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Eastern Washington University Football

Eastern Washington defense holds offense in check during Red-White spring game

By Dan Thompson The Spokesman-Review

Staked to a 31-point lead in the annual Red-White spring football game, the Eastern Washington defense held its own Friday at Roos Field.

Wearing red, the defense forced two turnovers – worth five points each – and defeated the white-clad offense 41-20 to wrap up the team’s 14 spring practices.

“I didn’t want (to allow) any touchdowns,” redshirt junior safety Kentrell Williams Jr. said, “but we did well today.”

Williams did his part early, intercepting starting quarterback Kekoa Visperas – who is also his roommate – on a pass toward the end zone on the scrimmage’s opening drive. That gave the defense an early 36-0 lead.

“I was really just a post player, and as soon as (Visperas) took his eyes backside I saw a receiver coming,” Williams said. “I turned and went to go get it.”

The redshirt junior Visperas, the undisputed starter heading into next fall’s football season, played just one more drive after that, completing 3 of 5 attempts for 25 yards. Seniors Jared Taylor and Michael Wortham each cycled in for first-half drives before giving way to fourth- and fifth-string quarterbacks Nate Bell and Aidan Carter – both redshirt freshmen – for the entirety of the second half.

It was then, playing against depth players on defense, that the offense finally broke through. On the 13th drive of the game, Carter completed a 10-yard pass into the end zone to Wortham, who caught the ball one-handed for a touchdown.

“He’s dynamic,” EWU head coach Aaron Best said of Wortham, who also returned kicks during the scrimmage as he did during last season. “We’ll use him in different packages. He understands the offense that much more, from not just the quarterback spot. So we’ll be able to utilize him more often.”

Carter completed 10 of 12 passes for 56 yards; Bell, who connected with redshirt sophomore Talon Betts for a 29-yard touchdown, completed 15 of 21 passes for 190 yards.

But overall, the defense held the offense in check. On the 97 plays in the scrimmage, the Eagles gained 4.8 yards per play (468 total). Redshirt sophomore kicker Soren McKee hit both of his field-goal attempts, from 28 and 37 yards.

Betts took a scrimmage-high 14 carries for 35 yards. Aside from a 45-yard scramble by Taylor, the Eagles’ longest run was one by Bell that gained 11.

“We’re so aggressive, and everybody’s just playing fast,” Williams said of the defense. “That’s what I love.”

Sophomore safety Derek Ganter Jr. led the defense with seven tackles. Shane Aleaga, Isaiah Perez, Ethan Williamson and Tylin Jackson were credited with sacks, though the quarterbacks were not allowed to be hit.

Aleaga also forced a fumble, recovered by Cage Schenck for the defense’s other five points.