Football

Catawba streak ends at the Creek

By Bret Strelow, The Salisbury Post JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn.— Behind the visitors’ bleachers in Burke-Tarr Stadium, over in the outfield of Carson-Newman’s baseball field, fireworks shot up through the early evening sky. Catawba coach David Bennett had just huddled his team in the west end zone, where he had to raise his voice to be heard over the thunderous booms.None of the Indians saw that colorful display to their left, though. Catawba’s players, such as veteran linebacker Shawn Sanders, lowered their eyes to the ground and hung their heads, which seemed heavier than their hearts at the moment. The Indians were undefeated no more. The mystique of Mossy Creek had taken another victim. Carson-Newman pulled out a dramatic 40-34 win in double-overtime on Saturday, clinching the victory when Luke Samples and Nick Means couldn’t connect for a score on a fourth-down pass play. With the Indians facing a fourth-and-5 from the 7-yard line, Samples threw a fade in the direction of Means, but the ball fell harmlessly to the ground in the left corner of the end zone. “You hurt, and you watch the kids,” Bennett said. “We told them to go ahead and hurt today and hurt a little bit tomorrow. Monday, we have to go back to work.” After trading touchdowns in the first period of overtime, Catawba (7-1, 4-1) had a fine chance to pull out the game after Carson-Newman failed to convert its extra point after Octavious Lattimore’s 11-yard touchdown reception. The Eagles (5-3, 4-2) lined up for the point after, but the snap bounced back to holder Mike Field, who tried to complete a desperation pass for the two-point conversion but was unsuccessful. “So many times we shot ourselves in the foot, I was afraid that was the fatal shot,” Carson-Newman coach Ken Sparks said. It wasn’t thanks to the Eagles’ defense. Samples completed a 13-yard pass to Means on the Indians first play of their final possession, and Rodney Wallace gained 1 yard on a first-down carry. Means caught a 7-yard pass on the next play to set up a third-and-2 at the 4, but Wallace was stopped by Chris Holt for a 3-yard loss. The Indians came to the line on fourth-and-5 and saw exactly what they wanted. Freshman defensive back DeMarcus Dixson was crowded up at the line with Means, who had gotten behind the Eagles’ secondary several times on Saturday.. But at the snap of the ball, Dixson backed up, and Means broke off his route to try to get open for a short pass. Samples had already released a lofty pass to the corner of the end zone, where Dixson watched the ball fall to the ground while he raised his arms into the air. “Luke’s a warrior, a tough young man who did a great job for us,” Bennett said. “But they kind of fooled us right there.” Said Means, “It was on me, I had to come through, and it was just a little miscommunication between the quarterback and myself. I read it, he backed up off of me, they had been playing in my face all day day long.” Catawba came into Burke-Tarr with its best chance at a victory in years, but it again left with the bitter taste of defeat. The Indians have lost 12 of 13 games played in the stadium since it opened in 1966. Bennett hasn’t won in five tries during his tenure at Catawba, which has lost the last seven games it has played at Carson-Newman. “You see them miss the extra point with a bad snap, you go, ‘OK, we’ve got to score, kick this thing and win it’,” Bennett said. “But you have to score, there are no gimmies. There are no guarantees.” The best proof of that came at the end of regulation. Carson-Newman tied the game at 27-27 with 6:53 left, and Catawba followed that with a 11-play, 58-yard drive to set up Matt Gross for a game-winning 29-yard field goal. Gross, who won last year’s 13-10 thriller against Carson-Newman with a 25-yard field goal with one second left, didn’t see the drive as he feverishly kicked into a practice net 20 yards away from his anxious teammates. With the clock running down, Gross came on the field, and the Indians snapped the ball with three seconds left. Gross sent the ball toward the uprights, but it never made it there. Eagle linebacker Robert Tebow surged up the middle of the Catawba line and blocked the kick. “I thought they might burn a timeout in order to freeze him, but they didn’t,”Bennett said. “They just let the clock run and they penetrated in.” The wild ending to the game followed a rather routine beginning. Catawba led 17-10 at halftime thanks to the bruising running of Rodney Wallace. Wallace had five carries for 53 yards on the Indians first drive, which he capped off with a 34-yard score. Wallace had 78 yards rushing at halftime and finished with 188 on 26 carries. The offense also got strong performances out of Samples and Means, who connected five times through the air for 94 yards. Samples finished the contest 11-of-21 for 172 yards, including a touchdown to Preston Lewis. The Catawba offense played well, but it couldn’t come up with the big play at the end. Wallace, like many of his teammates, doesn’t think that’s the end of the world. More importantly, he doesn’t think it marks the end of Catawba’s season. “It can’t hurt us really, all it can do is help us,” Wallace said. “The regular season doesn’t count for much but the record. Now we know if we mess around we can be beat, so all it can do is help us.” #######

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