Western’s preseason scrimmage did little to shed light on who will be running the Hilltopper offense this fall.
The Toppers played a scrimmage Saturday night and while the three players in the quarterback race saw significant action, Western coach David Elson wasn’t ready to award anyone the job.
True freshman Justin Haddix still appears to be the front runner, but was hampered by tossing two interceptions, including his first attempt of the game.
Haddix played with the first-team offense, and has seen more snaps with the first-team in practice as well. The freshman from Breathitt County is in competition with sophomore Alex Dukes and true freshman Blake Ladson.
For the night Haddix finished 8-of-14 for 89 yards, while Dukes was just 2-of-4 for 16 yards.
Ladson’s night was highlighted by a 1-yard sneak for a touchdown, after he helped orchestrate an eight-play 50 yard drive for the first score of the game.
Western opens the season Aug. 28, when Union College arrives in town. That gives Elson nine days to find a starter.
Mau, Sanders ruled ineligible
Two upperclassmen will not be seeing any action this year. Both slated as starters, senior offensive tackle Rufus Sanders and junior defensive lineman Kris Mau have been declared academically ineligible for this season.
Mau started nine of the final 10 games last season and was expected to be a reliable element in the Hilltopper defense. The loss of Mau is magnified since he was supposed to be the lone returning starter on the defensive line.
Sanders played tight end last year and finished spring practice as the starting right tackle.
Even though he was in the tight end position, Sanders was clearly in the game to block last year and not to be a downfield threat. His absence will hurt the Toppers depth, but the offensive line does have experience, which will help in adjusting to the loss.
The Hilltoppers have received some preseason hype, as they attempt to repeat as Division I-AA national champions.
ESPN.com has the Toppers ranked No. 5, and one spot behind fellow Gateway Conference member Western Illinois.
The Sports Network also has Western at No. 5, but bumped the Leathernecks to No. 3. McNeese State is the top team in both polls.
TSN named offensive lineman Buster Ashley as a preseason second team All-American. On the defensive side, linebacker Erik Dandy and safety Antonio Veals were named honorable mention All-Americans.
Sophomore Tyrone Mareko had to be taken off the field on a cart during Saturday’s scrimmage. The second-string offensive guard sprained his left ankle, and was in obvious pain.
The possible loss of Mareko could hurt an offensive line unit that already has some depth issues.
Reach Danny Schoenbaechler at [email protected]