FOOTBALL: Defense rules in Red-White game

J. Michael Moore

In Western football, the defense is the cat.

Offense, the mouse. This time, the cat caught its prey and didn’t let go all day.

At least it seemed that way in Saturday’s annual Red-White game, wrapping up spring practice.

The White won 6-0, but it took a defensive play to get the game’s only score and a total defensive effort to pitch the shutout.

With five seconds left, Red quarterback Casey Rooney was looking at third-and-ten from his own five yard line. In as much time as it took to run out the clock, Rooney was hit by junior free safety Antonio Thomas.

Thomas’ hit forced a fumble in the endzone.

Junior defensive lineman Kris Mau’s eyes got big.

Mau pounced on the ball as the clock hit zero – his third fumble recovery of the day marked the game-winning score.

The play was setup by junior punter Brian Claybourn, who punted for both teams on Saturday.

His 46-yard punt pinned the Red offense against the endzone.

It was his longest of the day.

The game featured the first team offense against the first team defense.

It was supposed to balance out the teams, but the defense obviously controlled the show.

“That was a true football fan’s dream,” head coach David Elson said. “Our defense is what it has been and our offense has some work to do.”

Rooney led the first-team offense to 66 total yards.

He went 2-for-10 passing, completing both passes to sophomore wide receiver Trey McMiller.

The Red offense managed only three first downs in the game.

The White team did slightly better.

Junior quarterback Perez Smith went 6-for-19 for 48 yards passing.

He also rushed for 36 yards.

Sophomore running back Reggie Dent finished with 74 yards on 20 carries, leading all rushers.

In all, the White team offense gained 170 total yards on nine first downs.

But the No. 1 defense had the advantage, attacking with a feline-like quality.

“We were talking as a team that we had to put everything on the line,” Mau said. “We didn’t want them to score at all.”

Rooney said the defense had the offense’s number again, noting the irony a defensive play would win a Western scrimmage.

“Traditionally, that would be the case,” Rooney said. “Today looked like the defense had the edge on us.”

Yet in the end, Elson remained pleased with the offensive progression.

He did say that there may have to be a slower approach in developing the passing game.

Spring practice closes with Rooney penciled in as the starting quarterback, with Smith close at his heals.

Elson said that battle will revive in the fall.

“They’re both good athletes,” he said of his quarterback pair. “We have to do something to take advantage of both their athletic ability.”

Athleticism was a key on one play, featuring senior free safety Antonio Veals as tail back.

Looking to close out the first half, Smith pitched to Veals.

Veals went to spring out to the right side, but stopped, passing the ball back across the field to Smith, who finished off a 10-yard gain.

Veals was also responsible for the game’s biggest hit.

In the third quarter, Rooney attempted a pass to senior tight end Matt Rogers.

The ball sailed high, leaving Rogers stranded in the middle of the field. Veals hit him square on the chest. Rogers left the game, but returned on the next play.

Veals is entering only his second year playing free safety. He came to the Hill to play wide receiver.

“Antonio Veals – this kid is special,” Elson said. “Antonio Veals is going to be someone that people across the country will be talking about.”

The game ended spring practice for the Toppers. They now go to individual workouts until practice can begin again at the end of summer.

Western will open the season Aug. 28 against Union.

Reach J. Michael Moore at [email protected]