Sophomore running back Kenny Harper made an impact at the annual Cherry and White game as he rushed for a touchdown for each side, as Cherry defeated the White squad, 17-10, on Saturday, April 14 at Lincoln Financial Field.
After scoring on a 1-yard rush for the Cherry team, Harper switched teams at halftime and scored again from 1 yard out from the endzone for the only score in the third quarter. The Gainesville, Fla. native who played in all 13 games last season, recording a 3.9 rush per attempt average and 128 total yards, finished the scrimmage with 67 total rushing yards.
“They traded me at halftime, I didn’t know what to do, so I did both,” Harper said of switching teams during the scrimmage.
“I feel like I have to take on the challenge of scoring for the team and help us win,” Harper said. “They call me in big down yardage [plays]; fourth-and-two, fourth-and-one, third-and-one, bring me in and get things done and get the first down.”
The scrimmage opened with a 53-yard field goal made by senior Brandon McManus, who later hit another field goal from 34 yards out to even the score at 3-3, kicking for both squads in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, junior quarterback Chris Coyer connected with junior wide receiver Ryan Alderman on a 43-yard pass to put the Cherry squad up by a score. The Cherry squad held onto the lead after Harper balanced out the scoreboard with his two touchdowns.
On the White squad, junior quarterback Clinton “Juice” Granger went 14-for-20 for 125 yards. Sophomore running back Jalen Fitzpatrick rushed for 40 yards on five carries for the Cherry squad.
A pair of underclassmen linebackers led each squad in total tackles, as freshman Tyler Matakevich posted 11 total tackles for the Cherry defense and redshirt-freshman Nate D. Smith recorded 12 total tackles.
“It was definitely an experience,” Matakevich said of playing at Lincoln Financial Field. “But you can’t let the atmosphere get to you. You still have to play football and do what all the players and coaches have taught you.”
During halftime, six players received praise for the program’s annual spring awards.
- Mark Bresani Award; spirit and enthusiasm: Senior RB Matt Brown
- Gavin White Local 215 Award; the most improved non-scholarship player: Sophomore TE Wanemi Omuso
- Most Improved Defensive Player: Senior LB Ahkeem Smith
- Most Improved Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Jalen Fitzpatrick
- Most Improved Special Teams Player: Junior LB Olaniyi Adewole
- Owl Club Academic Award; highest GPA: fifth-year senior OL Pat Boyle
“I thought we had a productive spring. I don’t think [Saturday] was as productive as honestly what we really had in spring ball,” coach Steve Addazio said. “I think it’s a good experience. You come to the [Lincoln Financial Field], you’re out of your 14-day [comfort] zone and all the sudden, ‘Bam,’ you’re in a new environment, but ‘Boy’ I really like that environment.”
Connor Showalter can be reached at email@example.com.