It wasn’t a full-scale scrimmage, but Saturday morning’s practice and 11-on-11 competition in thud and live tempos gave Northwestern State football coach Jay Thomas and staff precisely what they wanted to see.
The Demons wrapped up their 12th day and 11th practice of preseason camp, ending the first full week of drills with a 2:30-long workout, mostly in Turpin Stadium as a couple hundred fans watched. Most of the competitive periods were staged with thud tempo, meaning no tackling and ideally nobody being taken to the ground, but the last 35 minutes of 11-on-11 was tackle football, with many veterans watching as newcomers and other contenders tried to make a mark.
“We got a good look at everybody and especially guys we needed to see going live in the scrimmage portion, both young guys and some in position battles like at quarterback. We wanted to give everybody an opportunity to go prove themselves,” said Thomas, “and some older guys already have.
“Offensively we ran the ball really well, and defensively we ran to the ball very well. We’ve got to stress takeaways on defense. We made mistakes, both sides of the ball, and had way too many penalties, especially on defense. There’s time to clean that up,” he said.
“The running game looked pretty polished, particularly the outside run game. When the defense got a chance to tackle, it really helped the defense do what they do. It’s tough to play defense and not tackle.”
Freshmen running backs Nigel Dora and Hunter Bedgood, and senior Matt Flores, had most of the quality runs in the 40-snap live scrimmage action. Dora churned for 25 yards on three runs in the best sustained drive, an 11-play, 54-yarder led by sophomore quarterback J.D. Almond, who went 2-for-4 for 23 yards. Bedgood topped the rushing list with 31 yards on four tries.
Senior kicker Chris Moore popped a 44-yard field goal to end the live competition, which began with a 29-yard fumble return for a score from junior defensive end Diontre Thomas.
There was little passing in the live action, after Almond and the other three competitors for the starting quarterback job shined in thud tempo action and 7-on-7 pass competition.
Sophomore Joel Blumenthal raced 55 yards for a touchdown. Senior Stephen Rivers laced a 30-yard scoring strike to All-American Ed Eagan, who also had a 70-yarder from Almond, and junior Daniel Hazlewood had several impressive throws.
With most frontline players sitting out the live scrimmage, top defenders in that segment were junior transfers Ron Perry (4 tackles) and Shawn Stephens (3.5 tackles), true freshman safety Nick Forde (3 tackles, including a sack), sophomore tackle Isaiah Wheeler (2 ½ tackles, including a sack), junior linebacker Robert Fabrizio (2 tackles), true freshman linebacker Brice Borgeson (2 tackles) and sophomore tackle Randy Woodle (a sack).
The Demons will not practice Sunday and will resume workouts at 8 a.m. Monday. Another milestone scrimmage comes next Saturday morning with the season opener on Sept. 3 in Turpin Stadium against Southeastern Louisiana.