Gardner-Webb football preview: Bulldogs host longtime rival Presbyterian in second game of 2021 winter/spring season

By Richard Walker

Gardner-Webb running back Narii Gaither (22) celebrates a big play during last week’s 42-20 home win over Elon with former Burns standout Stormy Mosteller (87) in the background. [GWUSports.com]
After a successful winter/spring football season opener that featured a second half offensive explosion, Gardner-Webb gets back to work Saturday at 1 p.m. against longtime rival Presbyterian College.

Coach Tre Lamb is delighted with how his team fought through adversity last week but wants to see how it will handle success this week.

“It was a huge win for program last Saturday,” Lamb said of a 42-20 home win over No. 24 Elon that saw it score 35 straight points after trailing 20-7 at halftime. “Our culture took over about the middle the second quarter. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be here and coach these guys.”

Now receiving votes in the FCS Top 25 poll, Gardner-Webb will seek its 250th victory as a senior college and first 2-0 start since 2010.

“We can clean up some things,” Lamb said.

Just avoiding all the anxiety, worry and excitement of finally playing a game for the first time since November 2019 will be a positive.

Lamb, hired in December 2019 to become Gardner-Webb’s coach, said he was as anxious as he might ever be before last week’s season opener.

“The hours leading up to that game were miserable,” Lamb said. “That was the biggest challenge. I’m normally upbeat and excited about every game. I was nervous.
“But when it kicked off, it was the fastest four hours of my life.”

Gardner-Webb rolled behind a balanced effort that eventually saw the school sweep Big South Conference football honors on Monday as running back Narii Gaither was named offensive player of the week, defensive tackle Janathian Turner was named defensive player of the week, return specialist Devron Harper is special teams player of the week and defensive end Ty French was named freshman of the week.

And first-time Bulldogs starter Carlton Aiken, Jr., had an efficient game in his debut with 21 completions in 30 attempts for 167 yards and three interceptions and rushed 11 times for 59 yards and two touchdowns.

“I thought he played well,” Lamb said of Aiken. “The way he played in the second and third quarters was great. He made a lot of plays.”

Gardner-Webb enters the contest with a 249-287-3 all-time record as a senior college that dates to the 1970 season. Twenty-two of those victories have come against Saturday’s opponent as the Bulldogs hold a 22-20 all-time series lead over Presbyterian in a series that dates to that initial senior college season of 1970. Gardner-Webb has won three of the last five meetings in the series.

Saturday’s game:

Presbyterian (0-0) at Gardner-Webb (1-0)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday (TV-ESPN plus, Radio-WGNC AM 1450/FM 101.1 Gastonia)
Where: Spangler Stadium, Boiling Springs
Series: Gardner-Webb leads 22-20 in series that began in 1970.

Extra points: Gardner-Webb’s previous 2-0 starts have come in 1977, 1981, 1987, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010….
Junior wide receiver Izaiah Gathings enters the game with a Big South Conference-record five-game streak of 10 or more catches for 100 or more yards….
With last Saturday’s win, Tre Lamb became the fifth straight Gardner-Webb coach to win his debut, joining Woody Fish (1984), Steve Patton (1997), Ron Dickerson (2011) and Carroll McCray (2013). Only Patton won his second game and eventually started his career with a 4-0 record….
Presbyterian is a longtime South Atlantic Conference and Big South Conference rival of Gardner-Webb. The Blue Hose are currently transitioning to the NCAA Division I non-scholarship Pioneer Conference.

Local connections: Ten local products are on the Bulldogs roster – junior linebacker Matthew Robinson (South Point 2018 graduate), junior defensive linemen Donnie Thompson (Lincolnton 2017) and Tremayne Booker (Forestview 2017), junior tight end Stormy Mosteller (Burns 2018), sophomore kicker Devin Baldwin (Stuart Cramer 2019), freshman running back Jalin Graham (Crest 2020), freshman defensive lineman Christopher Richardson (Crest 2020), freshman wide receivers Eli Brooks (Crest 2020) and Jordan Marshall (Mountain Island Charter 2020), freshman defensive back Chase Marsh (Mountain Island Charter 2020) and freshman linebacker Kendall Massey (Ashbrook 2020). In the opener, Booker is the only player to record any statistics with an assisted tackle.

The 2021 winter/spring schedule:
Feb. 27 Elon (Won 42-20)
March 6 Presbyterian, 1 p.m.
March 20 Monmouth, 1 p.m.
March 27 Kennesaw State, 1 p.m.
April 3 at Charleston Southern, noon
April 10 at Robert Morris, noon