Catamounts Lose Season Finale to Furman, 52-21

The Catamount football season ended the same way as it began-with a whoopin’ on television. The Cats fell 52-21 in their season finale to the Furman Paladins at E.J. Whitmire Stadium in Cullowhee. The Cats worst season since 1958 is finally over, as they finish the season with a 1-10 overall record, and a 15 game Southern Conference losing streak. Catamount fans had plenty to say goodbye to as the final seconds of the season ticked away. It was goodbye to Western head coach Kent Briggs and his entire staff, as they were all fired last Monday following the team’s disappointing showing against the Appalachian State Mountaineers last Saturday. Catamount fans also waved goodbye to 15 WCU seniors, who put their uniform on for the final time in their collegiate careers in front of a crowd of 5,175. Most importantly, however, it was a long awaited goodbye to the end of a very long and disappointing season that has left the football program currently in disarray. “This was not the day that we wanted. Furman is too good for us not to come out and play one of our best games of the season, and that is exactly what we did not do today,” said Briggs, whose coaching career at WCU ended with a 22-43 overall record.Western and Furman were tied at 7 at the end of the first quarter, but the Paladins piled on 38 unanswered points, leaping to a 45-7 lead right before the start of the fourth quarter. The scoring drought ended when red-shirt freshman quarterback Adam Hearns scored on a 38-yard-run in the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Furman offense bounced right back as they went down field in a nine play, 79-yard-drive that was capped off with a four-yard Stephone LaFrance run. On the ensuing kickoff, senior Mike Malone took it to the house with a 71-yard kickoff return that scored the final touchdown of the season for Western. Malone’s run gave the remaining fans in the stadium something to cheer for and be proud of as the final seconds of the season ticked away. “This season we just wanted to come out every week and fight. Fight, focus, and finish, just like the coaches stressed to us every week. I hope the younger guys have learned from us and I hope they keep moving forward because this program is definitely moving in the right direction,” said Malone, who now holds the WCU record for single-season, all-purpose yards. Senior Todd Spitzer, who made his final start for the Catamounts at quarterback, finished 7-of-15 for 90 yards a touchdown and two interceptions. Hearns relieved Spitzer in the third quarter and finished 4-of-7 for 30 yards. He also led the team in rushing with 37 net yards.Although the season did not end the way they wanted it to, many Catamounts are optimistic about the future of the football program at WCU and think that the Cats are on the rise. “This program is definitely headed in the right direction. We fight through adversity every day and this is a strong knit group and we are only going to get stronger,” said Hearns. Senior Eddie Cohen, who leaves as WCU’s all-time leading receiver, had his streak of six straight games with 100-yards snapped as he finished with five catches and 93 yards. Cohen, who broke Gerald Harp’s record with the receiving yards, embraced the former star before the game began and was proud of his accomplishment. “I just wanted to have the best year I could possibly have. It turned out that things started going my way and the ball started rolling. I am proud to be a part of Catamount elites.This program is definitely on the way up. It’s taking some leaps to get to the top of the mountain and it is almost there,” said Cohen. Defensively, the Catamounts were missing a few pieces as senior Mordy Ornguze and junior Brandon Drumgoole were suspended for the season finale for violating team rules. The Cats were paced by junior Quinton Phillips who finished with 17 tackles, sophomore Chris Collins and junior Michael Shaw contributed with 12 stops each. Briggs believes that the future of the football program is going to be a bright one and still has a vision of the Catamounts bringing a Southern Conference Championship to Cullowhee. He believes that the program is almost there and that “The bottom line is this, we are not at rock bottom and we have a tremendous freshman class. The program is going to be successful and as a Catamount fan, I look forward to when they bring home a Southern Conference Championship,” said Briggs.Briggs’ dream when he came to Western was to be the head coach when the Catamounts finally reeled in a SoCon Title, but his vision of it happening has not changed now that he is no longer the head coach. “There is no way that this team will not win next year. I feel like people will be surprised as to how good this team will be next year,” said Briggs. Now that the disastrous season is finally over, Catamount fans can breathe a sigh of relief as bright things are on the horizon for the football program in the future. With a lot of talent returning next season, all the Catamounts need is a head coach who can guide this team down the winning road and give the fans in Cullowhee something to be proud of.