Football season ends in playoff loss to #2 Valdosta State

   VALDOSTA, GA — Catawba College fell 24-7 to second-ranked Valdosta State in the opening round of the NCAA II Football Playoffs on Saturday afternoon at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.  The Tribe, ranked 16th, was held to just 258 total yards on the day and ends its season at 8-3 after its fourth straight playoff appearance.  Valdosta, now 12-0, advances to the South Region final against Carson-Newman on Saturday in Valdosta.    
    Catawba had a strong opening drive, advancing to the Blazer 10 before an interception ended the threat.  Senior Marcus Bland (Garner, NC) delivered a key 24-yard run on a third-and- 23 on the first series that jump-started Catawba.  The run would be the longest on the afternoon for the Tribe, who managed just 30 net yards on the ground.  The drive would continue deep inside Valdosta territory where Luke Samples (Elkin, NC) was picked off on third down at the two-yard line.  

    Valdosta stalled on its first drive at the Catawba 41, but would march 67 yards in six plays to take the lead with two minutes left in the opening quarter.  Buster Faulkner connected with Reggie Mosley from nine yards out for the score.  The duo accounted for 57 yards on the drive, including a 34 yard play to the Tribe 11.  Early in the second quarter, the Blazers went up 14-0 on an eight-yard run by Tyran Robinson.

    The Tribe held off two Valdosta scoring threats later in the quarter.  The first chance, a 38-yard field goal try by Will Rhody was blocked by Grant Cain (Kennesaw, GA), and the second ended with a Todd McComb (Thomasville, NC) interception at the five.  After the pick by McComb the Tribe moved the Valdosta 26, but Allan Rohrbaugh (Lexington, NC) failed on a 43- yard field goal attempt with 49 seconds left in the half.  Valdosta would steal all the momentum as Faulkner tossed a pass to Mosley near midfield, who would elude Catawba defenders and score for a 21-0 lead the break.

    The Blazers registered their last points on its opening drive of the final half, getting a 24- yard field goal by Rhody.  Catawba would get on the board with just 1:33 left in the third quarter as Samples tossed a 21-yard strike to Nick Means (Thomasville, NC) to cut the deficit to 24-7.  The score for Means eclipsed the record for receiving touchdowns in a career with 25.

    The Tribe defense held Valdosta to just one first down over the next four possessions, but the offense moved the chains only twice before the Blazers ran out the final 8:58 of the game with a methodical 70-yard, 17-play drive that ended on the Tribe 21.

    Faulkner connected on his first 13 passes and finished 25-of-38 for 343 yards and two scores.  Mosley hauled in both scores and caught 10 passes for 179 yards.  The Blazers added 151 yards on the ground as Robinson led the way with 78 yards and Aaron Jenkins added 73.

    Samples completed 21-of-40 passes for the Tribe for 228 yards.  Means, who ended with school records for catches, yards and touchdowns for a receiver added one final record to his stellar career as he tied the Catawba mark with 12 catches on Saturday for 131 yards.  Scott Olson had previous held the record of 12 reception in a 1984 loss to Davidson.  Valdosta shut down Tribe record-setting tailback Rodney Wallace (Bamberg, SC), who was held for a -17 total on nine carries.

    On defense, McComb recorded a career-high 16 stops for the second straight week and finished second all-time with 401 tackles.  Senior Maurice Price (Charlotte, NC) added a career- high nine stops in his final game.  The Catawba seniors will leave after they helped produce 41 win, a pair of league title and four trips to the NCAA II playoffs.  


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