By Matt Vines, Northwestern State Assistant Director of Communications
NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State football team grinded to install new offensive and defensive schemes this spring under first-year coordinators Cody Crill and Weston Glaser.
Demon faithful have a chance to see the on-field product Saturday when NSU conducts the 31stAnnual Joe Delaney Bowl spring football game Saturday at 11 a.m. in Turpin Stadium.
It’s the first time NSU has competed in a traditional spring game since 2019 – the emergence of COVID-19 halted spring practice in 2020, and the Demons played a six-game spring schedule in 2021 because of the cancelled 2020 fall regular season.
“We’re looking for consistency on Saturday because we’ve seen good and bad in all three phases,” said NSU coach Brad Laird. “What you want to see as you get more practices under your belt is the consistency of the guys we’re looking at for the fall.
“You start to see the guys who have the ability to make plays whether it’s offensively or defensively.”
Saturday represents the 15th and final practice of the spring season and the second live scrimmage.
The Demons ran about 90 plays combined between the first, second and third teams this past Saturday.
Laird said there’s been a sharper focus with new offensive and defensive systems.
“It’s a credit to the players and their attention to detail,” Laird said. “They’ve shown the ability to show up day in and day out with the right mindset to get better.
“When you look at the new schematics on both sides of the ball, it forces them to be a little more locked in. We’ve had some really good practices, and where we are now to where we started is really night and day.”
The NSU offense wants to continue to operate at a fast pace, and fans caught a glimpse of the Demons’ weapons in the first scrimmage.
Receiver Javon Antonio, who was an all-conference receiver in the 2021 spring season before missing the fall campaign, contributed to three touchdowns. He caught scoring passes of 61 and 20 yards from quarterback Zach Clement while throwing a 20-yard touchdown.
Clement was the leading passer and rusher in the scrimmage with 143 yards on 9-15 passing with an interception to his two touchdowns, adding 33 rushing yards on three carries.
All three quarterbacks showcased their mobility as Kaleb Fletcher (10-17 for 136 yards with a touchdown and interception) and Kareame Cotton Jr. (10-16 for 129 yards with a touchdown and interception) made plays outside of the pocket.
Receivers Josh Carver (two catches for 94 yards and one touchdown) and Patrick Heard (five catches for 54 yards) were standouts as well.
The offense dominated early before the defense rounded into form in the second half of the scrimmage.
The Demons’ ‘D’ forced five turnovers in the first scrimmage, including interceptions by Shemar Bartholomew, Kevin Davis and Waylon Washington.
Laird said the players and coaches are getting more familiar with each other as NSU welcomed four new position coaches in addition to two new coordinators.
Offensive line coach Beau Blair, receivers coach Manny Harris, quarterbacks coach Kyle Washington and defensive line coach Jordan Hopkins are new full-time coaching faces along with a host of new graduate assistants that will assist with position coaching.
“It’s not just different schemes, players are getting used to different styles of coaching as well,” Laird said. “The coaches are seeing the new players whether they are freshmen or guys that came in at mid-year.
“We’re seeing progress on both sides, the coaches and players. It’s been a group effort as players are learning each other going through these practices.
Saturday offers plenty of action as fans can matriculate over to the Jack Fisher Tennis Complex after the football scrimmage to catch the end of NSU’s tennis match with Nicholls as the Lady Demons attempt to win a SLC regular season title.
Then fans have the opportunity to enjoy crawfish and beverages at Cane River Brewing Co. hosted by the Demon Brothers Booster Club. Tickets at the door are $25 and benefit the football program.
The event runs from 6-10 p.m. with appearances by NSU president Dr. Marcus Jones, athletics director Kevin Bostian and the NSU football staff.
— Featured photo by Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services