More than anything, the football coaches at Model and Darlington wanted to know Friday night what type of team they were working with this season.
They got their answer, with one powerful hit after the other.
While only a scrimmage, players on both teams put forth a tenacious effort in their spring game at Darlington. No score was kept, but both units had plenty of plays that showed what the team could become in the fall.
“Both teams were physical and getting after the ball, simple as that,” Model coach Gordon Powers said. “And that’s something we preached in the spring. We want to see if some of these new kids are going to get physical for us in the game situation.”
A main part of the game’s physicality came on Darlington’s defensive line, which appeared to be getting pressure up the middle all night long. Elijah Ball, Jacob Hunt and Tate Ratledge were repeatedly causing chaos up front with their size and athleticism.
Ball made the defensive play of the night when he stripped the ball from a Model running back and ran it back 13 yards into end zone.
“The defensive line is our strength, and we are going to feed of their enthusiasm,” Darlington coach Tommy Atha said. “Some of those guys have been with this team for four years, so you know they are going to come to play.”
One of the questions entering the night was Darlington’s quarterback position, with four sophomores all competing for the job.
Atha did what he could to find some answers, running pass plays for each of them throughout the game.
“I really wanted to get some time to evaluate the quarterbacks,” Atha said. “And I think we have the opportunity to be good at the position. I know we can run the football, but tonight I was pleased with how we caught the football.”
One of the biggest moments through the air came on the opening possession by Darlington when Griffin Brewster completed a 34-yard pass to Barrick Wade and Brady Drummond threw a 20-yard pass to Wade in the end zone a few plays later.
Model, a young unit only returning seven starters, still made some plays to give Powers more of an idea of where the team is going. Running backs Kwalic Dublin, Troy Arnold and Sam Silver broke long runs, and the defense didn’t allow a score after the opening possession.
Just like Atha, Powers didn’t expect his team to execute perfectly. Friday night was more about getting to know what he had and learning who could respond to such a physical battle.
“What comes with the spring game, for both teams, is a lot of mistakes,” Powers said. “To be honest, I had no idea what kind of team I had before tonight. But now I know I have a team that has some grit. They will get after it and not give up.”
The game operated with both teams getting 10 plays per possession no matter turnovers or downs and each team starting on its own 20. It was a pure scrimmage, with coaches of both teams on the field to guide their players.