Newberry faces Catawba in important South Atlantic Conference game

When Newberry football coach Todd Knight looks at Catawba, he sees a team similar to his Wolves.

Newberry opened the season playing No. 16 Florida Tech, which is currently 4-0. Catawba, also had a tough opener, taking on No. 3 West Georgia, which is also 4-0.

Both teams lost their openers, but the tough opponent made them stronger.

“We came out 2-1 in nonconference, and that got us prepared for conference,” Knight said. “Catawba has done the same thing, playing the likes of West Georgia and Winston Salem State, two very good programs. That got them ready for conference play.”

Newberry's defense looks to make an impact in Saturday's game against Catawba.
Newberry Athletics
Newberry's defense looks to make an impact in Saturday's game against Catawba.
So when Catawba, 2-2, steps on Setzler Field in Newberry, S.C. at 6 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Knight fully expects a game that will come down to the wire. Since losing its opener to Florida Tech, the Wolves have won three straight games. Catawba has won its last two games.

“Last year was a war, and it came down to the wire,” Knight said. “Both of us made the playoffs. Here we are again in a similar situation a year later. We are two evenly matched teams, about as even as you can get it. We are similar offensively. Defensively, both teams fly around. This is going to be as good as it gets.”

The atmosphere should be electric. It is Family Weekend at Newberry, and this evening game will be televised on ESPN3.

“We are just taking it one day at a time,” said Newberry senior defensive lineman Jaquille Oden. “We are a team. Offense has been doing its thing. The defense is doing well. We are going to put it together Saturday, and hopefully, we come out with a win.”

A year ago, Catawba won 17-13 at home over Newberry, overcoming a 13-3 deficit.

“You look back to last year, our starting quarterback did not play,” Knight said. “We played most of the game with a receiver in a Wildcat set. We were doing pretty good. The receiver gets a concussion (in second half). We couldn’t move the ball at that point.”

The Wolves have already shown they can bounce back from adversity this season. In the 42-28 loss to Florida Tech, the Wolves turned the ball over six times.

“We felt like we could have lived with two or three of them and still pull it out, but we could not survive with six turnovers,” Knight said. “Our kids have dealt with the adversity of that and have turned it around. I keep saying to them if we don’t turn the ball over, we can beat anybody on our schedule. The last couple of weeks we have done a good job of protecting the football and we have won a few ball games.”

RELATED: Division II football power rankings: Week 4

In a 37-10 victory last week against Tusculum, the Wolves sparkled on defense, particular Oden, who set a school record for tackles for losses with five. Those tackles accounted for a loss of 23 yards.

“I thought he was an exceptional player last week,” Knight said. “His pass rush was the difference in the game. It didn’t matter which offensive tackle was trying to block him. They had guys rotating in and out. The kid had a passion for getting after the quarterback this past week. I hope it carries over to this week.”

Oden said the Wolves are hungry. Last year, they reached the first round of the playoffs. They want to get back.

“We feel we can compete with any team in the nation,” Oden said. “With the weight training and our team meetings, we know each other better and understand each other better. We have a better bond this year, and we are going to take that into the rest of this season and hopefully the postseason.”

2016 Statistics Catawba Newberry
Record 2-2 3-1
Points Scored 27 34
Points Allowed 23 25.5
Rushing Offense 133.5 157
Rushing Defense 173 187.2
Passing Offense 189.2 320.2
Passing Defense 205.8 189.5

Florida Tech continues upward climb

A year ago, junior defensive back Jo Jackson looked at the steady improvement in the three years of existence for the Florida Tech football program and was more than intrigued.

Once he talked to the players, Jackson, a transfer from Orange Coast Community College, knew he found a home for the next two seasons.

“I want to go to a team where the players care about each other and is successful,” Jackson said. “When I spoke with each player, everybody cared for each other. That is important to me. It made me want to be part of this program.”

He is already making his mark as the Panthers head into week five of the season with a 4-0 record. They will play at West Florida at 7 p.m. (ET) Saturday. The game will be televised on American Sports Network (ASN).

Florida Tech hopes to continue its undefeated season.
Florida Tech Athletics
Florida Tech hopes to continue its undefeated season.
Last week in a 28-7 victory at Presbyterian, Jackson became the first player in the program’s history to have two interceptions in a game.

Once again, the Panthers are back on the road, making it the fourth time in five weeks Florida Tech is playing a road game

“After the second one, it doesn’t make it so tough anymore,” Jackson said. “You kind of get used to it. You have to do what you have to do. We know what we have to do once we get on that bus. It has become natural to us. It is almost like playing at home when we go away.”

In the last three weeks, it hasn’t mattered where the Panthers play, especially on defense. Florida Tech has only given up seven points in the last three weeks.

“We do our job and we trust the man next to us,” Jackson said. “We remember our preparation that we went through the whole week. Remember the man next to you, right and left, is going to do his job, so you do yours. And, the defense will be sound.”

2016 Statistics Florida Tech West Florida
Record 4-0 2-2
Points Scored 37.8 36.5
Points Allowed 8.8 25.8
Rushing Offense 218 72.5
Rushing Defense 54.8 74.5
Passing Offense 295.5 384.8
Passing Defense 252.5 260.3

Northwest Missouri State senior offensive lineman ready for Arrowhead experience again

It was such an unreal experience for Northwest Missouri State senior offensive lineman Jamie Thieman that he can’t recall if he actually played any snaps against Pittsburg State when the two teams squared off at Arrowhead Stadium in 2013.

Thieman, who grew up an hour away from the Kansas City Chiefs, was thrilled to be in a game at an NFL stadium.

“It was one of the best experience I ever had,” Thieman said. “It was insane.”

Northwest Missouri State will play Pittsburg State in Arrowhead Stadium Saturday.
Northwest Missouri State Athletics
Northwest Missouri State will play Pittsburg State in Arrowhead Stadium Saturday.
After 12 straight seasons of Northwest Missouri State playing Pittsburg State at Arrowhead, the game returned to the campus of each school in 2014.

To the thrill of the Northwest Missouri State players, the Bearcats return to Arrowhead Stadium 6 p.m. (ET) Saturday and will take on the University of Central Missouri in a rivalry that has produced some thrilling moments in the last decade.

Northwest Missouri State, ranked No. 1 in the AFCA top 25, is 4-0. Central is 3-1 and ranked No. 22.

A year ago, Northwest Missouri State trailed 30-20 with nine minutes left at Central Missouri. Northwest Missouri State scored the last two touchdowns, including the game winner with :34 seconds left for a 34-30 victory.

Central Missouri, after losing in double overtime last week, is almost in a must-win situation to keep its Division II playoff hopes alive.

“They bring their best to every game, but they always bring a little extra effort to this game. And, so do we,” Thieman said. “Every year, it has been good game.”

Gulf South Conference showdown between North Alabama and West Georgia set for Saturday night

No. 18 North Alabama (2-1) plays its most important home game so far this season at Braly Stadium 7 p.m. (ET) Saturday when it takes on No. 3 West Georgia.

West Georgia, 4-0, has reached the Division II semifinals the last two seasons, losing to the eventual national champions. Like last season, the Wolves are hungry to take the next step and play for a national championship.

North Alabama also has a hunger to get back to the Division II playoffs. Last year, the Lions lost at home by four points in the second round and missed an opportunity to play West Georgia in the quarterfinals.

“West Georgia is obviously a very talented football team,” said UNA head football coach Bobby Wallace on the UNA website. “They have a lot of speed on offense and a lot of skilled players that can score in a hurry. On defense, they are very stingy and have one of the best defensive players to ever play in this league in Dylan Donahue. We will have to try and control him and keep him off our quarterback, but that will be hard to do.”

RELATED: Northwest Mo. St. tops DII AFCA poll

North Alabama also has a player that West Georgia must pay attention to as well. Senior quarterback Jacob Tucker was selected GSC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday for his performance in a 45-7 victory over West Alabama last Saturday. Tucker rushed for three touchdowns and threw for 271 yards and another touchdown.