The Stetson Hatters overcame the disappointment of not being able to scrimmage on the game field at Spec Martin Stadium with some solid individual performances despite some uncharacteristically sloppy play.
The scrimmage, originally scheduled to be held at Spec Martin Stadium, was moved back to the practice fields at Stetson’s new Athletics Training Center because of all the rain that has fallen over the last three days. The Hatters did, however, visit their home field for the first time as a team before the scrimmage.
The change of venue certainly didn’t hold back a larger than normal crowd of fans, estimated to be in excess of 750 people, who braved the drizzle to sit through the more than 100 play scrimmage.
Hatters coach Roger Hughes said sloppy was the only word to describe what he saw on the field.
“There is no other way to describe it,” Hughes said. “Our kicking game is a mess right now. We are trying some new people because we are trying to solidify those special teams. We are allowing some guys to earn their way back onto the bus, and we will narrow those things down this week. There were too many penalties. We probably took a step back on our concentration.”
The penalties were the biggest negative on the night. A total of 20 flags were marked off, and several others were picked up. Total penalty yardage pushed past 150 yards.
The two biggest penalties of the night both worked against the defense. One on a roughing the passer call nullified the only interception, a pick that was returned for a touchdown. The second was an offside penalty that quarterback Ryan Tentler took advantage of to connect with Chris Crawford for a 28-yard touchdown.
“When we had that first touchdown, we had that defensive offsides and we have worked on that play where Fletcher (Eldemire) just snaps it and Ryan throws it up,” Hughes said. “We had it in another situation earlier and didn’t execute it, but tonight we did, and that is what Ryan brings to the table. He has great football instincts and great football sense. The team just rallies around him.”
Tentler, who has secured the starting quarterback job, completed 11-of-17 passes for 126 yards and that one score during the scrimmage. He also rushed three times for 16 yards and another score.
Backup quarterback Jonathan Jerozal also had a good night throwing and running the ball. He completed 9-of-16 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns and rushed five times for another 53 yards, including a 49-yard scamper to set up a short TD run. His TD passes went for one yard to tight end Austin Marks and 16 yards to receiver Kegan Moore.
“I thought Jonathan did a good job of rallying tonight as well,” Hughes said. “Early on he was a little sluggish, but he came around. Both of them are athletic and we are going to have to use their legs to help. I feel comfortable with either of them in the game. I think Ryan is a little ahead, but it is nice in this type of offense, which is high risk, to have two guys that you can go to.”
Combined, four Stetson quarterbacks threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns. Ian Leggett completed five of 10 passes for 37 yards and a score and Lucas Phillips complete one of his two throws for 23 yards.
“When we watch the film, I am sure there will be some good and some bad,” Hughes said. “I think it is clear that we have some good running backs. I think our top two quarterbacks are going to be OK. Defensive, we have to stop the run a little better, but we did come up with some turnovers, which is good. We are going to have to narrow what we have for the game plan.”
Singleton was the leading ground gainer, rushing for 70 yards on just seven carries.
“Jerami has been nicked up, and one of the things that he has to do is learn to play with some pain,” Hughes said. “It is a physical position and I think he did much better tonight. He didn’t run as high tonight and I thought he finished blocks and he did a good job of finishing runs. Cole Mazza is a guy who I like what I see from him. He and Mike Yonker are both guys who can play both running back and full back. We went big in the red zone and had both full backs in the game. Both are good blockers, both are good pass catchers and both are good runners. We want to be able to utilize those guys.”
With less than a week left before the Hatters open the season against Warner University, Hughes said he is going through every possible emotion. He and the team are all anxious, after 13 months of just seeing each other, to see how they stack up against someone else.
“Part of me is thinking that we have a lot to cover,” Hughes said. “Clearly, we have to clean up a lot of mistakes. But by the same standpoint, there is some readiness there and we are all anxious to just see where we are. When you are playing yourself, you just don’t know. When you play people, your weaknesses get exposed and it gives you a chance to fix those things.”
The Hatters will focus on cleaning up mistakes this week while, at the same time, trying to figure out what they will see from the Royals next week. This will also be the first season of football for Warner, which is playing as an NAIA Division II Independent.
“You try not to chase ghosts,” Hughes said. “You have to reduce the game plan, but practice against a three-man front, a four-man front, against a lot of different things. You have to understand, and the kids have to understand, that the first quarter may be total adjustment. We may be feeling things out until halftime and then figure things out.
“The nice thing is that our kids have had to adjust since the very first day. We even had to adjust tonight. This group has done some great things and I think they will continue to show great resiliency.”
Tickets for the Hatters 2013 opener are going fast. Single game tickets will go on sale Monday morning, and the sale of tickets has been extremely brisk over the last week. Stetson students have turned out in mass to support the Hatters, with more than double the anticipated student season tickets having been sold.
Kickoff for the first Stetson football game in 57 years is scheduled for Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Spec Martin Stadium. The game will be available on the Stetson Radio Network with Matt Musgrove, Steve Ostermann and Ryan Rouse providing the call of the game. Fans can listen at the stadium on AM 1490, as well as outside DeLand on AM 1230 WSBB in New Smyrna Beach and AM 810 WRSO in Orlando.