December 1, 2001
Catawba players find bulletin board material earlyBy Mike London, The Salisbury Post
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When a group of Catawba boosters and parents arrived on the ground in Grand Rapids on Friday morning, they were greeted with gray, foreboding skies and a rather large headline in The Grand Rapids Press that asked the burning question, “What’s a Catawba?”
The newspaper was held aloft by a smiling Flip Collins, who used to play golf for coach David Bennett and is now a wheel in the agency that lined up the lodging and travel for the Indians’ trip to play Grand Valley State.Catawba backers expressed a little anger, a little amusement and a lot of defiance at the headline.
“Saturday afternoon,” said one Catawba parent, “they’re going to find out what a Catawba is.”
“I’m pretty sure they’ll find out,” promised Catawba linebacker Todd McComb.
“I don’t think,” said receivers coach Chip Hester, “that we could have paid them enough for that one.”
The newspaper story is not bad at all, offering a credible rendition of Catawba’s origins in the land of Dole and Dale and its rise as an unlikely, but legitimate, football power.
The story offers a spelling and pronunciation guide for Catawba that is helpful, but it loses some credibility when it spells the late Earnhardt’s hometown as “Canapolis.”
But back to that headline? Yipes. Talk about motivation.
“I’ve already got a copy in my room,” said Bennett. “And I plan to have a little talk with the players about what a Catawba is.”
MICHIGAN WEATHER:The one thing that is predictable about Michigan weather is that it is totally unpredictable.
Last year, snow started falling on Nov. 9 and stood 3 feet deep by Thanksgiving.
But so far this fall and winter — knock on wood — it hasn’t snowed a millimeter in this part of the state.
“With Michigan weather, it’s whatever shows up,” said a local cabbie who bore an uncanny resemblance to Saint Nick. “You make your guess and the weatherman makes his guess and every once in a while, one of you is going to be right.”
The cabbie said he’s seen it go as low as 65 below and he’s seen the temperature soar to 107. He’s even seen snow in the background on Fourth of July pictures in the family album.
“Somewhere between 107 and minus 65 is Michigan weather,” he laughed. “Hope you find something you like.”
WAYWARD WIND: The major weather problem for Catawba today is not going to be a frozen field, snow, rain or cold. It’ll be wind.
It’s going to be in the 40s and it’s most likely going to be dry, but the wind threatens to be awful.
The problem is nearby Lake Michigan, which is a meeting place for arctic masses and much warmer winds from the southwest. Strange things come out of that volatile mix, usually in the form of wild wind conditions.
Temperatures in Grand Rapids on Friday were in the 40s, but it was still unpleasant in the afternoon because of that biting breeze.
And as Bennett points out, his team’s game with Grand Valley will be played in Allendale, which is 10 miles closer to Lake Michigan than Grand Rapids, where the team is staying.
“We’ll have the wind for two quarters and we’ll be going against it for two,” said Bennett. “It’s going to be mighty tough to drive a long way in it. We’ve got to do a good job on special teams so we can get good field position.”
IT’S WET, TOO: Catawba practiced at Grand Valley State on Friday, but used a practice field, not the game field, which was covered by a tarp.
It rained hard here Thursday and Friday morning. Some Catawba staffers indicated there were as many as six inches of water on the field.
That might hurt Catawba. Grand Valley’s usual defensive game plan is to throw everything it has into stopping the run, forcing opponents to throw.
And throwing could prove difficult with a soggy ball and that fierce wind howling in.
Still, with sturdy QB Luke Samples and power-running tailback Rodney Wallace, Catawba looks to be better equipped to handle a tough game on a rough field than a year ago.
FIGURE OF SPEECH: Bennett asked his Grand Rapids bus driver for directions to Ryan’s Steakhouse.
The driver said he didn’t know anything about a “Rine’s” steakhouse, but did know where a “Ry-un’s” was.
“He was nice as can be,” laughed Bennett. “I told him not to be bustin’ my chops, just because I talk funny.”
ROYAL TREATMENT: Bennett said the Tribe has enjoyed its lavish accommodations at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, even though the team can only afford to dine at the $13 breakfast buffet.
Friday’s post-practice lunch was actually catered in by Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Bennett says Bucky Yates (a freshman offensive lineman) has had a hard time getting used to the luxury in the posh Amway Grand that’s just up the street from the Gerald Ford Museum. “Bucky comes to me and says, ‘Coach, they’ve got waiters in here. And waitresses. And whenever my drink goes down just a little, they fill it right back up and then stand there and look at me. I ain’t never seen anything like it.’”
ITINERARY: Catawba was successful last week at Valdosta State, so the Indians are adhering to exactly the same schedule this week.
“We ain’t changing,” said Bennett.
That meant a movie (Rush Hour II) on Thursday and bowling on Friday afternoon.
“Bowling’s good for them, because they make it a real competition,” said Bennett. “We’ll put the O-line against the D-line. The outside backers against the inside backers. Then the receivers might say, ‘Hey, we’ll take on any of ya.’ ”
Bennett says he bowled a respectable 162 in Georgia, but that didn’t spare him a beating from 180-rolling defensive coordinator Curtis Walker.
“I bowled pretty good,” said Bennett. “But Curtis was a scoundrel.”
FAMILIAR FACE: Some Catawba fans chose to bus rather than fly to Michigan.
Among them was former South Rowan boys basketball coach Bob Parker, whose son Adrian was a receiver for the Indians a few years ago.
“We took a left and the next thing I knew I was in Michigan,” deadpanned Parker, who was on the road at least 12 hours.
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
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