Annual scrimmage garners excitement for 2023 football season

Fifth-year running back Ja’Den McKenzie scored a one-yard touchdown in the last minute of Saturday’s scrimmage, winning the game for the offense. PHOTO CREDIT:

The Rhode Island Rams football team had their annual blue versus white scrimmage, better known as the spring game, this past Saturday.

 In the spring game, the offense and defense take each other on in what is the final practice of the spring season before summer training camp begins.​​ 

The game also serves as a way for fans and coaches to get a look at the talent on the roster. The coaches use the scrimmage as a way to assess which players will earn their way towards the top of the depth chart. 

The scrimmage started with the defense, wearing the Rhody navy blue jersey, leading 27-0. The offense had to come back and take the lead for the game to end, with four 10 minute quarters allotted if the offense could not make the comeback. 

Starting sixth-year quarterback Kasim Hill, fifth-year tight end Brady Roark and fourth-year defensive lineman Wesley Neal Jr. did not participate in the scrimmage. The group received the day off with the three of them having their positions secured on the roster.

The offense struggled early, but about four minutes in, fifth-year running back Gabe Sloat broke the offense’s scoreless streak with a short touchdown run to cut the lead down to 27-7. 

After the Sloat score, the offense went scoreless for multiple drives in a row, ending the first quarter still trailing 27-7. The Rams offensive struggles early did not last long, as less than 30 seconds into the second quarter, fourth-year backup quarterback Kennique Bonner-Stewart connected with sixth-year wide receiver John Erby on a 48 yard touchdown pass to cut the defense’s lead to only 13, leading 27-14 after second-year kicker Dylan Shank made the point after touchdown. 

With Bonner-Steward’s offensive group finding their groove, second-year quarterback Trevor Nored needed to get his group going as well. Nored did just that, as he connected on a 72 yard touchdown with sixth-year wideout Kahtero Summers with 4:24 remaining in the second quarter. The long touchdown electrified the offensive bench and got a reaction from the impressed crowd. 

Summers had a few words after the game about the spring and how this scrimmage helps wrap up practices before the summer. 

“All the hard work is paying off,” Summers said. “We are out here grinding everyday, it’s just nice to come out here and see the results with the guys.” 

Summers is entering his second year here in Rhode Island and is becoming more comfortable with the offense. He had comments about how the team has learned this offseason. 

“After last season we just learned more and more, we got together a lot more,” Summers said. Summers emphasized that they are all building chemistry on offense, trying to create one well-oiled machine. 

Head coach Jim Fleming talked postgame about the spring his team had and how it is going to help them before games start in August. 

“I thought it was a good spring,” Fleming said. “We are coming off with a high level of expectations, we have question marks with a few departing from last year’s squad and who is about to step up into the gaps.” 

As the first half came near an end with the defense still leading 27-21, fifth-year defensive back Seun Filaoye intercepted Bonner-Steward on a pass. 

At the end of the first half, the defense still led the offense 27-21, but the offense had found their groove in the second quarter. They threw for two long touchdown passes, one from each quarterback participating in the scrimmage. 

When the second half began, the offense started the same as they did in the beginning of the game, slow. With the second half having a rolling clock, the Rams could not move the ball down the field as well as they had in the second quarter. 

With only 55 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Rhody offense got back in the score column, with a 26 yard field goal from Shank. The offense only trailed by 3, down 27-24. 

On the first drive of the fourth and final quarter, Nored was intercepted by sixth-year defensive back Jordan Colbert to give the defense a boost of motivation. 

This boost of energy lasted for half of the fourth quarter, until the offense drove down the field and capped off the game with a one yard rushing touchdown with 2:53 remaining. The touchdown was scored by West Chester transfer, sixth-year running back Ja’Den McKenzie. 

After the touchdown, the game ended with 2:53 remaining, as there were multiple injuries with the scrimmage nearing an end. The offense won the game by a score of 31-27, but both sides showed their talent.

The Rams will next suit up over the summer when training camp begins in the first week of August before the season starts on August 31st against Georgia State in Atlanta.