WCU spring football scrimmage sets tone for fall season

For the first time since November, the PA system could be heard throughout campus as the spring football game of the 2023 season kicked off. The game was played on Saturday April 15 with wonderful weather that called for an even better match up between the purple and white teams. Catamounts lined up across their fellow Cats for the scrimmage.  

To select the teams for the purple and white game, head coach Kerwin Bell and the senior leaders of the team held a spring game draft to split the team into two. In years past, the spring game consisted of the offensive players going against the defensive.  

Former WCU player Teddy Phillips (1978-1980) coached the white team while WCU Athletics Hall of Famer Todd Harkins (1889-1992) coached the purple squad.   

The format of the game was designed to replicate a competitive game as much as possible with Southern Conference officials running the game.                                           

The two sides were on the field for 22 total drives, 10 of which ended with points including 8 total touchdowns. Stats provided by Daniel Hooker.  

Quarterback Cole Gonzales led the purple team to a 41-22 victory over the white team, throwing 12-of-17 for 262 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception. The purple team also touted redshirt sophomore quarterback Brody Palhegyi who threw 9-of-17 with 159 yards and a score.  

Six different receivers hauled in passes for the purple squad with Censere Lee posting a game-high 131 receiving yards on three catches, two ended in the endzone.  

The offense for the white squad was led by true freshman QB Bennett Judy who performed well in his first action in a catamount uniform. Judy finished 7-of-13 for 143 yards with a touchdown pass and two interceptions. 

Just like the purple squad, six receivers hauled in passes for the white squad with AJ Colombo posting a team-best six receptions for 67 yards, including a 50-yard dime from Judy.  

#83 AJ Colombo celebrates a 50-yard catch and run touchdown with #76 Nathan Linkous. This score brought the white team to within 7 points of tying the game. Photo by Liam Bridgeman.

Defensively, the purple team recorded three interceptions, including two in the endzone preventing a white score. Those interceptions were by defensive backs C.J. Williams and Ken Moore Jr. Defensive linemen Caleb Bradford also had an interception which led to a purple score, giving them an early 14-point lead.  

Linebacker Ed Jones IV led the white squad with seven tackles including a tackle for loss with LB Giovanni Riccardi not far behind with six tackles. The white team had seven tackles for loss with a pair of sacks.  

The Purple squad carried a 31-14 lead into the brief halftime break where head coach Kerwin Bell addressed the crowd that gathered for WCU’s annual spring game. 

Head coach Kerwin Bell talks to the spring game spectators labeling the 2023-2024 football season as “championship or bust”. Photo by Liam Bridgeman.

In his speech, Bell commended the fans for being in attendance and stressed the importance of a loud, committed fanbase for the 2023 season.  

Bell labeled the season, “championship or bust.”

Athletic Director Alex Gary was one of those in attendance. 

“We’ve shown tremendous progress going from year one to year two, now going into year three [under coach Bell] … I can’t be happier,” Gary said.  

WCU football now turns its attention to SEC-foe Arkansas where they will play at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, Ark., on Sept. 2. The catamount’s 2nd game, their first at home, begins by hosting the defending Southern Conference champs, the Samford Bulldogs on Sept. 9.

Season tickets for the highly anticipated 2023 five-game home campaign are on sale online at CatamountSports.com.