Football Opens Season Against Nationally-Ranked West Georgia


SALISBURY, N.C. -- The Catawba College Football Team will open its 2015 season on Saturday afternoon at home against NCAA II fourth-ranked West Georgia.  It will be the first time since the AFCA Poll begin in 2000 that Catawba will face a ranked opponent to start the season.

This marks only the second meeting between the schools in football.  Catawba was victorious in the first encounter which came in the 2000 NCAA II Playoffs.  The Catawba Indians rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 28-24.  Joe Hilliard’s two-yard run with just under two minutes left lifted the Indians to the win.

Catawba returns a hefty amount of starters on offense led by quarterback Mike Sheehan, running back David Burgess and wide receiver Carols Tarrats.  All three were preseason all-conference picks and led the Indians in their respective categories.

Sheehan threw for 2,273 yards and 17 touchdowns, while running for 495 yards and 10 more scores.  Burgess totaled 577 yards on the ground and accounted for eight touchdowns rushing and receiving.  Tarrats made 39 catches for 661 yards and a conference best seven touchdowns.

The Indians return three of its four starting linebackers and welcome back Trey Evans, who missed last year with an injury.  Jamal Lackey (63 tackles), Michael Peppers (61) and Kyle Kitchens (49) were among the top five tacklers on the team last year.

Up front, Jonathan Jean returns as does CJ Barksdale, who has played just one game over the past two seasons with injuries.  Barksdale was the SAC Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2011.  In the secondary, preseason All-SAC pick Mark McDaniel is back corner after recording five interceptions last year.  Safety Chris Carpenter returns after missing the final seven games with an injury last year.

West Georgia is coming off a 12-2 season that saw the Wolves advance to the semifinals of the NCAA II Playoffs before suffering a narrow 10-7 loss to CSU-Pueblo.  This year, West Georgia is the preseason favorite in the Gulf South.

The Wolves return quarterback Dallas Dickey, who threw for nearly 2000 yards a year ago and tossed 17 scoring passes.  He was the team’s second leading rusher with 453 yards.  Dickey’s top target, Shaq Hill, also returns.  He snagged 56 passes for 795 yards and six touchdowns. 

On the defensive side of the ball, end Alex Armah heads the list of returners.  He made 64 tackles last year with 14 and half going for losses, including six sacks.  Free safety Carlos Hutton was a preseason all-conference selection and have four picks a year ago.

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