News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

April 12, 2014

ISU football meets goals in Friday’s spring scrimmage

TERRE HAUTE — It was impossible to pick a winner — for obvious reasons — at the first Indiana State spring football scrimmage of 2014 on Friday at Memorial Stadium, but coach Mike Sanford saw plenty of things he liked.

“No. 1, it was an awesome day to practice,” he said after the sunny, breezy afternoon had concluded. “You can’t beat the weather, and second, there were no serious injuries. We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish.”

Popping up on four different occasions during the two-hour practice were short bursts of scrimmage time, portions of which addressed up-tempo offense, third-down plays and two-minute drills among other things.

Returning starter Mike Perish got most of the time at quarterback and threw touchdown passes to Kyani Harris, Sampson Levingston and Deionte Buckley — the latter a screen pass — and had other big gains to A.J. Johnson and Harris and several short throws to Robert Tonyan Jr. and Chris O’Leary.

Perish was intercepted once, when a big hit by Lonnell Brown dislodged a ball that went to linebacker T.J. Tuuu, but the Sycamore defense made its presence felt in other ways. “Whatever is positive on one side of the ball is negative on the other,” Sanford pointed out.

“I thought the defense, for the most part, did a good job defending the run,” the coach said, while pointing out some big plays by LeMonte Booker and Buckley, “but the converse to that is that we’ve got to do a better job running the football on offense.

“The defense also did a good job with the pass rush,” Sanford continued, “so we’ve got to do a better job of pass protection. Way too many sacks.

“The offense did a good job in the red zone, so the defense has got to get better there,” Sanford added, “and the defense won the third-down aspect, so the offense has to do better.”

When Perish wasn’t at quarterback, redshirt freshman Matt Adam got the reps — although Sanford emphasized afterward that Northview’s Trent Lancaster is still in the picture too, along with injured transfer Patrick Coyne.

“We just needed to look at Matt Adam today,” Sanford said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of plays, and Mike [Perish] got a lot.”

Perish and two-year starting outside linebacker Connor Underwood were players who stood out, Sanford said, and the coach also praised Tonyan — whose 6-foot-5 frame gives the receiving corps a different look from its apparently deep stable of smaller speedsters.

Harris falls into that category, and the senior from the San Francisco area is hoping for a big season this fall after his first Sycamore campaign was, to say the least, an inconsistent one.

Although he played in just five of ISU’s 12 games — “I got in some trouble,” Harris admitted Friday — he finished second on the team with 20 catches and third on the team with 265 yards through the air. He scored one touchdown, and was part of one nationally recognized play.

“The Youngstown State game we made ESPN,” he said. “I caught the ball and pitched it back to Chris O’Leary, he pitched it to Sampson Levingston and he ran for a touchdown.”

In addition to his touchdown and his other long gain on Friday, Harris got beyond the defense during the two-minute drill but was overthrown by Perish. He was also vocal near the end of practice, when tardiness getting back to the huddle as the clock wound down cost the offense a chance to score.

“I got frustrated,” Harris said after practice. “That was probably one of my best friends I was yelling at, so he knows it wasn’t personal … but as a team, we need to focus more on the little things — buy into what the coaches are telling us and stop making small mistakes. Focus on the little things and handle what we’re in control of.”

There’s one particular little thing that will keep Harris focused this year, he promised.

“There’s a lot riding on the season for us, and for me too,” he said. “I’ve got a 4-year-old boy at home, so I’ve got to show out.”

Friday’s scrimmage was also part of the Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association clinic, Sanford pointed out, with several high school coaching staffs on hand,

Next Sycamore practice is scheduled Monday, with the next scrimmage work on Thursday.

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