Both can be said about the UNCP and Catawba College football teams.
The Braves will be looking to separate themselves from the Catawba Indians at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Grace P. Johnson Stadium. The showdown in Pembroke is UNCP’s first home game since its Week 2 win over Fayetteville State in the Two Rivers Classic on Sept. 8.
Braves head coach Pete Shinnick says his team is happy to be home after surviving road trips that included a see-saw 49-35 win at Wingate and a 30-7 rout at winless Virginia-Lynchburg last week.
“We love playing at home,” Shinnick said, “it makes things so much easier, and our guys enjoy playing in front of our home crowd.”
It will be the Brave faithful’s first glimpse of the Indians inside their home digs. Catawba captured the only previous meeting between the two school’s last season in Salisbury with a 42-33 triumph.
“They’re a very well-coached team, very fundamentally sound,” Shinnick said of Catawba, helmed by second-year Chip Hester.
And Shinnick has an inkling at what Hester and his staff will be blueprinting with emphasis come Saturday.
“They want to establish the running game, which they did against us a year ago,” said Shinnick, whose Braves gave up a whopping 240 rushing yards in last season’s loss at Catawba.
The Indians will do so by feeding the numbers of junior tailback Bobby Morrison who is coming off a career-high 158 rushing yards in Catawba’s 14-6 home win over Tusculum. A performance that rejuvenated a Catawba ground-game that had just 262 yards over its first three games.
“Offensively, Bobby Morrison is going to shoulder a lot of the burden running the football,” Shinnick said.
On the Braves’ end, backs Damonte Terry and Elliott Powell continue to steer their offense into the red zone with 317 and 213 yards, respectively, thus far. The duo has also combined for nine touchdowns.
For Catawba, when Morrison’s not moving the sticks, it will be giving the green light to redshirt freshman quarterback BJ Sherrill, whose wasted no time making his imprint on the Indians offense. Sherrill’s flung for 636 yards on 51-of-77 (66.2 percent) with seven touchdowns and six interceptions, adding 90 yards on the ground with two scoring runs. The agile freshman out of Statesville has connected with a host of receivers, but — much like wideout Te’vell Williams is to gun-slinger Luke Charles for the Braves — Nate Charest is the go-to route-runner for Sherrill.
On 21 completions, the tandem has totaled 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Charles and Williams, meanwhile, have combined for a similar 259 yards on 19 completions with five touchdowns. After a sluggish start to the year, Charles has gotten back to his All-American self, touting a 61-percent completion rate (76-of-124) for 677 yards with six touchdowns. More importantly, Charles has shaken off his early accuracy woes — after throwing four picks in his first two games, he’s had just one giveaway the past two.
Interceptions is an area the UNCP secondary knows a thing or two about. In their last two victories, the Braves have snared nine picks, including a school-record seven at Wingate, led by Sean Rush and Preston Perry who have two picks apiece.
Nevertheless, the Braves defense has been giving up close to 30 points a game through most of the season. That was, until last week when it stymied Lynchburg to a mere seven points with a banner defensive effort.
“I just think defensively we’ve gotten better,” Shinnick said. “If you look at what’s happened each week, we’ve progressed … I think you always have things that need to be cleaned up and things that need to be addressed — we’ve had missed tackles, missed assignments — but I like how we’re playing right now.”