MACOMB, IL – Spring camp came to an close for the Leatherneck football squad on Friday night with the annual Bruce Craddock Spring Game, bringing them closer to their September 1st opening day at Tennessee-Martin.
“I think it was a phenomenal spring for Western Illinois,” coach Myers Hendrickson said. “When you look at putting in a new defense, a new offense, new special teams, I thought it was fantastic in all three phases. You saw the team grow and progress. What I’m really proud of is what we did off the field, taking our academics very seriously, we’re growing in that regard, we had great campus engagement, great community service and we’re trying to get better in every aspect and we saw that this spring.”
With a new coaching staff and a roster featuring many players who will have to take on larger roles this fall than they have had in the past, the 15 practices and spring game took on extra importance and made Friday night a coming out part for several players, who took the game as a chance to introduce themselves to Leatherneck faithful.
“What I got out of this camp is I feel like I evolved as a player, I evolved as a man, the coaching staff they brought in is phenomenal, they elevated my game from practice one to now and I am very thankful they brought in the right people to coach us,” says defensive lineman Cam Washington. “This scheme allows me to play aggressive, not think as much and play more straight-ahead football, more physical, play how I’m capable of playing.”
The game went back and forth with the offense and the defense getting the better of each other at times. Quarterback Henry Ogala hit JD Wilson for a 32-yard touchdown pass, Ludovick Choquette scored on a short touchdown run and quarterback Nick Davenport powered through the defense on a nine-yard run. Washington led the defense with a safety while Juan De La Cruz was the unit’s top tackler.
Mike Kaufman and Sam Cook also added tackles for loss for the defense while kicker Mason Laramie had a big night, connecting on a trio of field goals during game-like situations.
With spring camp and the getting to know each other phase now over, Western Illinois looks toward the summer and the 2022 fall season, putting the initial growing pains in the rearview mirror.
“The newness of all three phases, but I look at challenges as opportunities, that’s what I tell the team,” Hendrickson said of the spring difficulties. “I told the guys, ‘You have an opportunity to make a big impression on what Leathernecks football in 2022 is going to look like,’ and we set our goal and standard really high, there were a lot of reasons we couldn’t do this tonight, the newness in all three phases, the numbers, but the staff did a great job, we practiced really smart because you don’t get to practice 15 as healthy as we did unless you practice smart and we even got healthier as we practiced, we were just building the whole time.”