Tribe Football picked second in SAC Coaches Poll

   Catawba has been picked second i a poll of the eight head football coaches in the South Atlantic Conference.  The Indians have made the NCAA playoffs each of the past four years, and look to make another run behind the power of running back Rodney Wallace, who led the league in rushing last season.  Wallace’s total of 1,020 yards set a school single-season record as did quarterback Luke Samples, who threw for 2,364 yards.
        The Tribe returns 13 starters and 48 lettermen for 2003.  In addition to Wallace and Samples, the Indians have four starters back on the offensive line if you include Cole Beane, who was lost in the fourth game last season with an ankle injury.  Other starters back on the line are Joe Nixon, Daniel Lynch and Bucky Yates.

    On defense, Catawba returns five starters, including pre-season All-SAC picks Khanis Hubbard, SaMario Houston, Jamel Jackson and Jemonte Battle.  Houston was the SAC Freshman of the Year on defense, finishing second on the team behind Todd McComb with 65 tackles.  Jackson led the league with seven interceptions, while Battle added 64 tackles.  Hubbard had 14 stops for losses and five and half sacks.  Another key returner is kicker Allan Rohrbaugh, who earned All-America honors last season as a freshman, making 14 of his 18 field goal tries.

The Carson-Newman Eagles, who claimed their 16 South Atlantic Conference football championship last season by going undefeated in the league, are favored once again in the 2003 SAC race.  The Eagles were picked to win the 2003 championship, garnering seven first-place votes and 63 points overall, out of a possible 64.

   The Eagles return 61 lettermen, including five offensive starters and eight defensive starters. But the Eagles will need to find replacements at quarterback and running back, after losing Leonard Guyton and Randy Bell. Guyton, a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, was last year's Offensive Player of the Year in the conference, while Bell was signed as a free agent by the NFL's Cleveland Browns. The Eagles do have experience at quarterback in junior Shane Kelly, who was the 2001 SAC Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year while filling in for the injured Guyton.

            Picked to finish third are the Tusculum Pioneers. The Pioneers bring back 22 starters off last year's team which finished 7-4 overall.  All-Americans Donald Amaker and Alan Dunn spearhead a talented returning cast for the Pioneers.  Presbyterian was picked to finish fourth. The Blue Hose return 60 letterwinners, including 15 starters, from last year's team which posted a 8-3 overall record, finished third in the South Atlantic Conference regular season and ranked No. 9 in the final NCAA Division II South Region poll.

            Mars Hill College is picked to finish fifth. The Lions' ground game should be strong again with the return of the school's all-time leading rusher in Travis McFadden, who missed most of last season with an injury, and Cedric Johnson, who stepped in when McFadden went down and earned All-Conference honors. But the Lions' defense will miss four-time All-Conference member and 2002 SAC Defensive Player of the Year Khalid Abdullah, as well as linebacker Matt Carter.

            Wingate, is picked to finish sixth. The Bulldogs have some offensive firepower in quarterback Stuart Card, receiver Zeke McKine and running back Antonio Hailstock.  Lenoir-Rhyne and Newberry finished in a tie for seventh place in the poll.  The Bears lost record-setting quarterback Brett Meunier, but return plenty of young talent, including seven defensive starters.  The Indians are looking to climb out of the cellar with new head coach Zak Willis.

Coaches Preseason Poll

1. Carson-Newman (7)…..... 63
2. CATAWBA (1)............ 55
3. Tusculum............... 48
4. Presbyterian........... 36
5. Mars Hill ............. 31
6. Wingate................ 27
7t. Lenoir-Rhyne ......... 14
7t. Newberry.............. 14


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