Just when it looked as though defense was going to set the tone for Carroll's final spring football scrimmage Friday, the offense took over.
After the Saints’ offense was held to a three-and-out on the first series, Team Purple responded by scoring on the next three drives. The offense effectively moved the chains throughout the hour-and-a-half-long scrimmage, using a good mix of run and pass plays and getting good protection from the offensive line. A number of different players got involved, and the offense never once turned the ball over.
“Offensively, what we wanted to do was put points on the board,” said quarterback Mac Roche, who is beginning to assert himself as a frontrunner for the starting job. “We ran the ball well, we threw the ball well, so I thought we were really balanced. That’s something we really pride ourselves on.”
The offense found the end zone four times Friday at Nelson Stadium, much to the delight of the fans who peppered the stands amid the cool, fall-like temperatures. Running back Dylan Green punched it in on his second try from the 1-yard line for the final score of the day, and Roche and JT Linder both threw touchdown passes early on.
“I think the offensive line really came together today and gave us all day to throw,” Roche said.
Roche completed 7 of 8 passes for approximately 100 yards, with receiver Jared Mayernik his favorite target. Roche also found Dylan Simac for a score from about 30 yards out.
Linder was also effective, completing 5 of 8 passes, including a pair of touchdown strikes to Chris McGrath and Elliott McGill. Saints fans may remember McGrath from his four years playing guard for the Carroll basketball team.
“I keep waiting for him to try to dribble and go for a layup,” Mike Van Diest joked. “I say ‘hey, you can travel out here all you want, you don’t have to put ball on floor.’”
The coach then added in all seriousness that it has been a treat having athletes from other sports go out for football. Carroll track standout Stephan Delaney is currently juggling both.
“They’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Van Diest added. “Football’s a tough sport. It’s a physical game and we demand a lot, but they’re two great kids who work hard in their respective sports.”
Van Diest is excited to add the speed of Delaney, currently the No. 2-ranked 400 hurdler in the nation.
“That just excites the heck out of me,” he said. “I can’t wait to get him here all summer.”
Van Diest was pleased with his young running backs, particularly the way Green and Jacob McKinney moved the ball. McKinney had a number of nice cuts and Green was physical pounding it up the middle. Those two saw the bulk of the carries, with McKinney surpassing 100 yards, while six others also saw action.
Seasoned veterans -- like Sean Blomquist, Sean Condon, Matt Wymore, Dustin Rinker and Anthony Clarke, just to name a few -- sat out this scrimmage. It gave the young up-and-comers a chance to shine.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to give guys opportunities,” Van Diest said. “If they’re always playing in the shadows, they’re not gonna get it. This was a day to showcase their skills and I was very pleased.”
While the coach saw some stellar individual performances on defense, what was lacking was some cohesiveness, he said. He wants to see more leaders emerge beyond just the senior class, and see more success on defense as a unit.
Van Diest was also happy with the improved timing of his quarterbacks and receivers, something that will continue to be a point of emphasis during the summer as those relationships develop. Mayernik, who will be a senior this fall, said the strides all three quarterbacks have made this summer have been impressive.
“It is impressive because they’re all pretty young,” said Mayernik, who had four catches for roughly 85 yards total Friday. “They’ve had a lot to learn and they’ve learned a lot, and they’re showing it with the decisions they’re making on the field.
“It’s been really cool seeing Mac develop and grow into the quarterback he is now, because I’ve been here as long as he’s been here. We’ve still got a long ways to go through the summer, though.”
Roche said he believes he has matured a great deal as far as the mental aspects of the game are concerned.
“Just my reads and getting on the same page as receivers and stuff,” he elaborated. “Being quarterback here, it’s a lot of expectations, but it just comes down to you’ve gotta hate to lose. Here you’ve gotta want to win. That’s one thing we’ve all been talking about. You gotta want to win every single play.”
As with any spring scrimmage there were hiccups -- a shanked punt that went into the stands, a bobbled snap here and there, an offensive lineman who dislocated his finger. But overall, the Saints displayed plenty of promise with the first game 133 days away.
“It was nice to see some of the stuff we’ve been working on all spring ball finally come together and work,” Mayernik said.
Carroll opens the season on Sept. 6 at Southern Oregon, and Mayernik said the goal is simple. What’s been driving the Saints this spring and what will continue to drive them throughout the summer is the dream of a national title.
“I want to win a national championship,” Mayernik said. “That’s what I came here for.”