Spencer Thomas | Staff Writer
April 7, 2022
Although the calendar said it was April, the atmosphere at Rooney Field during the Duquesne football team’s spring scrimmage resembled an October, game-like feeling.
The Dukes capped off a series of spring practices by dusting off the pads, donning the game jerseys and playing an intrasquad spring game.
After a sloppy offensive start, the red team — led by 2021’s backup-turned-starter quarterback Darius Perrantes — broke the scoreboard first with a field goal.
That was countered by the white team, and the squads entered the locker room at halftime with the scored tied at three.
One standout was sophomore wide receiver/punt returner Nick Leopold, who became a breakout star. Despite the rules calling for fair catches on all kickoffs and punts, he evaded defenders playing full speed for a 40-yard punt return.
Another Duke who earned his stripes was running back DaMon Macklin. Despite standing at just 5-foot-6 and weighing 145 pounds, Macklin showed off some blazing speed, acceleration and agility as he bounced around the backfield, extending plays that seemed dead.
His performance, along with touchdown catches from Rahmon Hart Jr. and Rafael McCoy fueled the white team to a 17-3 lead with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game.
However, Perrantes — the first-ever Northeast Conference quarterback to beat an FBS team — found his form, and connected with Nick Leopold for a pair of touchdown passes. The latter of the two completions came with 56 seconds to go in the contest, bringing the red team’s deficit to one.
Opting not to take a scrimmage to overtime, the red team kept its offense on the field. Perrantes found Leopold once again for the 2-point conversion, as the red team and completed the comeback and took an 18-17 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
It may have been a scrimmage, but that wasn’t apparent from the celebration that ensued, along with taunts and trash talking from the red squad.
After such a strong performance, Leopold received high praise from Head Coach Jerry Schmitt.
“We have a lot of young guys that are battling and fighting and getting better, and he’s one of those guys,” Schmitt said. “It’s good to see that.”
Schmitt also gave props to Macklin, whose ability to draw out plays was a thrill to watch for fans and players alike.
However, the game wasn’t finished just yet. Macklin and the white team marched down the field. With 30 seconds left, a crossing route led to a big hit by the near hash, and each team traded shoves and insults in a heated moment, just as Migos’ “Fight Night” humorously played from the public address system.
After action resumed, it came down to one final play. A game-winning, 45-yard field goal attempt from the white team sailed wide left, and the red team stormed the field in celebration.
“I liked how the game transpired,” Schmitt said, “[We] got a little bit of excitement at the end. It was pretty good.”
Attention now turns toward regular-season preparation. The Dukes will open the 2022 season on Aug. 27 in Tallahassee, Fla., against Florida State. Duquesne will also play at Youngstown State and Hawaii in non-conference action.