Football wraps up spring with scrimmage

Brentaro Yamane | Multimedia Editor | Sophomore Alex Gochis rises to reel in a two-handed snag for a touchdown on Saturday afternoon.

Rebecca Jozwiak | Staff writer

The Duquesne football team concluded their spring season Saturday in a condensed team scrimmage at Rooney Field. Teams were named after staff on the team, Director of Operations Luke Smith and Special Teams Coordinator Mickey Jacobs. Team Jacobs defeated Team Smith in two quarters.

Jerry Schmitt holds the reins for the Dukes, returning for his 19th season as the head coach. Schmitt looks to build upon his five Northeast Conference championships, with his most recent title coming last season.

In addition to those achievements, Schmitt also guided the Dukes to two trips to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Their most recent appearance came last season, where they lost to Youngstown State University 40-7.

Duquesne defeated Merrimack in the final week of the regular season to clinch the NEC Championship 26-14. On Friday, the players on the 2023 roster had the opportunity to receive their championship rings.

“It was great seeing the players get their rings, their recognition,” Schmitt said. “It was a great evening. All the parents and fans couldn’t make it up to Merrimack for the game because of the travel. It was an opportunity for us as a group to celebrate.”

While Schmitt returns back to the Bluff for another year as head coach, the team has lost a handful of pivotal players over the offseason, such as freshman running back Edward Robinson. He transfered to Southern Illinois University over winter break after a breakout rookie season.

Robinson’s shoes are a big fill – the freshman netted the NEC Rookie of the Week honor on three separate occasions, and was named to the All-NEC Second Team, while scoring a touchdown each in playoff games against YSU.

Although the Dukes are without Robinson, there are plenty of returners to on the team. The most notable return for the Dukes is quarterback Darius Perrantes. The senior earned First Team All-NEC honors, and was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which honors the best offensive player in the FCS. The quarterback also led the NEC in passing touchdowns.

Perrantes, one of the three quarterbacks to play for Team Smith, led the team with 83 passing yards.

Scoring kicked off around the five-minute mark of the game, where Team Smith scored on a 1-yard rush by running back Taj Butts. Butts, a redshirt junior, earned the NEC Offensive Player of the Week Award last season after his performance against Central Connecticut State, where he had 118 rushing yards.

At the end of the first quarter, Team Jacobs was able to put themselves on the board, thanks to quarterback Xavier Rice connecting with wide receiver Alex Gochis on a 12-yard touchdown pass. It was a day for reserves on the roster to shine.

“It’s really good. We’ve got guys volunteering, knowing that they’re going to step up. It’s not hard to have been encouraged by our staff. There’s guys stepping into those roles,” Schmitt said. “We can see it, and they’re participating in meetings and things that can help them develop their leadership.”

Team Jacobs took a 14-7 lead in the second quarter after Antonio Pitts rushed for 32 yards into the end zone.

Wide receiver Tedy Afful won the game for Team Jacobs after catching an 8-yard pass from Perrantes to pull his team behind Team Smith by one. Perrantes connected with senior wide receiver Tyler Padezan for the 2-point conversion, giving Team Jacobs a 15-14 lead with less than a minute left in the game.

“Spring ball is basically step one going into the season,” Afful said. “Guys were playing hard, competing – basically bonding. I feel like we’re right where we need to be.”

Duquesne finds another returning player in Afful. Afful, a transfer from Stony Brook, contributed to the Dukes success last season. The rising senior started in all 12 games, and was third on the team with 455 receiving yards. Afful also enjoyed a 135 yard game against Central Connecticut State – which was the most receiving yards by a receiver in the NEC.

“We were just having fun, and we were just competing,” Afful grinned. “[Team Jacobs] just wanted to have fun and go for the 2-point conversion just so we could win the game and there wouldn’t be a tie.”

The main point of the spring season for the team was to have fun and foster a team environment for the upcoming regular season.

“When you’re working together here for 15 practices and meetings, and you’re working at an intense level – that allows us to develop cohesion within individual groups, the units and then within the team,” Schmitt said. “It’s a different team than last year — a lot of the same guys, but a different makeup and a different team.”

The Dukes will kick off their fall season on Thursday, Aug. 29, away against the Toledo Rockets.