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Tigers produce excitement in spring game

Published on -4/29/2012, 7:38 PM

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In the last 18 months, Fort Hays State University second-year coach Chris Brown has made several big changes with the Tigers.

On the field, FHSU delivered a 4-7 record last season, a one-win increase from 2010, and enjoyed the team's best running attack since 2005. The Tigers have become stronger, faster and more aggressive; Brown said FHSU is "a little bit ahead" of where it was last spring.

"He is on us every day," junior wide receiver Keaton Callins said. "No messing around, no late nights or whatever. He is on us hard. He wants to change this program. ... We like Coach Brown a lot."

On Saturday, Brown's changes brought another difference -- plenty of excitement. Several hundred fans, much more than last season, attended Saturday's annual spring game at Lewis Field Stadium. Ken Windholz, the public address announcer for football and basketball, was also at the microphone to give a game-day type atmosphere.

"That's tremendous," Brown said of the crowd. "Our kids love it. I love it. It just goes back to this town. People love football and they want it to be successful and they are going to come out and show their support and see how we are moving along. Hopefully we can impress them this season and get some wins for them."

The fan base saw the Black team defeat the Gold squad, 21-20. The teams played three 15-minute periods. Both quarterbacks, senior Anthony Sheppard and junior transfer Tarean Austin, played for each team. Sheppard finished 12-of-21 for 166 yards and three touchdowns, while Austin showed impressive arm strength, including a long pass to Callins.

"They did a pretty good job," Brown said.

"They read the defense well. They made some good throws. A couple of those balls should have been caught that they threw at the beginning, but they made a couple of really nice passes today. A couple of those receivers did a nice job catching some of those balls.

"Otherwise, those two will keep competing through the summer and if they keep it up, it's going to be a battle to the very end for the first game," Brown added.

The Gold team took on a 20-14 lead on the final timed play when Sheppard found senior wideout Cornelius Gallon for a 34-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline. Gallon finished with three catches and 59 yards and had a long kickoff return to midfield negated when he fumbled at the end of the run.

However, the coaching staff decided late they wanted to see redshirt freshman Treveon Albert at quarterback. Albert, the third-string quarterback, moved to wideout at the start of spring. Albert had 10 untimed plays. On the 10th play, he threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to junior transfer Treyvius Alexander, who finished with four catches for 52 yards.

Kimbrough kicked the extra point for the final margin. Sheppard and Austin, a pickup from NCAA Division I University of New Mexico, showed their different skill sets, while the athletic Albert played well at both positions.

"Shepp, he is more of a vocal quarterback," Callins, who hauled in 20 catches for 263 yards and three scores, best among returners, said. "He makes plays scrambling out of the pocket, still looking down field.

"(Austin) he is just so tall, it just seems like he is so comfortable back there in the pocket," he added. "You can tell that he has played D1 football just by how he sits back there. They are both good and I'm excited to see what they can do in the fall. (Austin has) as a strong arm -- it comes."

While the Sheppard/Austin competition has waged all spring, the staff has made a choice on Albert's status. Albert will compete at quarterback in the fall, but if he continues to play third-string, then the Tigers will move him to wide receiver. Albert has impressed with his running and catching at wideout this spring, but needs work on his route running a little bit.

"He is so athletic, there is no way that we can keep on the sideline," Brown said.

Kimbrough finished the game with two field goals, the first one from 42 yards. Junior running back Edward Smith collected 82 yards on 16 carries, while junior Shaun Ohlde had 86 yards on 22 carries.

Senior Andre Smith, a honorable mention all-MIAA running back, missed the game because of a hamstring injury suffered early in the week. Junior defensive back Stephen Marcotte (groin) missed the contest, too. Marcotte is expected to see ample time at free safety in the fall.

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