UWF Football holds last scrimmage before 2016 inaugural season

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Coach Shinnick hugs freshman linebacker Martes Wheeler after the post-game huddle.
Photo by Grier Wellborn.

Grier Wellborn

Contributing Writer

The University of West Florida football team played its final intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday at University Park Fields. Because there are so many injuries within the team, Head Coach Pete Shinnick switched up the roster so that Team Blue was entirely defense and Team White was entirely offense. Each turnover still resulted in a fresh lineup on the field.

The defense again dominated this game, only allowing each offensive team to score twice. The first touchdown was scored by freshman running back Joylon Hamer with only six seconds remaining in the first half. The second touchdown was scored on the final drive of the game. Of the five UWF intrasquad scrimmages, the defense controlled a majority of the game for four, while the offense has struggled to score.

Coaches recognize freshman linebacker Andre Decombe for exceptional play and sharp defense, particularly during the past two scrimmages.

“There is a big difference between high school and college,” Decombe said. “At the beginning of the fall at camp, I started thinking I could do certain things, but I learned to tighten up my technique, my aggressiveness, and with improvement in the weight room, it all came together.”

Both the offense and defense look forward to improving in the next 10 months to prepare for the 2016 inaugural season. Preparation for their first official season will take a lot of team-mandated training and individual training during the offseason.

“Like coach said, we have nine weeks of lifting to get stronger,” said freshman quarterback Gunnar Ballant. “So we’re all going to get better then for sure and come back ready next season.”

Staying strong is important to lock down a spot on the UWF football team seeing as they began the season with more than 120 players and are now down to less than 100.

Although Shinnick says he is extremely proud of the vast improvements the team has made throughout the season, he says he does not believe that the team is ready for Gulf South Conference play just yet.

“The guys who are here have been fantastic, and the guys who are here, they have grown, most of them at a level that we need them to,” Shinnick said. “We are going to add some major pieces to this puzzle, which will give us the depth that we need, the strength that we need.”

In the post-game huddle, Coach Shinnick reminded the players that everything they do, even in the offseason, is a representation of the football team, in hopes that the players will uphold an admirable reputation for UWF football in between seasons.

While UWF students, fans and especially the football team wait in anticipation for the new on-campus football field to come together, the team continues to play at University Park Fields, which could be a major contributor to the many injuries on the team.

“What that is doing is building ankle strength,” Shinnick joked about the indentations in the dirt field. “Now when our players run on a flat surface, they’re going to fly down the field.”

Until the football facilities are built, the team will continue to practice at the fields and will play at Blue Wahoos Stadium for the next few years. The Argos were able to play at Wahoos Stadium for one of their scrimmages this season and say they are excited to make the bayfront stadium their temporary home field until construction is finished.