With the loss of quarterbacks Casey Printers and Reggie Hayes, the Rattler football team was left searching for an athlete to fill the position.
Quietly emerging from the Rattler bench, Ben Dougherty stepped up to the job. Dougherty, who said he learned “an awful lot” from Printers and Hayes last season, gave fans a sneak peak at his abilities in the annual Orange and Green game Saturday.
The game began around 2 p.m., and a number of fans came to watch the competition, despite the rainy weather. Action began with special teams drills and progressed into the scrimmage between the offensive and defensive players.
Dougherty was satisfied with the scrimmage, but said that he would have preferred to play with full contact.
“I think I could have done a lot better. Overall I was pleased with the performance, but I would rather be getting hit.”
While it is difficult to evaluate a quarterback’s abilities without full contact, head coach Billy Joe said that he was proud of Dougherty’s performance.
“He knows that he is the man and is doing a real fine job.” Joe said.
Coach Joe also emphasized his faith in back-up quarterbacks Josh Driscoll and Toney Scott.
Driscoll, a transfer from Arkansas State, is getting acclimated to Joe’s Gulf Coast offense and Scott, a sophomore, brings fresh talent to the Rattler running game.
“I feel good with him (Dougherty) and Josh. Little Toney is looking good as well. He can move with his feet better than with his hands,” Joe said.
The Rattler passing game will likely depend on the leadership of returning athletes and the fresh talent of younger players.
Receivers Rod Miller and E.J. Collier shined in Saturday’s scrimmage and will likely be key players in the upcoming season.
Senior receiver Roger Dowdell expressed his belief in this season’s team.
“The receivers are doing very well. We lost a lot of guys from last season. The new guys will add a lot to the team, once they get into the scheme,” Dowdell said. “We’ve got a lot of bright spots. We have a strong team and a talented coaching staff.”
All-American safety Levy Brown emphasized his expectations for the Rattler defense. He was content with the squad’s performance during Saturday’s scrimmage. “Defense looked good. When Sean (Kelly) and Jeff Green come back we are going to be awesome.”
Kelly, a 2001 All-American defensive end, and Green who led the team in sacks and tackles for loss last season, did not play in Saturday’s scrimmage due to previous injuries.
Brown said that moving Shedrick Copeland to the “Rattler” position was probably the best move for the defense in spring practice. As the team’s “Rattler,” or strong safety, Copeland will be expected to be a defensive leader on the team.
The success of this season’s team may ultimately lie in the hands of the shot-caller on the field-the quarterback.
“The quarterback is key. We have to be behind our quarterback,” Brown said. “He will be leader of the offense and will take us to the promised land.”
Elizabeth M. Broadway can be reached at email@example.com