Defense dominates first scrimmage for JU

Last year, the JU football team had a stellar defense that made big plays en route to the Pioneer Football League championship.

On Saturday, the defense was once again in top form as they dominated the first full scrimmage at Fletcher High School.

The Dolphin defense forced nine turnovers, with eight coming off interceptions, to go along with 14 sacks on top of 11 tackles for loss or no gain.

”The defense came out ready to play and showed what they are capable of today,” said JU head coach Kerwin Bell. “Offensively, we’re still working some new guys in on the offensive line and it’s taking time for them to gel.

”We know we have to get better on offense and take better care of the ball, but we’ve also got to do a better job of blocking up front to open holes for our running game as well as protecting the quarterback.”

Being the first scrimmage of the preseason camp, all five quarterbacks saw action, with Jonathan Jones being the only one not to throw an interception. Sophomore starter Josh McGregor threw one of JU’s four offensive touchdowns.

Bell also rotated the running backs in liberally, with Maurice Manning leading the way with 14 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown. Junior Rudell Small had 11 carries for 56 yards in his time against the first team defense. Sophomore J.J. Laster had 44 yards on eight carries with a touchdown as well.

The defense had 12 different players record a sack, with Rolando Fines picking up two. On the interceptions, Matt Barnes picked off two of the passes – returning one more than 50 yards for a touchdown.

JU has some receivers put up some stellar numbers, led by Rodney Sumter’s four catches for 84 yards. Josh Philpart led all receivers with five catches (for 59 yards), while Chris Kuck and Tommie Rogers each had a touchdown reception. Rogers finished the day with four catches for 64 yards.

”Our returning receivers know what they have to do and showed that today,” Bell said. “We have some young guys that are gaining experience every day, which makes these live scrimmages so important in their development.”

Jones had the best day of the quarterbacks, completing 7-of-17 for 114 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. McGregor threw for 101 yards on 7-of-17 passing with two picks and one score, while Erik Stepelton was 9-of-19 for a team-best 126 yards with three interceptions.

”One of the things that will improve this week is our quarterbacks making the right reads and throwing the ball away if they need to,” Bell said. “We threw right at the defender several times today when we could’ve thrown it away.”

The Dolphins will return to the practice field on Monday with a two-a-day practice in preparation for the second preseason scrimmage.