The Lumberjacks scrimmaged against themselves in their annual spring football game April 26. With offense wearing white and defense in blue, the NAU team took the opportunity to improve their skills as a squad and get ready for the fall season. The game consisted of two quarters with a 15 minute running clock in each.
Offense and defense warmed up in just shorts and tank tops, and dressed with shoulder pads just before the game began.
Before the scrimmage started, the teams ran blocking drills to create energy ahead of game time. The offensive and defensive lines also ran blitz drills while the skill positions ran a small 7-on-7 at the opposite end of the field.
The game went like most spring games do, with players working on fundamentals. In the first drive of the game, red-shirted freshman quarterback Heath Beemiller threw an interception directly to senior defensive back Marcel Myers.
Then on the next play, the second offensive team came out and threw another interception. NAU’s offense made mistakes that its defense capitalized on.
Red-shirted freshman quarterback Gino Campiotti came in for some playing time in the first half as well. He threw an 80-yard touchdown to senior wide receiver Tommie Dorsey on the sixth drive down the left side of the field. This was the first positive play for the offense since the start of the game.
In the first half, the offense never seemed to get anything going apart from a long touchdown pass from Campiotti to Dorsey. The defense displayed its ability to effectively stop rushing attacks, making the running backs work for each new yard.
NAU’s defense came out with nothing different in the second half, picking up their third interception. The offense was able to answer back with a 1-yard rushing touchdown from red-shirted sophomore fullback Jacinto Castillo.
The second half consisted of a back-and-forth matchup between teammates. Each possession consisted of a turnover or touchdown. When Campiotti was at quarterback, both offensive teams showcased their ability to score.
Campiotti was consistent while playing his position, showing good vision through the pockets and opening opportunities for his offensive line.
Other than the plays that Campiotti was able to make, the offense was inconsistent throughout the scrimmage. A lack of communication caused balls to be overthrown or out of reach for players.
Junior defensive back Brian Barry intercepted two throws and tracked down the ball to make plays that were not completed by teammates. Barry had minimal starting appearances in past seasons but capitalized on the extra playing time during the scrimmage.
NAU struggled last season with an overall record of 4-6 and a 3-4 Big Sky Conference record.
Returning senior running back Joe Logan said he is excited going into his senior year. Logan wants to show fans that NAU can compete this year.
“We are better than what we have shown ... we are able to come out, win and compete in football games,” Logan said. “I think we got a lot better this spring and I’m excited to see what we do.”
Head coach Chris Ball emphasized that his new team is putting in a lot of work, and it is not going unrecognized.
“Each day they are out on the field, they strive to get better,” Ball said. “The most important part of this program is the summer. This is the time to get stronger, faster and let the strength coach do his job.”
The spring game showed the aggressive strategy that Ball is looking for from his defensive coordinator.
“The defense that coach [Jerry] Partridge brought was similar to what we did in Memphis,” Ball said. “He has a little more attack than me, but that is what I wanted.”
Ball’s goal for the game was to get good practice and let the team mesh as one.
“Everyone played hard, and it was nice to see my team come out of the game healthy,” Ball said.
NAU will take on Missouri State in their first game of the fall season Aug. 28 at the Walkup Skydome. Last year the Lumberjacks lost 40-8, although this season they have practiced to redeem themselves against the Bears.