There is a new competitive edge emanating from the football team this season. In the annual intra-squad Cherry and White Game, the White team edged the Cherry team, 17-14, at the Ambler Sports Complex Saturday.
With no one’s role secure, the players fought to make a lasting impression on coach Al Golden as spring practice concluded.
“I think the kids are learning to compete,” Golden said. “There was some energy out there, which was good. Guys were fighting back and forth.”
Vaughn Charlton seemed to have felt the Golden touch of competition.
“I love competition,” the sophomore quarterback said. “Competition is what drives everybody to do better and makes everybody do better. It helps everybody out.”
Charlton propelled the White team to victory, completing 19-of-30 passes for 212 yards and one touchdown. He also led a game-winning drive, hitting wide receiver Travis Shelton twice, for gains of 18 and 11 yards, before Jason Harper capped it with a seven-yard touchdown run.
Charlton’s counterpart, Adam DiMichele, went 7-for-12 for 91 yards while tossing one touchdown and one interception
for the Cherry squad.
DiMichele said the competition will not end simply because the Cherry and White Game is over.
“We’re probably going to be fighting for positions all summer, to be honest with you,” DiMichele said. “And that’s just going to make us better. The best player will play at each position. It will be a fun time and very competitive.”
Shelton, who was named an Eastern College Athletic Conference All-Star after his performance last season, snagged five passes and totaled 67 yards. Shelton said the offense has made one big adjustment since the end of last season.
“I think we’re more explosive,” Shelton said. “We have more weapons now and we’re using them. I think it’ll be a lot more of us taking them [downfield] and me and my fellow receiver Bruce [Francis] are loving that.”
Francis caught three passes for 48 yards. Shelton stressed the privilege of being able to work with a receiver who can make plays when given the opportunity.
“It’s a very beautiful thing working with Bruce,” Shelton said. “It’s like [he’s] my brother. When we’re on the field we call ourselves the ‘Dynamic Duo’ and we feel like we can do anything.”
That might not be too far from the truth.
Francis provided one of the game’s highlights when he chucked a touchdown pass on a trick play. The play looked as if it was drawn up to be a reverse, but Francis unloaded a perfectly placed ball to sophomore wide receiver Dy’Onne Crudup for a 70-yard touchdown.
“A lot of people don’t know I played quarterback in high school,” Francis said with a laugh. “I used to launch it back in high school, but I guess they thought I was going to run it. But I put some touch on it and it was a touchdown, baby. It was nothing.”
Francis exuded some confidence about the upcoming season.
“The opposing teams are going to have to game-plan for us. It’s going to be real hard to stop No. 22 and No. 82,” Francis said of he and Shelton. “Defenses are going to have to deal with us for another two years. It’s a problem.”
Francis, who grabbed 32 balls for 484 yards and four touchdowns last season, said his confidence carriers over to his teammates.
“If I don’t make a play,” Francis said, “Marcellous Grigsby or Jason Harper will do it. If they don’t do it, Travis Shelton or Domerio Hamilton will do it. So, [opponents] have to key in on the whole offense this year and that’ll be the difference.”
On the defensive side, redshirt sophomore
linebacker Omar McDonnaugh-Hales had a busy day for the White team, totaling a tackle for loss and a sack among four tackles. He also blocked a kick. McDonnaugh-Hales said his performance stemmed from a concept
the coaches had urged through spring drills.
“Aggression,” he said. “They want us flying to the ball, hitting, making turnovers, just playing hard-nosed football. They’re old-fashioned coaches.” McDonnaugh-Hales, who did not see any action last season, said he expects that aggression to carry over to the season opener against Navy Aug. 31.
“We’re coming hard,” he said. “We’re going to be ready. They beat us by 36 [in last season’s finale] . . . I hate Navy right now and I never played Navy.”
Golden is marking off the days until the season opener at Lincoln Financial Field.
“We are, obviously, bigger, faster and tougher,” Golden said. “We are in better condition than we were when we got our butts kicked by Navy, 42-6. We have  days to get that corrected and that’s the only challenge in front of these guys right now.”
Terrance McNeil can be reached at email@example.com.