Football team gets prepared for spring season

The Wildcats were raring to go on the field in the midst of the warm, sunny weather

Rachel Vogt, Staff Writer

The Wayne State Wildcats returned back to the field Saturday for the first time since their 28-10 victory over the Upper Iowa Peacocks in November for the annual spring game.

The Wildcat offense was dressed in gold and the defense was dressed in black. The ’Cats showcased their talents with multiple extended team periods, one on one individual drills and special team challenges.

“It felt good to be back on the field since we haven’t been out there for a few months,” said senior Austin Gubbels. “I was excited to see how we were going to play.”

Because of the new updates being made to the press box, the team wasn’t able to keep score, but Wayne State made a way to update the fans of the action taking place on the field. Head Coach Dan McLaughlin talked to the fans through a wireless microphone that connected to a speaker placed at the edge of the stands so the crowd could hear him announce players with a background of how they got to Wayne as well as play-by-play commentary.

The game started with a 7-on-7 period that had the Wildcat receivers showcasing their talents along with quarterbacks Aaron Bleil and Brady Brandsfield against a stout Wildcat defense. Wide receivers Nate Rogers and Barrington Robinson III impressed the crowd securing the majority of their catches.

“The team definitely got better from the first practice, and I feel I did better Saturday than when we first started practice,” said Gubbels. “We had to have young guys step up and be ready to compete at the level we need them to after losing so many seniors last season.”

The ’Cats then transitioned into team period where the full offense and defense competed against each other to simulate a real game. The team simulated kickoffs and returns while also doing situational drills where the offense would start backed up in their end zone, and tried to get a first down or started the drive on third down. The sides were evenly matched through the majority of the scrimmage, the turning point being when defensive back Jamaal Conway-Smith notched the lone interception of the day.

“The team did well, I was very impressed with how far we came from the first day of practice,” said Rogers. “We still have a lot to improve on over the summer, but I was very satisfied overall with the team.”

The team then held one-on-one position drills where the offensive linemen and defensive linemen battled in the trenches with a pass protection challenge, the wide receivers and defensive backs faced off to see who could make a play on the ball and the linebackers and running backs went head to head in a tackling drill.

“I was most excited to be able to play real football at full tempo again and just being able to compete in front of a crowd is always exciting,” said Rogers.

There was also a special team’s portion where the offensive linemen and defensive linemen took turns attempting to catch kickoff returns. The returns were capped off with guard Marquise Jones returning a kick 50 yards for a score causing the team to erupt with cheers while he and other teammates danced in the endzone.

WSC also hosted 500 future Wildcats for their High School Junior Day. The juniors and their families were treated to tours of the campus, a sideline view of the spring game and a lunch after the game with the players and their families.

The Wildcats will now look to transition into their summer training program created by head strength and conditioning coach Grant Darnell. Darnell creates the program specifically to what each of the players need, from losing weight to gaining muscle mass.

“I’m going to work to be in the best shape possible going into fall camp,” said Rogers. “I’m going to focus on lifting and conditioning everyday as well as working on my footwork and hands.” Wayne State will open the 2018 football season on Aug. 30 at home against the Winona State Warriors in a 6 p.m. contest.