Defending Ivy Co-Champs Wrap Up Spring Practice with Blue-White Scrimmage
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Yale wrapped up spring practice with the annual Blue-White scrimmage Saturday afternoon at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field. Freshman quarterback Rich Scudellari threw for 130 yards and the game's only passing touchdown, a 15-yarder to sophomore wide receiver Jarrett Drake, to lead the White team to a 29-18 win. White also got a touchdown from junior defensive back Dan Sica, who blocked a punt and then scooped up the ball and took it into the end zone.
"It's tough to go up against your own teammates," Sica said. "You just try to go out and have fun -- play football the way you played when you were young. It's an opportunity for everyone to show what they've got."
Sica has been a special teams regular for two seasons, taking advantage of whatever chances he has had to get on the field. That's a philosophy that many of the players who stood out on Saturday exemplified.
"We've got a lot of depth on defense, and we've got a lot of great players," Sica said. "Wherever your opportunity is -- special teams, offense or defense -- you've got to step up and play a role, do whatever you can to help the team out."
The game was played with a modified scoring system that, in addition to the traditional scoring plays, awarded one point for an offensive first down, one point for a defensive stop on downs, three points for a fumble recovery and three points for an interception. The Blue team thus had a 4-0 lead after stopping White's opening drive and then getting a 41-yard field goal from junior place kicker Alan Kimball.
White rallied and took a 15-10 lead late in the first half when Scudellari connected with Drake, one of a game-high six catches for 66 yards on the day for Drake.
Drake's emergence is particularly timely given that Yale's top three receivers from last year's squad are graduating. The Class of 2007 as a whole accounted for 93 of Yale's 109 receptions.
"He's definitely come a long way from last year," said junior quarterback Matt Polhemus of Drake. "He understands the offense and he's a good athlete. He could be a serious weapon for us."
Sica's touchdown came just four plays after the Drake touchdown, following a "sack" by junior defensive lineman Jared Hamilton -- no tackling of the quarterback was allowed, so the whistle blew as soon as any defender got a hand on the quarterback.
Freshman punter/kicker Tom Mante added the extra point after Sica's score.
Junior defensive lineman Brandt Hollander, Yale's captain, ended the half on a positive note for the Blue team by getting to the quarterback to stop White's final drive. White took a 23-11 lead into the break.
Three of the game's more memorable plays came in one sequence early in the second half. First, one that did not appear in the stats -- Polhemus showed his athleticism on the sideline with a leaping grab of an overthrown pass in front of the bench. Polhemus, the Bulldogs' starting quarterback last year, completed seven passes in 15 attempts for 52 yards in the first half.
Next, sophomore defensive back Travis Henry created an incompletion with a well-timed hit on Drake just as the ball arrived. Henry has emerged as potential factor both on special teams and in the defensive backfield.
"Travis hits hard," Polhemus said. "He had a lot of big hits this spring. He could make some plays and contribute. I like how he plays."
Then, freshman defensive end Max Newton came up with the only turnover of the game, cutting in front of a pass into the flat for an interception.
"I was able to make a nice read on the play, and I knew I had someone behind me to back me up," Newton said. "It was a team play."
The highlight of the fourth quarter came from junior fullback Joe Fuccillo for the White team, who turned his third catch of the day into an 11-yard gain by bulldozing his way through the Blue defense.
"When he gets that ball and turns up field, you don't want to tackle him," Polhemus said of the 5-foot-10-inch, 220-pounder.
Fuccillo was one of 12 different players to catch a pass in the game, and Yale also got multiple carries for four freshmen tailbacks -- Jordan Farrell, Ricardo Galvez, Rodney Reynolds and Brandon Scott.
"One of the big things I wanted to do was to try to get the ball in the hands of guys such as Jarrett Drake, [freshman tight end] John Sheffield and the young backs just to see what kind of productivity we would get out of them," said Jack Siedlecki, Yale's Joel E. Smilow '54 Head Coach of Football. "I thought overall it was really good."
While the final score did give the players on the White team some bragging rights, the most important stat of the day was zero -- as in no injuries. The Bulldogs, who held several players out of the game as a precautionary measure, can now turn their attention to summer conditioning work.
The team will be back at the Yale Bowl, Class of 1954 Field for the pre-season scrimmage against Princeton Aug. 30. The Bulldogs and the Tigers shared the Ivy League title last year.
report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity