak.”


Bennett is smiling too. Sintich finished with two grabs for 83 yards and has already matched last year’s total. Bennett was even more impressed with the five knockdown blocks.

But speed has given the forgotten man another hurdle to clear.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Bennett said of the touchdown play. “I thought they were going to walk him down. Mark showed us some speed so now we know that catching it and just getting five yards ain’t good enough.”

Sintich is ready for that challenge, so now, there’s a challenge for the coaching staff:

Throw him the dadblame ball!


Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4256 or .

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