The Shippensburg University football team had its best season dating back to 2012 in 2017, finishing 10-2 while earning a spot in the NCAA Division II football playoffs.
In 2018, the Red Raiders will be without some of the key players who helped lead SU, including the head of the offense in starting quarterback Ryan Zapoticky who finished second all-time in career passing yards at SU, as well as the Top 2 members of the secondary on defense in Kevin Taylor II and Chavez Cheatham.
Saturday’s annual Red-White game provided the Red Raider coaching staff the ability to evaluate players vying for playing time when the season rolls around, as well as a fitting end to SU’s spring practice schedule.
Three of the four SU quarterbacks gunning for the starting position showcased their abilities in Saturday’s contest, with the White team defeating the Red team, 14-7, at SU Student Association Field at Seth Grove Stadium after a late fourth-quarter scoop-and-score by SU linebacker Chandler Turner for the White team.
“I thought the passion and the effort was out there today and the guys really had fun and that’s what this is about,” Maciejewski said. “We worked hard all spring and this is a fun day. This is a game-day atmosphere and the guys really love it. It’s really about them going out there and competing with some passion and enjoying the moment.”
The Red team roster consisted of the first-team defense and second-team offense, while the White team roster was composed of the first-team offense and second-team defense.
The White team got out to an early lead when quarterback Chase Yocum connected on a slant pattern to wide receiver Charles Headen III, who took it the rest of the way for a 40-yard touchdown to give the White squad a 7-0 lead.
The Red Raider defense imposed its will on the offense throughout the scrimmage — as it did throughout the 2017 season in which it led the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) in points per game with 13.0 — limiting Red team quarterbacks Max DeVinney and Brycen Mussina to a combined 148 yards on 26 attempts. Yocum threw each of the White team’s 36 passing attempts in the scrimmage.
Mussina, a transfer from Lafayette College and son of MLB star pitcher Mike Mussina, was the better of the two on Saturday, throwing for 107 yards and a 7-yard touchdown pass to Eli Quinter with just 42 seconds remaining in the first half to tie the game at 7-7.
Yocum seemed to have the best showing of the day against the first-team defense, despite having mixed results, completing 21-of-36 passes for 256 yards, a TD and two red-zone interceptions. The second interception was off a tipped-pass, however.
Mussina finished the day 9-of-15 throwing for 107 yards and a TD in the two-minute drill. Mussina appeared to be composed against the tough first-team defense of the Red Raiders on Saturday. DeVinney finished 6-of-11 passing for 41 yards.
Alongside the three healthy quarterbacks competing in the Red-White game for the starting gig is quarterback Landon Archangelo, who missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in the 2017 preseason.
With the competition, Maciejewski believes that each has showed positive signs of growth and that the position group has come together to compete for the job at the start of preseason camp.
“They are all competing and we saw some good things today and we saw some things that weren’t so good,” Maciejewski said. “It’s all about time in the driver’s seat and these guys confidence. They are taking the steps in the right direction.”
Yocum and Archangelo are the only two quarterbacks on the roster with real game experience, as DeVinney did not take a snap last year to redshirt his freshman season. Mussina is in his first season at SU after transferring.
Yocum and Archangelo both saw time during the 2016 season when Zapoticky was sidelined with a knee injury. Yocum saw action in 10 of SU’s 2016 games, throwing for 430 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Yocum also rushed for a school record 686 rushing yards by a quarterback in a single-season. He finished the season with five rushing touchdowns.
While Yocum may not have the best stats, he is a leader on the SU football team, being named a team captain for the 2018 season. He believes that the spring season has led to a lot of improvement for the team.
“I think it was a big spring of improvement,” Yocum said. “We had to come out after losing a lot of seniors last year to just try and find the identity of our team again. I think every single day we came out to work and we have improved every single day.”
Archangelo saw time in six games during the 2016 season, throwing for 379 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Defensively, the Red Raiders benefitted from the relaxed rules regarding contact to the quarterback, allowing the defenses to record 10 sacks on the day. SU star defensive end Richard Nase recorded a game-high 2.5 sacks while John Durkin had 1.5 for the Red team. Tim Bradley and Drew Jones each had 1.5 sacks for the White team on the day.
The Red Raider secondary, despite the holes left by Taylor II and Cheatham, performed extremely well, as veteran safety Richard Sheler recorded an interception in the red zone for the Red team, while recording six tackles. The Red team also intercepted a second Yocum pass in the red zone as Tyler Emge intercepted a pass after a Nase deflection, returning the interception 46 yards to set up the Red team offense.
“I think our defense got some key players that have returned and have a lot of seasoned vets on it, to tell you the truth,” Maciejewski said. “There are a couple holes here and there we need to plug, but they played really well today. We need to continue to get better, but defense is really important to us at Shippensburg University.”
The game remained gridlocked until late in the fourth quarter when Turner recovered a questionable at best fumble by Red team running back Drew Price — who appeared to clearly be down before fumbling — returning the fumble back 33 yards for a touchdown to seal the victory for the White team with two minutes remaining.
Other defensive standouts for the Red Raiders on the day included newcomer Darrion Livingston who recorded a game-high 10 tackles, including three tackles-for-a-loss. Redshirt junior Matt Thorne recorded seven tackles and forced a fumble.
Offensively, the coaching staff looks to replace standout running backs Cole Chiappialle and Colin McDermott who combined for 1,482 rushing yards and 17 rushing TDs last season for SU. London Whitfield was the most productive at the position, rushing for 68 yards on 10 carries, while Isaiah Johnson and Drew Price each rushed for 21 yards. Marcus Lominy and Raleigh Sirb combined for 24 rushing yards and 71 receiving yards for the White team.
The wide receiver group looks to be a strength on the 2018 roster, as returning PSAC East Freshman of the Year Winston Eubanks returns, alongside Headen III, Kyle Haines, Quinter and a group of younger talented players. Last season, Eubanks hauled in 45 passes for 1,202 yards and 12 receiving TDs.
“There has been a lot of competitiveness this spring and part of the reason for that is that there are a lot of spots available so we have guys pushing guys and trying to earn those spots,” Maciejewski said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys competing to earn spots and that’s what you love because it really raises our level and it will make us better as a football family.”
Preseason camp will begin in August. The Red Raiders will begin the 2018 season on the road, traveling to face Clarion University on Sept. 1.
“We will get back to work on Monday in the weight room and just keep building to where our goals are,” Maciejewski said. “Once May rolls around here they will be done with school and we’ve got to trust they will work hard over the summer. When August comes we’ve got to be ready to go.”
Note: This story has been updated. The original version of the story stated the Chase Yocum had the best showing by a quarterback against the second-team defense. Yocum competed against the first-team defense.