Defense takes the intersquad scrimmage


Jake Thompson

Sean McGuire ending spring ball on a high note.

MACOMB, Ill. — Western Illinois’ defense exacted some revenge from last year’s loss in the closing seconds to win the 2017 Bruce Craddock Memorial spring game 41-29 on Friday night at Hanson Field. The Leathernecks wrapped up practice number 15 this spring.

A point system was used, crediting the offense with first downs, big plays and scores while the defense earned points on pass break-ups, touchdowns and takeaways.

During halftime, head coach Charlie Fisher announced the Most Improved Players from the spring — running back Max Norris, offensive lineman Jordan Detweiler, and defensive linemen Kyle Williams and Grant Kasal.

The four captains were voted on by the team and coaching staff. Repeating as captains are junior quarterback Sean McGuire and senior linebacker Brett Taylor. Joining them are sophomore linebacker Quentin Moon and senior offensive lineman Jacob Judd.

In the first quarter, the offense looked to have a touchdown on a 10-yard pass play, but a penalty negated the touchdown. Western ended up missing a 33-yard field goal.

During the second quarter, the offense couldn’t handle a pitch, and linebacker Zach Glisan scooped up the loose ball and raced 60 yards for a touchdown. Western’s offense moved the ball into the red zone but could not convert a 22-yard field goal as it hit off the upright.

The offense quickly bounced back as Connor Sampson used a 57-yard pass to Tre Cervantes to set up a 13-yard touchdown to tight end Chris Age. Nathan Erickson converted the extra point. The offense took a 22-18 lead into halftime.

In the second half, Western tried a 50-yard field goal into the wind but it fell short. The defense took the lead for good making stops and earning points on seven pass break-ups.

“I thought it was a good game,” said Fisher. “You had a lot of good plays on both sides. I like the way our defense is playing and continuing to improve, and we made some plays. It was good, the spring game you’re always going to have the good and bad. As the head coach, I’m in a neutral position, so I want to see good on both sides. In 37 years of doing the spring game, I’ve seen just about everything. Two years in a row we’ve had a tight game come down the way you want to see it, so I’m pleased with where we are. We have a lot of work to do, we’re 131 days away from playing, and in football life, that will be here before you know it.”

Williams showed why he was named Most Improved in the spring, tallying a team-high seven tackles, including a sack. Eric Carrera added six stops and Keith Knight added five tackles, including two sacks.

“When you look at our body of work defensively, you’ll see continued improvement, and the two areas we have to improve are pass defense and pressuring the quarterback,” Fisher said. “You can see tonight we have the capability to do that, but we’re still making strides in the 3-4. We have a lot of work to do, but I like the direction we’re heading.”

McGuire and Sampson spread the ball out to 10 different receivers, as senior Jaelon Acklin led with four catches totaling 59 yards. Sampson threw for 221 yards on 16-of-24 passing. McGuire threw for 103 yards in limited action.

“We’ve got to have Connor Sampson continue to develop, and he showed tonight why we recruited him,” Fisher said. “He has a good, live arm. He has arm talent and he and Sean McGuire looked in control with the first group.”

Overall, Fisher was pleased with how the spring progressed.

“That’s the thing about our guys,” Fisher said. “Ever since I got here, they’ve been a cometo- work-ready bunch. I appreciate that. They were excited to play tonight, and they should be. It’s full-go in the spring. It’s long days and long nights. We meet in the morning and practice at night. This was a good way to cap everything. I like where we’re headed.”

Western opens the 2017 season on Aug. 31 at Tennessee Tech to play the Golden Eagles.