Defense stars in spring game

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Defense and weather were the big winners Saturday night, as Southeast Missouri State University wrapped up spring practice with its annual Red vs. White intrasquad game at Houck Stadium.

There was only one touchdown as the Red team posted a 10-3 victory in front of about 350 fans. The squads combined for five turnovers, including four fumbles.

And the weather got into the act with 4:53 left in the fourth quarter, when tornado sirens forced the contest to end at that point.

"For safety reasons, it was probably best to stop the game," Southeast coach Tim Billings said.

Although both offenses struggled much of the night, Billings came away generally pleased with the game and also with the Indians' entire spring practice period.

"I thought it was a good performance overall, even though we were missing quite a few starters with injuries," Billings said. "I think we made a lot of progress this spring."

Billings is happy with the way the Indians have adjusted to their new coordinators, Damon Bradford on defense and Rob Likens on offense.

Bradford is emphasizing an aggressive, attacking defense that seeks to create turnovers. He got plenty of them Saturday.

"On both sides, the defense flew around," Bradford said. "We got turnovers, and that's the biggest thing we wanted to emphasize."

Said linebacker O.J. Turner, a Central High School product who led the team in tackles last season, "We got a lot of things done this spring. It went really good, especially with the new coaches. They've been great. We focused on turnovers and I look for a big year from the defense."

The only touchdown came early in the third quarter on a reverse pass as wide receiver Antonio Scaife hit fellow wide out Anthony Gilliam for a 53-yard score. That put the Red up 10-0.

"Antonio threw a great ball," said Gilliam. He added with a grin, "It was a real competitive game and we're happy to win. Ever since they divided the teams, we've been talking stuff."

Derek Kutz, from St. Vincent High School, accounted for the rest of the scoring.

Kicking for both teams, Kutz made a 26-yard field goal late in the first half to put the Red up 3-0 and hit a 24-yarder early in the fourth quarter for the White, making it 10-3. Kutz also booted the PAT after the Red touchdown. He was short on a 46-yard field-goal try.

Starting quarterback Andrew Goodenough, who directed the White, completed 19 of 32 passes for 113 yards.

Junior college transfer Mike Haley, playing for the Red, was 5-for-12 for 125 yards and one interception.

Gilliam caught three passes for 144 yards, including a 66-yarder from Haley.

For the White, T.J. Milcic caught seven passes for 62 yards and Brian Matthews added four receptions for 16 yards.

Neither squad ran the ball particularly well. Jamel Oliver was the leading rusher with 23 yards on eight carries for the Red.

"It was a fun game and we wanted to win," said cornerback Marco Tipton of the Red, who took a medical redshirt last season because of a knee injury. "It's great to be back and I think we're going to have a big year."

David Simonhoff, punting for both teams, averaged 48.8 yards on five attempts.

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