By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Saturday was all about tying up loose ends for the Pittsburg State Gorillas.
With most of the starting positions — including Zac Dickey’s replacement at quarterback — already set, the Gorilla coaching staff got another look at some key backup positions during the Pitt State spring game at Carnie Smith Stadium.
The end result was a 44-40 win for the defense in a game that used a specially-designed scoring system.
“We had a luxury in the fact that we could keep out a lot of guys out who we didn’t need to see today,” Pitt State defensive coordinator Dave Weimers said. “We really focused on our young guys all spring. I like what we see with our young talent.”
Some of Pitt State’s big names — All-American linebacker Nate Dreiling and star receiver John Brown, to name a couple — spent the day on the sideline, making way for some younger players.
Weimers was especially interested in watching some battles for the reserve linebacker positions. Sophomores Tyler Disney and Eric Brantley and redshirt freshmen Lewis Foutz stood out, he said.
“They’ve really started to come on here in the last week,” Weimers said. “I saw some things out of them today and we’re kind of excited about them.”
With some key pieces returning from last year’s stellar defense, Weimers said ideal situation was to find backups at every position during spring drills.
“Division II is all about depth,” he said. “You don’t get much. That’s just what the scholarships tell you ... You have to sacrifice unity and chemistry and your main group playing together all spring to watch the young guys.”
The main battle on the offensive side of the ball is the one for the No. 2 quarterback spot. Sophomore Anthony Abenoja has already been named the starter, leaving sophomore Dennis Tanner and Darrack Harger — who graduated from high school in December —fighting for the backup spot.
Harger was sharp, hitting eight of his 15 passes for 127 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown to Herman Ming.
“One of our goals for the spring was to identify who our backup quarterback is and that’s still a work in progress,” Pitt State offensive coordinator Steve Rampy said.
Abenoja, who was voted by the team as a captain earlier in the week, struggled at times but hit nine of his 18 passes for 167 yards.
“We feel good about what Tony does and brings to the table,” Rampy said. “He didn’t look exceptionally sharp today, but he has all spring.
Abenoja was continually rushed by the defensive line, forcing him to come up short on some passes and also to showcase his sometimes underrated running abilities.
“We felt pretty good going into the game, but we’re going against, I think, the best defense in the conference,” he said. “They’re tough and they’re fast and offensively it was tough to get things going.”
While the main focus was the future, the Gorillas also recognized last season’s national championship when a group of 2011 seniors unveiled the updated title count on the August and Helen Rua Press Box at halftime.