Catawba D' getting a stiff test against Grand Valley State

By Ronnie Gallagher, The Salisbury Post

In the first two rounds of the Division II playoffs, Catawba faced Central Arkansas and Valdosta State, teams who came in averaging over 500 yards a game.

The teams get better the deeper you go so here’s another stat for you. Undefeated Grand Valley State, which hosts Catawba Saturday at 1 p.m. in the national semifinals in Annadale, Michigan, is averaging 600 yards per game and 54.9 points per game.

Oh well, just another huge task for the Catawba defense, which has already knocked off the second and fifth ranked offenses in the country during this postseason.There are several other challenges awaiting the 11-1 Indians. A hostile crowd. Hostile weather. And a very good 12-0 football team.

Catawba coach David Bennett is expecting the temperatures to be in the low-30s for Saturday’s game to go with a raucous crowd.

“We’d rather play in the cold than 85-degree weather with sand gnats like we did in Valdosta (Ga.) last week,” Bennett said.

“We heard their students and the pep band are right behind our bench,” he added. “So it’s going to be loud.”

The biggest challenge for Catawba is trying to decide how to defend the Laker offense. In other words, who will play quarterback?

Bennett does know for sure it won’t be Curt Anes, the Harlon Hill Trophy candidate, who tore up a knee in the first round. It could be second-stringer Todd Wojciechowski, but he bruised his ribs in the second round. And it could be Ryan Brady, the third stringer, who has played wide receiver all season.

Grand Valley State coach Brian Kelly said earlier in the week that Brady would get the nod.

Whoever the quarterback is, he’ll have the duty of finding David Kircus, regarded as the finest receiver in Division II. The All-American grabbed three touchdowns last week against Saginaw State and has 31 this season.

“He broke a lot of Jerry Rice’s records,” said Bennett, who added it didn’t matter who quarterbacked. “They’ve got an outstanding team with an outstanding tradition.”

Want to compare numbers?

The total yards category, of course, is in Grand Valley’s favor as Catawba averages 365.

Grand Valley also leads in averages for passing (313-170), rushing (260-194) and points (54-34).

Defensively, the teams are pretty even. Grand Valley does lead in sacks 46-25. Catawba has the edge in pass defense (185 to 229), scoring defense (14 to 16) and total yards given up (280 to 307).

The game could boil down to special teams, where Catawba has a distinct advantage on paper.

Grand Valley has kicked just five field goals (in nine tries) while Matt Gross is one of the country’s best booters (15-of-23). Grand Valley averages just 32 yards per punt and is giving up an average of 10 yards per punt return.

Meanwhile, 16 of Catawba’s Danny Jenkins’ 58 punts have been downed inside the 20.

Both teams have the same number of all-conference players.

Anes was the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s player of the year while Kircus was the co-offensive player of the year. Catawba’s Shawn Sanders became the fifth straight Indian to win defensive player of the year in the South Atlantic Conference. Tailback Rodney Wallace was named offensive freshman of the year.

The coaches are even close when it comes to winning percentage. Bennett is 63-16 at Catawba in seven years while Kelly is 82-33-2 in 11 seasons.

The game looks like a complete tossup.

It’s Grand Valley’s Muhammad Ali-like offense against Catawba’s Joe Frazier-like defense.

In other words, Grand Valley’s offense should keep throwing punch after punch while Catawba’s defense will keep taking hit after hit and staying on its feet.

Just like a national semifinal bout of heavyweights should be.


NOTES: The winner gets a berth in the national title game Dec. 8 in Florence, Ala. That game will be nationally televised on ESPN. ... While Catawba beat Central Arkansas 35-34 and Valdosta State 37-34 in overtime, Grand Valley reached the semis with a 42-14 win over Bloomsburg and a 33-30 win over Saginaw State. ... In the other semifinal, Cal Davis (10-2) travels to Grand Forks to take on 12-1 North Dakota. ... Nick Means and Cedric Squirewell each have over 40 catches while Arnold Gaither has made the most of his 14 receptions. Four have gone for scores. ... Wideout O.J. Lennon has been a clutch receiver in the postseason. ... Means, a junior, is just 143 yards from breaking the school record in career receiving yardage. ... Wallace has 1,095 yards on the ground.


Assistant sports editor Mike London and photographer Joey Benton are in Michigan covering the national semifinals for the Post.

Today's Events

Swimming @ Royal Open (Day 1),
Tennis (W) @ Mount Olive, 6-3 W
Tennis (M) @ Mount Olive, 0-9 L
Lacrosse (M) vs. CHOWAN, 27-12 WVideoStats
Baseball vs. COKER, 26-1 WStats
Lacrosse (W) vs. ROLLINS, 5-16 LVideoStats


«February 2018»
February 1

Baseball @ Nova Southeastern 5-8

February 2

Baseball @ Palm Beach Atlantic 0-11

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

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.

February 6

Baseball @ Belmont Abbey 5-6

February 7

Basketball (W) vs. LENOIR-RHYNE 56-61

Basketball (M) vs.LENOIR-RHYNE 84-77

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

February 10

Baseball vs. PALM BEACH ATLANTIC 6-5

Lacrosse (W) vs. FLORIDA SOUTHERN 6-24

Basketball (M) @ Bluefield St. 76-55

February 12

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

February 13

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

February 14

Swimming @ Bluegrass Mountain Championships (Day 1)

Baseball vs. BELMONT ABBEY 5-7

Basketball (W) @ Coker 63-60

Basketball (M) @ Coker 79-77

February 15

Swimming @ Bluegrass Mountain Championships (Day 2)

Softball @ Belmont Abbey 3-4

Softball @ Belmont Abbey 3-2

Lacrosse (W) vs. CONVERSE 16-6

February 16

Swimming @ Bluegrass Mountain Championships (Day 3)

Baseball vs. SHIPPENSBURG 11-2

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

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

February 19

Track/Field @ SAC Indoor Championships W-10th,M-10th

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

February 20

Golf (W) @ Converse Invite - Day 2 (Carolina CC) 4th of 9

Baseball @ Mount Olive 9-4

Lacrosse (W) vs. MOUNT OLIVE 11-10

February 21

Tennis (M) vs. BELMONT ABBEY 6-3

Basketball (W) @ Newberry 39-59

Basketball (M) @ Newberry 84-92

February 23

Swimming @ Royal Open (Day 1) 

Tennis (W) @ Mount Olive 6-3

Tennis (M) @ Mount Olive 0-9

Lacrosse (M) vs. CHOWAN 27-12

Baseball vs. COKER 26-1

Lacrosse (W) vs. ROLLINS 5-16

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.

February 25

Softball vs YOUNG HARRIS 1 p.m.

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

Softball vs. YOUNG HARRIS 3 p.m.

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.

Mouse over the red calendar dates to display events on those days. Click to open the full-size calendar.


Baseball Team Photo