Defense wins football spring game

Junior+running+back+Korliss+Marshall+had+125+yards+between+receptions+and+carries+during+the+Panther+football+teams+scrimmage+game+on+Saturday+at+OBrien+Field.+The+defense+defeated+the+offense+26-20.

Jason Howell

Junior running back Korliss Marshall had 125 yards between receptions and carries during the Panther football team’s scrimmage game on Saturday at O’Brien Field. The defense defeated the offense 26-20.

Maher Kawash, Staff Reporter

The Eastern football team held its final spring practice Saturday afternoon, and the defense came away victorious 26-20 in the annual spring game.

The offense and defense faced off with a modified scoring system that awarded the defense points for sacks, takeaways and defensive stops.

While the defense took the victory, it was an overall effort as the team continues to prepare for the 2016 season.

The defense was the story of the day with ten sacks recorded and two takeaways.

“We’ve got some guys who were stepping up that played a little bit last year,” Eastern head coach Kim Dameron said.

The defense was led by senior Jarvis Williams who finished the day with three of those sacks from the defensive line.

“Jarvis has been a little banged up this spring but I think he had a pretty good day,” Dameron said.

Junior Jermiah Rainey was the first with an interception in the first half, and freshman Camden Meade ended an offensive drive in the end zone with an interception of his own.

Freshman Jareem Fleming and Junior Stephen Davis recorded back-to-back sacks, and Derek Tiburzi ended the final dive of the game with a pass break-up.

While those guys shined on the defensive side, the offensive spotlight was on the quarterback position.

As Jalen Whitlow has left the team for graduation, it is time for a new man to lead the Panther offense.

That man as of right now is the sophomore Austin Green.

Green started the scrimmage under center for Eastern, and his opening drive led the team into field goal range to give the offense an early lead.

The sophomore kicker Nick Bruno was responsible for the three points on that drive and another successful field goal in the scrimmage.

But as for Green leading the offense, he had an up and down day.

Green finished the spring game completing 11-of-20 passes for 110 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

It is expected for defenses to succeed in spring games because of the familiarity with their team’s offense.

That may be the reason for Green’s interception but it did not put a cloud on his performance.

Green’s touchdown pass was a five-yard pass in the first quarter to Addison Bounds.

While Green continues to work with the first-team offense this spring, the storyline coming into this offseason is the highly-anticipated arrival of a freshman.

Scotty Gilkey Jr. is a quarterback in Eastern’s 2016 recruiting class, and he will join the team this summer.

The three-star quarterback is the son of former tight-end Scotty Gilkey Sr., who played for the Panthers in 2001.

There is much anticipation that Gilkey Jr. will come in and compete immediately for the starting job at Eastern.

While Dameron is satisfied with the play of Green and others, he is not opposed to starting a true freshman at quarterback next season.

“I’m one who believes at every position we are going to compete until game week,” Dameron said. “If a freshman can come in and compete right away then we’ll give him a chance to.”

Other highlights on the offensive end came from the running back position.

Junior Korliss Marshall finished the day with 125 total yards out of the backfield, and freshman Aaron Gooch had the biggest run out of the day with a 57-yard play to put the offense in the red zone.

Dameron is impressed with performances all around from his team but still has expectations of improvement.

“We can improve on everything,” Dameron said. “We just have to become more consistent offensively and stop the run better defensively.”

The Panthers now move their focus to the 2016 season as the team reports for summer training June 1 and fall camp in early August to prepare for the season opener against Western Illinois on Sept. 1.

Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]