Playing for ‘real’: Spring game allows Northern Michigan University football team to simulate game conditions instead of practice

Northern Michigan University wide receiver Sam Peiffer catches a long pass in the red zone for the White team just past the outstretched hands of a defender during the Wildcats’ annual spring football game played at the Superior Dome in Marquette on Saturday. (Journal photo by Caden Sierra)

Up next: After the Wildcats complete spring practice, they’ll reassemble in August for fall drills prior to the start of the season


MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University football team hosted its annual spring game on Saturday afternoon with the White team earning a 10-0 victory over the Gold team in this scrimmage.

After a three-and-out by Gold to start things, Team White was able to capitalize on its opportunities and cash in the game’s only touchdown.

It was set up when Aidan Hoard connected with Sam Peiffer with a deep ball along the sideline for a catch inside the 10-yard line. Another slant into the end zone by the same two players a few plays later made it 7-0 still in the first quarter.

Northern Michigan University football head coach Shane Richardson addresses his players on the field following the Wildcats spring football game played at the Superior Dome in Marquette on Saturday. (Journal photo by Caden Sierra)

“(Hoard’s) done really well picking up on stuff,” Peiffer said after the game. “I’d say there’s definitely a connection there.

“We’re able to connect well in our practices, and obviously it showed today.”

Team White appeared to up its advantage early in the second quarter, but a 60-yard bomb to Vince Martin was called back due to a penalty, while a 50-yard field goal attempt sailed wide just before the halftime buzzer.

Using a turnover produced by the defense early in the third quarter, the Gold offense made a push into the red zone, only for White defender Mitch Larkin to scoop up a fumble to kill that momentum.

Adam Saleh also produced a fumble recovery in the second half.

A young Wildcat fan celebrates in the end zone after scoring on a 60-yard jaunt before the start of the fourth quarter during the Northern Michigan University football team’s annual spring game played at the Superior Dome in Marquette on Saturday. Another young fan was able to pull off the same feat between the first and second quarters. (Journal photo by Caden Sierra)

Larkin’s recovery would be the first of two crucial late turnovers produced by the White defense, the second coming when Justin Schiets snagged an interception late that effectively closed out the game. Owen Halverson converted a 44-yard field goal to give White a 10-0 lead late in final few minutes.

But Gold wouldn’t go down quietly as QB Jake Bilitz threw a 65-yard dot to find Michael Love over the middle with the game’s longest play. But the Team White defense shut down Gold at the goal line to ensure the shutout.

Also during the second half, punters Halverson and Mike Karlen each pinned their opponents well inside the 10-yard line to force long marches if they wanted to score.

Wildcats head coach Shane Richardson was enthused about his team’s overall energy between the two units.

“Yeah, I really liked it,” said Richardson, a former NMU player ready to enter his second year at the Wildcats’ helm. “I think guys went into this game very competitively charged, kind of had something on the line.

“We split up into two real teams and played a game and I think that was good for us. Sometimes you get, (you) see the same guys, offense vs. defense, and you really just get accustomed to kind of the flow of practice, and it was good to be out in a competitive situation.”

With two weeks of remaining in spring practice, this Northern team’s focus will shift to off-field activities, such as watching film, performing movement drills and hitting the weight room.

“We’ll have some team activities where we incorporate some fun, too,” Richardson said. “I think it’s really important this time of the year where you go through a big, hard, long spring…. We want to make sure that the guys are feeling inspired and enthusiastic about being together and with each other, and so we want to end up the spring … that way, too.”

Caden Sierra can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 551. His email address is csierra@nmu.edu.


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