Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Jakob Coker, one of Saint Francis’s quarterbacks looks down field for an open receiver last minute before the defensive line reaches him.
Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Eli Wallace weaves through Saint Francis defense dressed in black during the Spring preview Saturday afternoon.
Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Danny Naylor finds a receiver before the defensive line reaches him during the Spring preview at Bishop D’Arcy Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Saturday, April 21, 2018 5:40 pm
Saint Francis spring game goes to offense
AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette
The spring session for back-to-back NAIA national champion Saint Francis ended with a 63-41 win for the offense against the defense in the Black and Blue spring game at D'Arcy Stadium on Saturday.
Despite the lopsided final score, it was the defense that shone brightest early on with four interceptions, a sack and two stops to take a 24-14 lead after the first segment.
"I was really pleased with the first group of defense," coach Kevin Donley said. "We have great team speed and ... I figured defense is where I expected it to be.
"We're awfully fast. We're not very big but we're so fast at all three levels. We run good at the line of scrimmage and all over the football field. We have guys at all three levels."
The offense rotated four quarterbacks, with Grand Valley State transfer Matt Crable, sophomore Jake Coker, redshirt freshman Danny Naylor and sophomore Clay Senerius.
"There's always a (learning) curve," Crable said. "The coaches have been really helpful trying to learn the offense. It's been fun; it's been tough but I'm starting to get the hang of it. I have about six more months, not even that, four more months before we kick off. I'm going to get the hang of it."
Crable completed 4 of 11 passes for 39 yards and a touchdown and added 38 yards and a score on four carries. Senerius was 4 of 6 for 41 yards and a touchdown, Naylor 4 of 9 for 40 yards and Coker 4 of 5 for 66 yards.
"All of us, we have the capability to win, and I've tried to put myself in a position to where I can be the one to do that," Crable said. "These other quarterbacks have been great to me; they've been great guys. They've been awesome. I'm excited to keep battling and excited to start the season."
Justin Green ran 10 times for 48 yards and a score to lead the ground game and Rocky James caught four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown.
Jalen Moss, Sean Roch'e and Wilmer Cole each had an interception, and Chase Clark had two picks and quarterbacks were sacked twice by Malachi Manion and once by Blake Blaker.
"I think defense, I think we did really well today," Clark said. "I think we have a bright future for fall. I think we just read (the passes) really well, I think we just had a good day."
The spring game doesn't have the same importance than preparing for the regular season in the fall.
"We didn't get a ton of practices in this year but, honestly, coaches know after about three practices who's putting in all the work," junior linebacker Piercen Harnish said. "It really comes down to who's going to be here in the summer and who's going to perform in the fall."
The conclusion of spring practices gives the players and the coaching staff the opportunity to step back and decompress before getting back to the grind heading into the summer.
"Right now, we need to take a deep breath, get some rest before we reload," Donley said. "Just seems like we got back from Daytona the first time, we've been there twice, and it just continues. It's a tough grind for coaches and players. We'll need a few weeks here to concentrate on wrapping up the semester strong, get back in the weight room.
"We have 67 players that are going to stay here during the summer so we get the chance to keep getting stronger."