September 2, 2001
Catawba QB Scott Sensing proves he belongs on fieldBy Ronnie Gallagher, The Salisbury Post
Michael Posey may not realize how close he was to ending Scott Sensing’s career as a starting quarterback.
As things turned out, Posey didn’t end anything. He started perhaps a glowing finish to a quarterback’s checkered three seasons as a backup.Less than a minute into Catawba College’s season opener against neighbor Livingstone, Sensing went back to throw the first pass of his senior season. After three years of watching Mitch Ellis set records, it was the most important pass of his playing days, which stretch back to little league.
Sensing got the protection he needed and fired a pass toward the sidelines. It was high.
That was O.K., however. Arnold Gaither, all 6-foot-6 of arms and legs, went up for it. Gaither usually rebounds everything high.
But this throw was really high.Really, really high. Gaither could only graze it. The ball popped right into the arms of a waiting all-CIAA defensive back named Posey.
The one they call “Premier.”
It appeared Posey was going for a touchdown when the ball bounded to the ground. Gaither had reached in to knock it away.
To the average fan, it went as a simple incompletion in the stat book. To Sensing, it was a much-needed reprieve.
“The fact that it wasn’t picked made me really happy,” he said later. “I knew if it was, I was probably coming out.”
“That soon,” said the brutally-honest Sensing.
The fans were kind of uneasy about Sensing at the helm. He was unproven, with just one start — that coming last year in the final regular season game against Lenoir-Rhyne. He was jerked late in the game and Ellis came in to lead Catawba to victory on a torn ACL.
So after the first pass, the fans looked at each other and knew Catawba had dodged a bullet.
“I felt I had it,” stressed Posey. “I caught the ball, took two steps and the dude knocked it out of my hand. I picked it up and ran so it should’ve been a fumble recovery and a touchdown.
“I had possession of that ball. It could’ve set the tone. But sometimes, you get the breaks and sometimes, you don’t.”
“Naw,” said Gaither. “I knocked it out.”
Whatever. But the main thing is, Sensing breathed a sigh of relief.
“I was able to say, ‘OK, get the ball down and make better throws,’”he said.
Catawba ran the ball to the Livingstone 10 where it faced a third-and-three.
Sensing backpedaled, looking for his first option. Covered. His second option was a slant over the middle to Preston Lewis. Again Posey was defending.
There was no room for error on this one. Posey had Lewis covered like a blanket but Sensing rifled a shot into Lewis’ gut, setting up Rodney Wallace’s score moments later.
Wallace ran off virtually unnoticed because everyone on the sideline was pummeling Sensing. He was hit on the head and patted on the back.
By offensive lineman. By redshirts. By kickers. And if the fans had gotten to him, they’d have put him on their shoulders.
“I think that first pass was the turning point of the game as far as Scott’s morale,” Gaither said.
“Scott just relaxed,” agreed O.J. Lennon, who grabbed a 38-yard scoring strike from his QB. “We told him to take it easy, throw us the ball and we’d make things happen.”
It had been just one series, but Catawba’s new leader had emerged.
There was no pressure in this one. It was 21-0 after one quarter, 35-0 at the half. Sensing let his understudies, redshirt freshman Luke Samples and Antwaun Hillary, finish off the 55-0 bruising.
Afterward, Sensing didn’t stay on the field long to celebrate. After his 7-of-11 day (for 78 yards), he dashed to the locker room to be with his teammates, the ones who believed in him.
Sensing was satisfied but still wearing a chip on those broad, 6-foot-4 shoulders.
“I don’t think anybody was expecting 55 points,” he said. “And I don’t think anybody was expecting me to complete any passes, let alone a TD pass.”
Sensing, a Dick Cline product out of Ledford, is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. But the nice guy was getting fired up now.
“I was tired of a lot of people telling me I can’t do it,” he scoffed. “Even though they’re not saying it to my face, I hear what’s going on.”
Also wearing a scowl was quarterbacks coach Kevin Brown.
“The first time he started, there was a lot of pressure,” said Brown, one of Catawba’s all-time best signal-callers. “But all playing quarterback is, is getting your rhythm. And we’ve told Scott that when he sets his feet, he’s pretty good.”
Brown is also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. But he too, was getting fired up.
“Everybody is saying we’re the weak link of the team,” Brown said. “We’re taking it kinda personal.”
Saturday, Scott Sensing was seen up close and personal by 4,000 curious onlookers. Sensing had just one wish when it was over.
“I want people to say, ‘This guy is alright.’”
As it turned out, after that first pass, Sensing was better than alright.
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