Football Falls in Opener to #2 West Georgia


CARROLLTON, Ga. -- West Georgia claimed a 23-3 win in a battle of NCAA II nationally ranked football teams on Saturday afternoon at University Stadium.  The second-ranked Wolves used a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions to salt the game away against the 22nd-ranked Catawba Indians in the season opener for both squads.

In a defensive struggle, the Wolves built a 13-0 lead by the half.  West Georgia intercepted a pass on Catawba's first possession and turned it into a 22-yard field goal by Hunter Heck.  Heck would add a second field goal early in the second quarter for a 6-0 lead. 

The Indians could only push into West Georgia territory twice in the first half, but could not sustain the drives that ended with punts.  The Wolves used a couple of big plays in the final two and half minutes of the half to add to its advantage.  Will Garner threw a 36-yard pass to Qa Walker and another for 19 yards to K.J. Parmer to the Catawba four.  Three plays later Devontae Jackson ran in from two-yards out to make it 13-0 at the break.

Catawba got a break on the second-half kickoff as L.J. Melvin (Fayetteville, N.C./Britt) caused a fumble and the Indians took over at the West Georgia 33.  Catawba moved the ball to the one, but settled for a field goal from Brennan Lambert (China Grove, N.C./S. Rowan).  Kyle Kitchens (Decatur, Ga./Decatur) forced a fumble at midfield on West Georgia's next possession, but the offense suffered a couple of negative plays and had to punt. 

Cris Page (Atlanta, Ga./Heritage) gave the Catawba offense a short field at the Wolves 34 with an interception early in the fourth quarter.  Catawba was held on downs, failing on a 4th-and-three from the 27.  Neither team moved the ball much over its next two possessions then a pair of turnovers helped West Georgia stretch the lead late.

One play after an interception, Garner tossed a 42-yard strike to Walker to make the score 20-3 with 5:55 remaining.  After another pick and return to the Catawba 10, the Wolves added a field goal from Heck for the final margin.

Mike Sheehan (Wilmington, N.C./Laney) completed 18 of 33 passes for 109 yards and ran for another 38.  David Burgess (Morganton, N.C./Freedom) had six catches for 32 yards and ran nine times for 30 yards.  Page broke up two passes and was in on two stops for losses to go along with his interception.  CJ Barksdale (Simpsonville, S.C./Hillcrest) was also in on two stops for losses, including a sack.

Gardner threw for 220 yards on 14 of 36 passing for West Georgia.  Walker had five grabs for 116 yards and Jackson ran for 64 yards on 13 carries.  Lemarcus Franks added another 62 yards on the ground. 

Catawba will take on Winston-Salem State in its home opener next Saturday with a 6 p.m. kickoff.

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