FOOTBALL: Same old story: Defense stymies offense

Amber North

Throw out the baseball gloves and bats.

It’s time for Saturday afternoons filled with rowdy tailgaters, the sound of clanging helmets and players’ loud grunts.

It’s time for football.

The Hilltoppers opened preseason camp Aug. 9, but last Saturday was the real deal.

At least, close to it.

The team had its first full scrimmage that lasted more than two hours, giving spectators a little taste of what was in store for this upcoming season.

The first team offense, led by sophomore quarterback Justin Haddix, did a good job of moving the ball. The defense was just as impressive.

“I felt good on both sides of the ball,” second-year coach David Elson said. “The offense was able to move the ball – just needed to get in the end zone. But that’s just good on the defense’s part.”

Even though the first team offense was able to collect 105 yards with seven first downs on two drives, freshman Tanner Siewart’s 47-yard field goal was all they could come away with.

Senior inside linebackers Charles Thompson and Deonte Smith led in tackles with nine and eight, respectively. The two were part of the first team defense that allowed only 13 points on seven possessions.

Despite being limited, Haddix said he is confident in the offense’s performance.

“We just need to score points, keep working the red zone and we’ll come along,” he said. “We just had two sacks today – not bad for a young offensive line. It’ll just get better from there.”

Haddix connected on 9-for 17 passes for 83 yards.

Sophomore quarterback Blake Ladson led the second-team offense, which put up better numbers than the first team. Ladson went 12-for-16 passing and threw for 96 yards, helping the offense score 17 points on five possessions.

Sophomore running back Brian Porter ran for a team-high 85 yards.

Siewart had a strong performance, going 3-for-3 in field goal attempts, as well as converting his only point after touchdown kick.

“He’s come so strong and has been a pleasant surprise as a true freshman,” Elson said.

Also coming strong is junior walk-on Maurice Perkins, who led all wide receivers with 42 receiving yards.

“Perkins has had a good camp and is definitely in the run as one of the guys as a wide receiver,” Elson said.

After seeing little playing time last season, Perkins’ nice outing was an ego-booster for him. Now he said he feels he’s ready to compete with the other receivers for a starting role.

“We’re still battling this week and competing with each other,” Perkins said. “Right now, after (Saturday’s scrimmage), my confidence is real high.”

The Hilltoppers will have another scrimmage at 7 p.m. Thursday at Smith Stadium. The players will be in their game uniforms and the scrimmage will be played in a game-like situation.

Reach Amber North at [email protected]