Baker, Footman shine for Alcorn in spring game

Published 10:28 am Monday, April 20, 2015

By Matt Sigler

The Natchez Democrat

LORMAN — Alcorn State will enter the 2015 season with a target on its back. The reigning Southwestern Athletic Conference champion finished its first step in making it a moving target at Saturday’s spring game.

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The Gold team held off the Purple for a 28-21 win, but the game was really just another step in the process of turning Alcorn into a perennial power in the SWAC. Spring practice gave the coaching staff time to work with their veterans, and younger talent a chance to step up.

Two younger players who made serious impacts in the game were Gold quarterback Lennoris Footman and Purple running back Arron Baker.

Footman led the gold team by completing 6 of 12 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw an interception.

Baker had a game-high 104 rushing yards on seven carries, which included a 60-yard touchdown run.

“Arron ran the ball hard as always,” Alcorn coach Jay Hopson said. “Lenorris had some big plays and big throws. He is an exceptional football player. He’s got a really good arm and did a good job not only throwing, but also running the ball.”

While last year’s starting quarterback John Gibbs struggled out of the gate, the senior was able to turn things around and make the game competitive.

Gibbs finished 11-of-22 for 114 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 35 yards. He also threw an interception.

Gibbs helped the Purple team rally from a 21-0 deficit before falling just short.

“It became a competitive game in the second half,” Hopson said. “The Gold team got up on them early and had some field position advantages, and they took advantage of it, but I thought it was a competitive spring game and that is what we are looking for.”

With a wet field and less-than-ideal playing conditions, both teams relied on the run. Those players showed that in the upcoming season, the backfield is going to be crowded.

Along with Baker, De’Lance Turner, Joe Price and Darryan Ragsdale all had quality days carrying the football.

Turner, who finished with 57 yards and a touchdown, could have had even more if he wasn’t called for an excessive celebration penalty that nullified a touchdown.

Price, who ran for a touchdown, was also a key component catching the ball out of the backfield. He finished with seven receptions for 34 yards.

And Ragsdale ran between the tackles all afternoon, earning a tough 26 yards and a touchdown.

At receiver, Tip McKenzie led the way with two catches for 53 yards and Jordan Payne had two catches for 34 yards.

Ultimately, Hopson said he wanted to see his team compete, and he got it.

“Spring is a time when you really win jobs and assert yourself as a starter or a backup,” he said. “that is what we are looking at and trying to build depth. We saw some things today and hopefully these young guys will continue to grow.”

Alcorn opens the 2015 season on the road against Atlantic Coast Conference power Georgia Tech.