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Braves top Catawba, despite key injuries

By Curtis Brooks
Sports Editor

October 18, 2012

Photo by Hillary Akers
The Braves defensive line prepares to attack prior to the snap against Catawba. The Black and Gold defense allowed the Indians to rush for only 93 yards on Sept. 29.

The Braves football squad forced four turnovers en route to holding off the visiting Catawba Indians 27-20 on Sept. 29 at Grace P. Johnson Stadium.

With starting quarterback Luke Charles and halfback Damonte Terry battling injury, the Braves depended on the leadership and game management skills of junior quarterback Jonathan Efird.

In Efird's first start as a member of the Black and Gold, he completed 17 of his 23 passing attempts and registered 130 yards through the air.

"I was prepared, I was not nervous, I just had a few butterflies. I was just ready to get the game started with and get that first completion," Efird said.

"I was just blessed to have the opportunity to be able to play and be a part of the team. So if I can contribute in any way, that is what I want to do," the junior continued.

The host team's rushing attack proved to be the deciding factor in the game as the Black and Gold accumulated 186 yards on the ground despite the absence of Terry.

Junior running back Elliot Powell led the way for the Braves, recording a career-high 139 rushing yards on 10 rushing attempts.

Catawba was able to compile just 93 rushing yards, led by junior running back Bobby Morrison, who ran 18 times for 67 yards.

The Indians were the first to strike after the freshman duo of BJ Sherrill and Diante Hodges connected on a 23-yard touchdown pass on the visiting team's opening drive.

The Braves quickly responded with a score of their own when freshman place kicker Connor Haskins hit his first of two field goals on the day from 23 yards out following a 12-play drive.

The Black and Gold took control of the game in the closing seconds of the first period when sophomore halfback Michael Isbell registered his first collegiate touchdown from four yards out.

Following a fumble recovery on their own 36-yard line by freshman linebacker Blake Hickman, the Braves put together an eight-play drive that was capped off by a 15-yard touchdown run by Powell.

Freshman kicker Chad Hollandsworth's 28-yard field goal brought the Indians within a touchdown of the Braves going into halftime.

On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Powell ripped off a 97-yard touchdown run to give the Black and Gold a 24-10 lead.

Powell's second touchdown run of the day set a school record for longest play from scrimmage.

"I haven't run close to 100 yards probably since high school when I ran track," Powell jokingly said in the postgame press conference.

Catawba cut the Black and Gold's lead down to a single touchdown when Sherrill connected with wide receiver Nate Charest from 11 yards out, in the Indians' final possession in the third stanza.

Both team's defenses were able to stall the opposing offenses for a majority of the final quarter until Haskins knocked down a 19-yard field goal attempt at the two minute mark.

The visiting team responded with a field goal of their own and was able to recover the ensuing onside kick.

In the Indians' final attempt to tie the game, sophomore cornerback L.J. Stroman secured the victory for the home side with his second interception of the 2012 season.

The Black and Gold ran out the final seconds on the game clock en route to their fourth consecutive victory.

Sherrill led the visiting team with 371 passing yards on 32-of-52 passing on the day.

Charest hauled in 11 catches for 108 yards for the Indians while Jarrid McKinney snagged 10 balls for 178 yards.

Catawba was able to dominate the time of possession and total yards from scrimmage, but the UNCP defense was up for the challenge tallying 90 tackles and surrendering a pair of touchdowns on the day.

"I am just really proud of how our guys responded to losing a couple of guys after last week's game. Defensively, we gave up a few yards, but we didn't give up that many points," Braves head coach Pete Shinnick said.

"But, we won the turnover battle, but that is something that we knew we had to do going in," Shinnick continued.

UNCP's secondary acted as the anchor of the defensive unit, tallying over half of the host team's stops.

Junior safety Sean Rush tallied career-high 13 tackles, nine of which were solo stops.

Fellow safety Quentin Pate recorded a season-high 10 tackles and forced a fumble in the third quarter.

Secondary members Preston Perry and Bradon Jimenez recorded nine and eight tackles, respectively.

The Braves victory avenged a 42-33 loss suffered to Catawba in 2011 at the Indian's Shuford Stadium in Salisbury.

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