Football

Gross misses bus, not final kick

By Mike London, The Salisbury Post

VALDOSTA, GA -- No one’s been the central character in more heart-thumping Catawba dramas over the last few seasons than place-kicker Matt Gross.

Gross has known happiness. Last season’s winning kick against Carson-Newman that signaled Catawba’s arrival on Division II’s national stage, for instance.

Gross has also known abject misery. That blocked potential game-winner at Carson-Newman on Oct. 27, for example.

Yesterday, Gross was huge in a positive way one more time in Catawba’s 37-34 overtime stunner at Valdosta State. Gross calmly kicked the tying point in the final seconds of regulation, then the winning field goal on Catawba’s first overtime possession.

The real kicker to this story is that Gross almost didn’t make it to Valdosta, which is roughly 520 miles from Salisbury.At least he very nearly didn’t make it with the rest of the team.

The Indians’ buses pulled out of Rowan County on Thursday morning. Gross’ No. 12 was aboard one of the vehicles, but the veteran booter, who has his name etched all over the Indian record books, wasn’t.

Catawba coach David Bennett broke that news in yesterday’s postgame press conference. The country coach, always eager to relate a strange story, jumped in when reporters were quizzing Gross about his feelings as he made his clutch kicks.

“Yep, Gross almost got left,” grinned Bennett. “We’re getting down the road. We’re in Kannapolis. The coaches are watching a movie and then everyone starts pointing and saying ‘Outside, look outside!’ ”

What was outside the bus was not Santa and eight tiny reindeer, but something even more remarkable. It was Gross, driving his jeep at a speed best left unreported, frantically motioning for the Indians to pull over so he could join the Georgia-bound caravan as a passenger.

Gross had overslept and had missed the departure rendezvous. And apparently no one had noticed. To make a long story short, the buses were halted.

“We told Matt he could ride, but he’d have to ride on the offensive bus,” said Bennett. “I heard the cheers for him when he got on there.”

Eventually there would be hundreds of cheers for Gross on Saturday. Perhaps even louder was the stunned silence of 4,000-plus Valdosta fans when he drilled his winning kick.

Gross revealed there were more butterflies accompanying the PAT he knocked through after Catawba had closed to 34-33 with eight seconds left in regulation than on his winning field goal with the score tied.

Makes sense. Fans assume those PATs to be automatic. But kickers know otherwise. A lot can go wrong between snap, hold and boot. Not to mention those desperate 6-foot-5 guys flying at you.

Bennett has all the faith in the world in Gross because, while there have been a few memorable misses in his career, there have been many more magical makes. When Catawba won the toss for overtime, a victory scenario was already playing itself out in Bennett’s active imagination.

“Our defense goes out and stops ‘em. We send in Matt and Matt makes the kick to win the game,” he said.

Which is exactly how it happened.

After its defense held Valdosta on four downs, Catawba was in position to win with a score of any kind. It ran the ball three times up the middle as Gross loosened up his limb.

“With the athletes Valdosta has, we weren’t going to be throwing it around and taking chances,” said Bennett. “Not when we have a kicker like Gross.”

When the Indians turned matters over to Gross from 35 yards away, some prayed. Some looked the other way. Most just got ready to celebrate, even after Valdosta coach Chris Hatcher called the obligatory freeze-the-kicker timeout.

“I’ve been there before,” said Gross. “The team has a lot of faith in me when it comes down to it. All I was thinking was to get under it so they can’t block it.”

Gross, No. 3 in the nation in field-goal makes per game this fall, kicked this one so high that even Tim Duncan standing on top of Shaquille O’Neal’s shoulders couldn’t have gotten a finger on it.

And it was as straight as the 50-yard line.

“I knew it was good,” said Gross matter-of-factly.

Game over.

But the questions for Bennett weren’t quite over.

What would have happened, an inquiring mind wanted to know, if Gross’ jeep hadn’t had the horsepower to catch the team buses.

“We might have been in some trouble there,” answered Bennett.

“But I believe Matt would still have found a way to get down here. After all, he’s a senior.”

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Today's Events

Track/Field @ SAC Indoor Championships, Stats
Golf (W) @ Converse Invite - Day 1 (Carolina CC),

Calendar

«February 2018»
1
February 1

Baseball @ Nova Southeastern 5-8

2
February 2

Baseball @ Palm Beach Atlantic 0-11

3
February 3

Golf (W) @ Barton Invite at Kiawah - Day 1 (Cougar Point GC)

Track/Field @ Maillet UNC Open

Softball vs. AUGUSTA 0-6

Baseball @ Lynn 11-12

Basketball (W) @ Anderson 69-75

Softball vs. AUGUSTA 4-3

Basketball (M) @ Anderson 77-65

4
February 4

Golf (W) @ Barton Invite at Kiawah - Day 2 (Cougar Point GC) 12th of 16

Baseball @ Nova Southeastern 6-25

Softball @ Mount Olive, ppd.  1 p.m.

Softball @ Mount Olive, ppd.  3 p.m.

56
February 6

Baseball @ Belmont Abbey 5-6

7
February 7

Basketball (W) vs. LENOIR-RHYNE 56-61

Basketball (M) vs.LENOIR-RHYNE 84-77

89
February 9

Softball @ UNC Pembroke 6-4

Softball @ UNC Pembroke 0-8

Baseball vs,. PALM BEACH ATLANTIC 7-9

Lacrosse (M) @ Belmont Abbey 10-18

Baseball vs. PALM BEACH ATLANTIC 3-12

10
February 10

Baseball vs. PALM BEACH ATLANTIC 6-5

Lacrosse (W) vs. FLORIDA SOUTHERN 6-24

Basketball (M) @ Bluefield St. 76-55

1112
February 12

Golf (M) @ Spring Invite Intercollegiate - Day 1 (Fleming Isl. GC)

13
February 13

Golf (M) @ Spring Invite Intercollegiate - Day 2 (Fleming Isl. GC) 14th of 17

14
February 14

Swimming @ Bluegrass Mountain Championships (Day 1)

Baseball vs. BELMONT ABBEY 5-7

Basketball (W) @ Coker 63-60

Basketball (M) @ Coker 79-77

15
February 15

Swimming @ Bluegrass Mountain Championships (Day 2)

Softball @ Belmont Abbey 3-4

Softball @ Belmont Abbey 3-2

Lacrosse (W) vs. CONVERSE 16-6

16
February 16

Swimming @ Bluegrass Mountain Championships (Day 3)

Baseball vs. SHIPPENSBURG 11-2

17
February 17

Swimming @ Bluegrass Mountain Championships (Day 4) W-5th;M-7th

Softball vs SHIPPENSBURG 3-4

Baseball vs. SHIPPENSBURG 11-3

Softball vs. SHIPPENSBURG 8-4

Lacrosse (M) @ Mount Olive 3-15

Basketball (W) vs. CARSON-NEWMAN 49-80

Basketball (M) vs. CARSON-NEWMAN 89-104

18
February 18

Softball vs BARTON 11-3

Baseball vs. SHIPPENSBURG 4-6

Lacrosse (W) @ UVA-Wise 12-13

Softball vs BARTON 11-0

Tennis (W) @ Elon 0-7

19
February 19

Track/Field @ SAC Indoor Championships 

Golf (W) @ Converse Invite - Day 1 (Carolina CC) 

20
February 20

Golf (W) @ Converse Invite - Day 2 (Carolina CC)

Baseball @ Mount Olive 3 p.m.

Lacrosse (W) vs. MOUNT OLIVE 4 p.m.

21
February 21

Tennis (M) vs. BELMONT ABBEY 2 p.m.

Basketball (W) @ Newberry 6 p.m.

Basketball (M) @ Newberry 8 p.m.

2223
February 23

Swimming @ Royal Open (Day 1)

Tennis (W) @ Mount Olive 2 p.m.

Tennis (M) @ Mount Olive 2 p.m.

Lacrosse (M) vs. CHOWAN 3 p.m.

Baseball vs. COKER 6 p.m.

Lacrosse (W) vs. ROLLINS 7 p.m.

24
February 24

Swimming @ Royal Open (Day 2)

Baseball vs. COKER 1 p.m.

Softball vs USC AIKEN 1 p.m.

Basketball (W) @ Mars Hill 2 p.m.

Softball vs USC AIKEN 3 p.m.

Baseball vs. COKER 4 p.m.

Basketball (M) @ Mars Hill 4 p.m.

25
February 25

Softball vs YOUNG HARRIS 1 p.m.

Lacrosse (M) vs. FLORIDA SOUTHERN 1 p.m.

Softball vs. YOUNG HARRIS 3 p.m.

262728
February 28

Basketball (M) in SAC Tournament (1st Round)

Basketball (W) in SAC Tournament (1st Round)

Lacrosse (W) @ Belmont Abbey 3 p.m.

Baseball @ UNC Pembroke 3 p.m.

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