The St. Thomas football team opens its fall season Sept. 6 at home against Wisconsin-Eau Claire, but before the start of the regular season, the team held an intrasquad scrimmage for a final tuneup before the season-opener.
The Tommies divided into purple and white teams, and ran a variety of different game situations. The score wasn’t kept, but coach Glenn Caruso said there was plenty at stake when the two sides faced off.
“This is probably the last opportunity for us to get a ton of reps,” Caruso said. “We got about 166 in (Friday), and that includes everyone on the team.”
Running back Nick Waldvogel said that the reps helped the Tommies identify aspects of the game that need work, but he said the team’s mentality was just as important.
“Like most team activities, we all tried to stay focused and work on what coach wanted us to,” Waldvogel said. “Most importantly though, everyone treated this as close to game day as we could.”
Practice and intrasquad scrimmages help prepare the Tommies for the upcoming season, but Caruso said the team is ready to kickoff games against other teams.
“It’s the last chance for our guys to go against each other,” Caruso said. “They have been through two-a-days and have been banging into each other for 14 days, but I think they want to start turning their focus to an opponent,” Caruso said.
Caruso said that while the offense looked impressive, the defense – especially the first unit – may have outperformed them.
“The first-team defense definitely had the cleanliness and productivity, while the first-team offense had the cleanliness that was ahead of where we were at this time last year,” Caruso said.
Waldvogel agreed that the offense looked impressive, and said that it gained valuable practice against the Tommies strong defensive unit.
“The offense looked pretty smooth and focused,” Waldvogel said. “I think if you can play against a defense like ours, you can play against anyone in the country.”
Quarterback Matt O’Connell completed several screen passes and a few downfield throws in his limited time on the field – displaying his characteristic mobility throughout. Even though the defense wasn’t allowed to sack him, it was able to put pressure on him. Caruso said that while the defense wasn’t able to finish a play completely by taking down O’Connell, there was no shortage of effort on the field.
“We made a commitment to recruit highly competitive kids, and I’ve realized that you can’t take highly competitive kids and tone them back in that manner,” Caruso said. “I think that’s one reason why our program is where it is right now. We have 133 kids who are tremendously competitive, and you have to let them go full-go to show their abilities.”
Caruso said that while there were many positives taken away from the scrimmage, there is still work to be done to get ready for the season.
“We have some things to take care of internally in the coming days,” Caruso said. “With all of these reps, we have a lot of things to correct before going full-bore on Monday and really concentrating on Eau Claire.”
Tom Pitzen can be reached at email@example.com.