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WR Stephens shines as White defeats Blue 9-0 in Spring Game
For those in attendance, Friday night’s spring game was the first opportunity to see what lies ahead for Columbia’s football team once the class of 2010 graduates next month.
Blue faced off against White in the evening game, and half of the Lions left the field victorious. The white team—made up of the first team offense and the second team defense—beat the blue team 9-0.
The game was a tight one, as the white team didn’t put its first points on the board until there was 6:26 left in the third quarter. Brian DeVeau rushed into the endzone with the pigskin on a six-yard carry to put white ahead by six, and Greg Guttas made the extra point to make the score 7-0.
The score remained the same until just 1:26 remained in the fourth quarter, when the blue team’s quarterback, Paul Havas, was sacked by Matt Stotler for a safety to give the white team a 9-0 lead to secure the win.
In the end, what really mattered was watching the Lions work together and seeing who stepped up to fill the holes left by the team’s future alumni.
Wide receiver Mike Stephens noted, “Overall, it was a good game. There’s a lot of stuff we need to work on, but there was some good stuff.”
Linebacker Matt Moretto added that in terms of the spring game, “it’s game time, we’re ready to go, and it’s just a lot of fun.”
One disputed position left open after last fall is, of course, the starting quarterback spot. After Friday’s game, it looks like freshman Sean Brackett gained the upper hand to replace Millicent Olawale next season.
Brackett led the white team in rushing with 40 yards, passed for 148 yards, and completed 10 of 19 passes.
Havas and Jerry Bell both put in some time as quarterback for the blue team, with Bell passing for 62 yards and Havas for 52.
“He [Bell] threw some decent balls. He short-armed a few,” head coach Norries Wilson said. “In the spring, I would say the starting quarterback is Sean Brackett.”
But Wilson acknowledged that come fall, if Bell were to beat Brackett out, Bell would take over the position. “No position is solidified—you’ve got to earn your keep every day,” Wilson said.
There are also several wide receiver positions open for this fall. Stephens played well on Friday, recording 109 receiving yards in the scrimmage, including a catch for 41 yards, and putting himself in prime position for a starting spot.
“We’re young at wideout, but I think Mike Stephens really stepped it up and caught some good balls,” Wilson said.
Ever since Ray Rangel went down with a season-ending injury last year, the spots for running back have remained unclear. However, Friday’s game did show significant improvement by one potential replacement: Leon Ivery.
“I think that Leon has really improved as a blocker—he’s getting a better understanding of what we’re trying to do in pass protection. Zack [Kourouma]’s improved as well, but Leon’s really come on. And I think David Chao has the opportunity to be our third back, because he’s gotten better as a runner,” Wilson said of the open position.
Though there may not necessarily be a running back position for freshman Nick Gerst with the new season, Wilson acknowledged how valuable he could be for the team.
“I think that with the speed that Nick Gerst has, we’re going to have to find a way to get him on the field,” Wilson said.
One common observation when it comes to the offensive line is that there are a lot of younger, more inexperienced players who are just starting to find their niche.
“There’s a lot of new kids on the offense. We don’t have that many seniors on the offense, so we’re sticking new people into new positions—DBs are coming over and playing wideouts, so it’s all a learning process still,” Stephens said of the group.
In terms of defense, though, the faces on that line have seen a lot more playing time in the past.
“One thing that I think the defense has is a lot of experience,” Moretto said. “We have a lot of kids that have been playing since freshman year—they’ve had time on the field.”
Wilson reacted similarly, noting, “The defense was playing pretty good, and that’s what they have to do.”
Leading the blue team with five solo tackles each were Ben Popeck and Kalasi Huggins. However, it was Evan Miller who topped the charts for the white team with seven total tackles—three solo and four assisted.
Josh Smith, who was named the most improved defensive player of the spring, contributed four tackles of his own and assisted in one during the game.
For the offensive line, sophomore wide receiver Mark Muston was named most improved. Muston made one seven-yard catch.
The team captains were also announced Friday night. Rising seniors Alex Gross and Andrew Kennedy, as well as Stephens and Moretto, were selected to lead the Lions for the 2010 season.
At the end of the day, there is still plenty of time before the season commences in September, and the spring game does not foreshadow the season opener’s starting lineup.
“You get an idea of who’s coming along in the offseason and that type of thing, but there’s a lot of work to be done over the summer,” Stephens said. “There’s still time to move up and down the roster.”
While the Lions enjoyed being back out on the field, allowing coaches and fans to get a first look at what’s to come, there is still plenty of time and training left to be done before the 2010 football season truly begins on Sept. 18 against Fordham.
Wide Receiver Stephens shines as White defeats Blue 9-0 in Spring Game
By Victoria Jones, The Columbia Spectator