Although not as exciting as a regulation football game, the Slippery Rock football spring game served its’ purpose in giving both fans and coaches expectations for the upcoming season, with “The Rock” team besting “The Pride” 10-3.
Following on a tradition started last year, both squads featured SRU alumni as honorary coaches. Last season, the two squads were coached by SRU football head coach of 28 years George Mihalik and Jerry Bejbl, the first Rock football player to have his jersey retired, and the namesake of SRU football’s weight training facility.
This year, the two honorary coaches were NFL players, past and present alike. The victorious Rock team was coached by Chuck Sanders, a 1986 graduate of Slippery Rock and former Pittsburgh Steeler. The Pride team was coached by current Atlanta Falcons Offensive guard, Brandon Fusco
“It was a huge honor when coach Lutz told me. I was ecstatic and excited to come back. I always like supporting the guys and seeing the guys,” Fusco said.
After the first quarter, the game went into an almost hour-long lightning delay and saw most fans leaving after seeing just 10 minutes of action for Rock football.
“I apologize for [bringing the rain],” Fusco said, laughing after many had accused him as the fault for the rain delay.
One of the biggest holes that SRU will be left to feel comes behind center after Tanner Garry led Division II in passing last season. Three players took snaps at quarterback for SRU. Junior Andrew Koester enters the year as a junior after seeing action in a couple games last season for The Rock. Koester ended up leading all quarterback on the day with 101 yards passing including slinging the only touchdown of the day to junior tight end Dylan Stapleton.
Sophomore Taylor King, originally out of Tampa, Fl., recently transferred to SRU out of Butte College in northern California. Butte was highly efficient in his debut, going 8-12 for 75 yards. Kameron Patterson retains his freshman status after redshirting last season, and was effective in his limited action, going 3-5 for 41 yards.
Friday night was not a good display of rushing attacks as the four running backs combined for 71 yards of offense. Sophomore Braden Fochtman led the way with 35 yards, and sophomore Dontez Rash was not far behind with 28 yards. Junior Nassir Weaver and sophomore Chacar Berry combined for 8 yards on seven carries.
Stapleton dominating in the receiving game, leading all receivers in receptions (five), yards (67) and touchdowns (one). Weaver, along with sophomore Jermaine Wynn were the only receivers with three catches a piece. Other performers with multiple catches were senior Dakota Clanagan (15 yards) and senior Carnel Harley (25 yards).
Junior defensive back EJ Jackson was a jack-of-all-trades defensively, leading all players with five tackles (four solo) and tackles for loss (two for three yards lost). Jackson also forced a fumble and broke up a pass. Senior wide receiver-turned-defensive back Tavarus Sample tied Jackson’s mark on tackles with five (three solo) and also broke up a pass. Other notable defensive performances were junior defensive lineman Trey Blanford (four tackles, one sack, one fumble forced and one fumble recovery) and sophomore Dylan Whiteman (three tackles.)
Finally, with Star sophomore kicker Jake Chapla out due to injury, Freshman Luke Dye was left with the kicking duties. He made two of his three field goals kicking for both teams.
The contest was cut short with around four minutes remaining due to player injury. Ultimately, an experience like this is a learning one, and all the players had an NFL player there to help them with it.
“If you don’t believe in yourself and what you do, then what do you believe in?”