Defense dominates offense in Southeast football's spring game

Sunday, April 27, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ Devin Evans deflects a pass from quarterback Aris Bowen during Southeast's spring football game on Saturday, April 26, 2008.

Four days ago, Jared Van Slyke made the conversion from quarterback to slash.

Judging by his performance Saturday during Southeast Missouri State's spring game, the sophomore might end up catching the ball more than throwing it this fall.

Van Slyke had three catches for 93 yards and the lone touchdown for the offensive unit, which took a 50-11 beating from the defense in front of a little more than 100 fans at Houck Stadium.

The offense had very few bright spots — it turned the ball over four times, allowed nine sacks and committed all of the afternoon's four penalties — but new receiver Van Slyke was one of them.

"To be honest, they just wanted to try me out and see what I can do," he said, "but right now it kind of looks like, after today, they might be leaning toward putting me on the receiver depth chart.

"It felt good. This is what you dream about when you're a kid — come out and make plays and prove yourself."

Van Slyke was involved in few plays during his freshman season, losing his redshirt for a couple of drives in a 26-21 loss at Samford when both Houston Lillard and Victor Anderson were injured. Van Slyke finished the 3-8 campaign with one rush for 4 yards and one pass that was intercepted.

AARON EISENHAUER Eddie Calvin tried to avoid Michael Williamson after intercepting a pass Saturday during Southeast Missouri State's spring football game.

With Lillard healthy and projected as the No. 1 quarterback, Steve Callanan as the backup and juco transfer Dustin Powell on campus, Redhawks coach Tony Samuel thought this might be a good time to test the 6-foot-3, 197-pound Van Slyke on the other end of the passing attack.

"We had been thinking about it for a week," said Samuel, heading into his third season as head coach. "I'd rather him be a slash right now and let him play both, and still study the quarterback thing, and be able to help us out rather than just sitting on the sideline signaling plays in. He's a competitor, and I guarantee you he doesn't want to be watching from the sidelines this year."

Van Slyke showed his competitive nature in the third quarter by leaping over 5-10 junior cornerback Josh Woods for a 39-yard touchdown catch on a ball lofted into double coverage by Powell. In the first period, Van Slyke got behind senior cornerback Kendall Magana on a 44-yard pass play after Lillard had eluded a sack. The final scoring did not reflect the point for a play of greater than 25 yards.

"You really know where the holes are, and that's going to benefit me playing receiver," said Van Slyke, the son of former major league outfielder Andy Van Slyke. "To be honest, I'm the one who's always telling the receiver, 'Make some plays. Run up the field, come back to me if I have to roll out.' That's kind of second nature to me. I have that in my head all the time. I'm used to running around and trying to make plays."

Magana, who is making a switch of his own from safety to cornerback, was impressed with Van Slyke.

"I told him I was getting tired of him today," he said. "He's just a pure athlete. He had a great catch in the end zone for a touchdown. He's just a guy you can put out there anywhere, and he's going to make plays."

Most of the plays made Saturday belonged to Magana and his defensive mates, however.

On the next play following the Lillard-to-Van Slyke connection, Woods stepped into a pass in the flat and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to make the score 29-2.

That was the third pick of the day against Lillard, who finished 8-for-21 for 126 yards.

A promising opening drive ended when Eddie Calvin snared a pass in the end zone that was deflected by Miles Edwards and returned it 39 yards. Gerald Williams had an interception two plays later.

"As cornerbacks, we had a good day," said Magana, who had three tackles and a pass deflection, "and I'm happy about it. I think the defense executed well today."

Van Slyke, who also completed one of his two passes for 11 yards, said the outcome was not a reflection of how the spring has gone.

"We laid a little egg today," he said. "We're a lot better than that. We've been dominating them all spring. We should have played a whole lot better."

The defense picked up six points for each of the three interceptions, an additional six for Woods' TD return, six more for a fumble recovery by senior Nick Ketelsleger after Edwards dropped the ball and two for each of the nine sacks. Ben Gugler, who moved to defensive end after playing tight end last season, had three sacks.

"We shied away from a lot of things we want to do offensively because we wanted to get through this thing unscathed," Samuel said.

The Redhawks actually came out better in some ways, as junior Jared Goodson, the team's second-leading tackler last season, saw his first action of the spring and played a limited role with three tackles. Samuel said Goodson had had surgery, pointing toward the right wrist and hand.

Southeast defense 50, Southeast offense 11


Rushing — Houston Lillard 5-(-24), Mike Jones 3-16, Tim Holloman 7-3, Alfred Reese 2-(-2), Nick Baer 1-2, Jared Van Slyke 3-2, Dustin Powell 6-(-27), Andrew Adams 3-17.

Passing — Houston Lillard 8-21-126-0-3, Steve Callanan 6-10-64-0-0, Jared Van Slyke 1-2-11-0-0, Dustin Powell 4-8-62-1-0.

Receiving — Brad Stewart 3-45, Tim Holloman 2-27, Mike Williamson 2-27, Jared Van Slyke 3-93, Chante Ahamefule 2-21, Walter Peoples 1-12, Alfred Reese 1-7, Miles Edwards 3-47, Andrew Adams 1-3, Mike Jones 1-12.

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