NATCHITOCHES – Marking the 25th anniversary of the Joe Delaney Bowl spring football game at Northwestern State, Demons coach Jay Thomas plans an entertaining contest Thursday at 5:30 in Turpin Stadium with some of Delaney's coaches and teammates honored at halftime.
Admission is free for the game, which will be broadcast on 100.7 FM KZBL, the flagship station of the Demon Sports Network, and NSUDemons.com.
Thomas said as NSU wraps up spring practice, the focus will be on the passing game.
"It'll be closer to an Arena League game than anything else. It ought to be entertaining," he said. "The ball will be in the air a lot. It's going to be fun."
At halftime, Thomas will commemorate the Delaney Bowl's 25th anniversary by establishing a tradition when he hands out the first "Legendary Link Awards" to former coaches and players, all but one who were involved in the program from 1977-80 with Delaney, a two-time All-America tailback who drowned in an heroic 1983 rescue attempt.
A.L. Williams was Delaney's head coach and recruited him to NSU. Assistant coaches Billy Laird, Don Guidry, Gene Knecht and Al Miller are being honored, along with former teammates Mike Almond, Bill Johnson, Petey Perot, Brett Knecht, Warren Griffith, David Causey and Bobby Hebert.
Coach Sam Goodwin, who arrived in December 1982, is included for two reasons. He launched the tradition of awarding links, worn as a necklace, to players in 1996 as tokens of earning a spot on the team. He also created the Joe Delaney Memorial Leadership Awards at the end of his first season, 1983, as head coach, given to the players voted by their teammates as permanent team captains.
Although the game will actually be a controlled scrimmage, there will be a score and a winner, with the victors enjoying a full menu while the losers will have franks and beans at a team meal following spring break, said Thomas with a chuckle. He expects the contest to last about 90 minutes.
"We're looking for improvement on mistakes made in Saturday's scrimmage, particularly in the passing game, from the fronts to protection to routes and throws. We'll focus on the passing game, screens, draws, base coverages, the fundamental stuff we covered in the first week of spring practice, except now it will be live, playing football," he said. "We want everything to be as clean as it can be."
Senior quarterback Zach Adkins will not play for the second straight scrimmage, as the coaches give long looks to young backups. Sophomore Daniel "Bear" Hazlewood and redshirt freshmen J.D. Almond and T.J. Fleeton are trying to be the No. 2 quarterback, a role Hazlewood filled last fall.
"It's still a heated battle among those three to establish the pecking order. Bear has an edge with his year of playing experience and the other two are still learning. Like J.D. Almond said after the scrimmage last Saturday, ‘coach, it's been a year and a half since I've been tackled.' They may not be live in the Delaney Bowl, but everything around them will be, and it's a great evaluation tool for us," said Thomas.
Activities begin at 4 with a cochon de lait tailgating party hosted by the Coaches Cabinet Association in the Demon Alley Tailgating Zone at the Collins Family Pavilion. Admission to the tailgating party, a postgame crawfish boil and auction are $40 per person.