Defense shines in spring football game

Maher Kawash, Football Reporter


The Eastern football team wrapped up its spring practice season with the annual Blue-White Spring Game this past weekend, and the defense stole the show.

The Panthers are in the midst of trying to replace many key seniors on both sides of the ball, and especially former team leaders Devin Church and Seth McDonald.

Well, the defense did a fine job of adjusting to that in the spring game, running away rather easily 37-20 in a modified scoring system.

The Panthers defensive secondary was impressive as two interceptions were returned for touchdowns by redshirt sophomore Xzavier Shugars and senior Bradley Dewberry.

Dewberry’s interception came from the hands of Eastern’s starting quarterback redshirt senior Mitch Kimble.

Dewberry proved to be an important part of the game, but will have high expectations this season as he comes in as one of the team’s veteran seniors.

Shugars is one who comes in expecting to grow within the defense as he redshirted his freshman season.

His interception was a snag on the pass of redshirt junior Bud Martin, but the most impressive part of it all was the 75-yard return to the house as he weaved in and out of the defenders’ hands.

The secondary was not the only impressive feat of the game Saturday as the defensive line caused some major problems all day long.

Senior Chibuike Nwuda was the leader of that line as the 6 foot senior rushed past the offensive line with ease to earn two sacks in a single defensive series as well as 4.5 overall on the day.

It led the Panthers to earning ten total sacks as the offensive line struggled to contain the defense.

Nwuda comes in as another senior on the team, but he said his leadership will come with him leading by example this upcoming season.

He did just that with an additional six tackles as he joined four others in the game with at least five tackles.

“For me, it’s all about just trying to build my confidence and a spring game like this did that, so I just have to keep improving,” Nwuda said.

While the defense was solid, the Panthers’ offense still had some bright spots too.

Eastern coach Kim Dameron rotated quarterbacks in and out of the game, but Kimble is the clear starter for this team.

Despite the interception, Kimble completed seven straight passes, inching Eastern into scoring range.

He was set back with two straight sacks, but once again, bounced back with a 45-yard touchdown pass to junior Alexander Hollins.

Kimble finished 16-for-25 with 188 yards and the offense’s two touchdown passes.

The three other quarterbacks on the team joined Kimble to finish with 51 pass attempts because of the lack of running backs available.

Eastern had just three active running backs with redshirt sophomore Robert Columbus leading the way with 46 rushing yards and four receptions.

The Panthers now take a break before returning in early August for fall camp before heading to Indiana State on Aug. 31 for the season opener.

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