La PORTE — After inheriting the program in February, new coach Jeremy Lowery began to put his stamp on La Porte's football team quickly.
The fruits of that labor began to show for Lowery and the Slicers in a controlled scrimmage against Plymouth on Friday night at Kiwanis Field.
In the end, La Porte outscored the visiting Pilgrims in total touchdowns, 6-4.
"Lots of good, lots to build off of,” Lowery said. “Obviously, a ton of mistakes that we've got to correct, but that's part of it. That's what the scrimmage is for. It's your first dress rehearsal.”
The starting offense of each team finished with four scores.
Both squads got five offensive series, receiving the ball on various pre-determined spots on the field.
For the most part, the Slicers’ offense moved the ball fairly effectively.
Their starting offense had three series of 15 plays, 10 plays, and 12 plays. They scored one touchdown on a 65-yard jaunt and reached pay dirt twice when they got 10 plays from Plymouth's 10-yard line. La Porte's starters then finished by scoring once on a 35-yard drive.
On the Slicers' first series, running back Justin Forker tallied a 27-yard touchdown run down the left sidelines.
“He set the block really well out there on the perimeter, made a nice cut,” Lowery said. “It was blocked up really well. He made a nice run, but the work that the other slot (back) did with the ball not in his hands was equally as impressive. We know our slots can run, what I really hone in on with those slot backs is what they do when the ball's not in their hands.”
La Porte junior quarterbacks Jack McGuire and Robbie Kiner essentially split snaps under center the whole night.
They're each competing to be the starting signal caller. Neither saw much varsity action last year.
“Both did some really nice things and both of them made some mistakes,” Lowery said. “That's part of the learning curve of playing that position in this system. We put a lot of pressure on our quarterbacks. They did a lot of really nice things, but they're going to have to improve a bunch of things after we watch the film.”
On the team's second series, Kiner darted 10 yards up the middle for a touchdown. But that was a few plays after he threw an interception on the opening play of that series.
Later in the second series, McGuire threw a pass, which was dropped and could have possibly been a touchdown. Also in that series, Jamaal Salary had a 3-yard TD dive.
In the first series, McGuire connected with wide receiver Brady Bernth on a 12-yard pass for a first down. That set up Forker's TD run a couple plays later.
On the Slicers' third series, Isaac Alexander earned a 24-yard run to pay dirt. It took them a mere three plays to reach the end zone from Plymouth's 35-yard line. After that though, the squad struggled to move the ball for the next five plays, until Forker had a 10-yard run and McGuire completed an 8-yard pass to David Stellema in a three-play span.
On the other side of the ball, La Porte's defense held the visitors to just four touchdowns in 45 total plays.
“They were very exciting to watch,” Lowery said. “They flew around. At times early in the season, tackling was an issue on a couple plays, that's normal. We've got to go back to the basics there on tackling, running our feet, taking great angles. I enjoyed watching them play because they got after it. That's the big thing with our defense.”
Lowery added four players in particular stood out on that side of the ball.
“(Linebacker) Zach Purnell played pretty well,” he said. “He seemed like he was making plays around the field. Brady Bernth played really well at safety. It seemed like he was really filling in the alleys really nice. (Defensive lineman) Matt Neff seemed like he was playing with a ton of energy and excitement. (Defensive lineman) Jorden Steinhiser, he's a load in there. You could tell they were having a hard time blocking him.”
Defensive back Kreg Warner added an interception on the Slicers' fifth and last series of the scrimmage.
At the end of the night, Lowery was fairly pleased with his team's desire to compete and its work ethic.
“Our big question was, 'Were we going to come out and dive in and play hard-nosed football?',” the coach said. “And they certainly answered that question. So that made me feel a lot better. You never know until you roll out against another opponent on whether you've got any bite to you. We had some bite to us. I know we had some bite to us. And they played hard. I liked the energy level.”
The Slicers kick off the season by hosting county rival New Prairie at 7 p.m. next Friday night.