Catawba football notebook: Coach wants Sanders to get more praise

By Ronnie Gallagher, The Salisbury Post

Head coach David Bennett said that before the season began, senior linebacker Shawn Sanders told his teammates that before the season was over, everyone would know who “No. 55” is.

Bennett would now like somebody to inform the sports information directors who choose the weekly players of the week in the league. During a 31-3 win over Newberry Saturday, Sanders made nine tackles, four for losses, two pressures, a pair of pass break-ups and a quarterback knockdown. He didn’t make defensive player of the week in the SAC.

Despite having the best defense in the league, Catawba has yet to have a single player on that side of the ball honored.

But Bennett hasn’t overlooked Sanders. When the Catawba contingent walked into Western Steer Tuesday for the weekly press conference, Sanders was with the group for the fourth time in five games.


NOT HAPPY:Sanders wasn’t that thrilled with the defense’s play. Newberry rushed for 93 yards.

“That’s too many,” he said. “We’d like to give up around 30.”


FIRST IN NATION: Catawba leads the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 3.4 points per game in its 5-0 start.

It is also first in the SAC in rushing defense (35 yards), total defense (162) and first downs allowed (47).


I CAN PASS: When Luke Samples went just 4-of-14 in his first start two weeks ago, some questioned whether he could pass the football.

Obviously, they didn’t keep up with Samples’ high school career.

Samples threw for more than 4,000 yards as a junior at East Wilkes and 3,000 as a senior.

“It bothered me,” said the SAC Offensive Player of the Week, who went 15-of-20 for 268 yards and four TDs against Newberry. “It helped my passing this week. I didn’t want to be known as a big quarterback who could just run. I wanted to prove on this level that I could do it (through the air).”


GOOD ANSWER:Bennett knew there would be some disagreement with his call.

The Indians were up 14-0 on Newberry late in the first half. Facing a fourth-and-1 on the Newberry 4, he decided to go for the short field goal.

Which Matt Gross promptly missed.

“I got on Matt,” Bennett recalled. “I said, ‘C’mon Matt, that’s a chip shot for you. Knock that thing through there!’ He looked at me and said, ‘Coach, I ain’t perfect.’

With a deadpan look, Bennett asked, “Whaddaya say?

“That was a great answer. So I told him to just make the next one. And he made about a 44-yarder, didn’t he?”


MORE RECORDS:Gross did set yet another Catawba mark by hitting his 117th extra point kick and just added to his reputation as the school’s greatest kicker ever.


2-FOR 2: The Bennett family has done well against its alma maters.

Catawba defeated Presbyterian, where Bennett played, two weeks ago, and last week, beat Newberry, where his wife Melanie, attended school.


FUMBLE FINGERS:Bennett wasn’t happy with several botched center-quarterback exchanges.

“You’ve got an offensive line coach who’ll say, ‘It’s our fault. The lineman’s stepping too far. He’s not turning the ball right.’ “

Bennett said quarterbacks coach Kevin Brown and himself, who both played quarterback, blame Samples, saying he’s pulling out too soon.

“All that’s well and good,” Bennett told his coaches and players, “but let’s get it corrected.”


WINNING STREAK: Bennett was asked how it felt to coach a team that has won 21 straight regular- season games.

“You try not to get caught up in it,” he said. “Look at last year’s team. It went undefeated in the regular season. This team would like to be known as a team that did even better.”


BREAK-OUT GAME? A defensive lineman who had his best game of the season was Piotr (pronounced Peter) Kalinowski, a 6-1, 300-pound redshirt freshman from Raleigh, who was in on five tackles.

“We told him, ‘Yeah, that’s good, but that’s what we expect from you every week.’ ” said the hard-to-please Bennett.


ACTION JACKSON:Someone Bennett does expect to make a lot of tackles is sophomore cornerback Jamel Jackson of Concord.

“He had some great tackles, some touchdown-saving tackles,” Bennett said. “When you find a cornerback who isn’t afraid of tackling like that, boy, you’ve got something. He could play anywhere.”


RANKINGS: Catawba remains sixth in the nation, while next week’s opponent, Tusculum, is 5-0 and ranked 22nd.

In the South Region (the top four get into the Division II national playoffs), it’s Delta State (4-0), followed by Catawba, Valdosta State (5-0) and Tuskegee (5-0).


SAC REPORT: In last week’s games:

Carson-Newman ran out to a 19-0 lead and held on to beat Mars hill 19-14; Presbyterian crushed North Greenville 61-0, Tusculum edged Lenoir-Rhyne 28-23 and Liberty took care of Wingate 41-13.

THIS WEEK’S GAMES:On Saturday, Presbyterian will be facing Carson-Newman in Jefferson City, Newberry is at Clark-Atlanta, Mars Hill visits Sillman and Wingate travels to Lenoir-Rhyne.


NOTES: Cedric Squirewell had five catches Saturday, extending his school record for consecutive games with a reception to 27. ... Arnold Gaither’s 62-yard scoring pass was the longest of his career. ... David Hamilton became the eighth Indian to pick off a pass this season. ... Catawba has been in the red zone (the opponents’ 20-yard line) 22 times and has scored 21 times. ... Mike London’s preview of the Catawba-Tusculum game will appear in Saturday’s Post.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4256 or .

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