The 2010 season for the Westminster Catawba Indians was a whirlwind of emotions under first-year coach Dan Devine. Yet, the mixture of magic and heart that propelled the Indians to the NCISAA state championship game abandoned them when they needed it most Friday. The result was a 27-7 loss to First Assembly Christian, the only team to beat them this season.
The first two quarters were a war of attrition. Both offenses, so explosive during the regular season, appeared stagnant. The first half regressed into a bruising battle of field position.
Westminster Catawba's interior line defense, led by a sack from tackle Ian Brandt, kept consistent pressure on Eagles quarterback Andrew Goodman. The Indian offense struggled as well, with an interception from quarterback Mark Vehaun halting Westminster's only effective drive of the first quarter.
However, some deceptive play calling by Devine led to a 21-yard pass completion to Nate Casey as the first quarter came to a close.
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Vehaun rebounded from his tough start to complete four of his next five passes, including a 23-yard completion to Cameron Adkins who played a prominent part in the drive. Vehaun's hot start to the second quarter led to a 3-yard touchdown run by workhorse Josh Parker to take an early lead.
But First Assembly bounced right back with a methodical drive of its own. The Eagles spread offense, anchored by all-state running back Michael Minter, completed a 12-play, 62-yard drive that culminated with a 5-yard passing touchdown from Goodman to Mike Matis.
It wouldn't be the last time for Goodman and Matis to connect.
The half ended in a 7-7 tie.
Though the Indians were fairly effective against the run, it was at the expense of the pass defense, leading to a halftime adjustment by Eagles' coach Mike Minter that proved pivotal in the third quarter.
"They were putting eight men in the box, which gave my wide outs single coverage and we wanted to exploit that," Minter said. "But we had to loosen them up with the run first to make it work. We had to land some body shots before we went for the knockout punch."
The "knockout punch" came with two minutes left in the third quarter. Fresh off completing a 36-yard fade route to Matis, Goodman called his favorite target's number again for a 31-yard strike that gave the Eagles a two-score advantage going into the fourth quarter.
The Indians never recovered.
Westminster Catawba was ineffective offensively in the second half.
The team abandoned its trademark running game long before the fourth quarter began. Vehaun, who played solid for the first two quarters, threw three interceptions in the second half.
And while Westminster Catawba came up just short in its bid for a championship, Devine stressed that his team has nothing to be ashamed about.
"Even though it was a losing effort, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else than with these kids," Devine said. "It's a disappointment, but I will take an 11-2 record any day of the week. They can carry their heads high knowing they played their hearts out each and every game this season."
FIRST ASSEMBLY 27
WESTMINSTER CATAWBA 7
WC--Josh Parker 3 pass from Mark Vehaun (Valais kick)
FA-- Mike Matis 5 pass from Andrew Goodman (Freeberg kick)
FA-- Matis 31 pass from Goodman (PAT failed)
FA--Michael Minter 5 run (2 point conversion failed)
FA--Jeremiah Walker 18 run (2 point conversion)
RUSHING--First Assembly: Jeremiah Walker 12-66. Michael Minter 18-64, Andrew Goodman 6-40, Dante Pinkston 1-3, Tyler Rhyne 1-2. WCCS: Josh Parker 14-41, Cameron Adkins 7-6, Mark Vehaun 1-1.
PASSING--First Assembly: Goodman 7-12-148-0. WCCS: Vehaun 12-22-121-4.
RECEIVING-- First Assembly: Mike Matis 3-72, Rommel Montague 3-52, Damon Simmons 1-24. WCCS: Cameron Adkins 4-44, Nate Casey 3-27, Ian Brandt 2-27, Mason Rudolph 2-12, Parker 1-11.