Cole Johnson and Erik Kirlew

Junior quarterback Cole Johnson hands the ball of to redshirt sophomore Eric Kirlew during Thursday's second half.

Spring football is a long, grueling process for players. After about a month of early morning practices, it came to a close at JMU’s annual Spring Game.

It might not be August yet, but for fans, they’ll take what they can get.

The rules for the Spring Game are adjusted from normal rules. The contest consisted of two 15-minute quarters with the offense and defense having three timeouts each. Head coach Curt Cignetti determined the starting field position, and everything was live action except for quarterbacks, who wore no-contact jerseys. No score was recorded for the game.

Like last season’s Spring Game, three quarterbacks were rotated. Redshirt senior Ben DiNucci, redshirt junior Cole Johnson and redshirt sophomore Gage Moloney all saw time behind center, but the offseason quarterback battle is still heating up.

“I thought it was good work,” Cignetti said. “I thought the defense did a nice job early holding their own, they were on their man. There was some good and bad on both sides, but overall, I thought we got a lot of work done this spring.”

The offense scored three touchdowns in the game, with Johnson being responsible for two. The first was a 71-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jamir Hudson. Johnson then led a 60-yard, 13-play drive down the field capped by a one-yard scoring run by redshirt freshman running back Solomon Vanhorse.

“I feel like the whole team played well,” Vanhorse said. “We all came out to compete. For myself, I just wanted to go out there and have fun and play with my boys. I feel like we all just went out there, strived to compete and put on a show for the fans.”

Vanhorse finished the game with 94 total yards and one touchdown. For him, this performance told him he can translate good play in practice into the actual game.

DiNucci joined the touchdown club after a quick drive ended in a score by redshirt freshman wide receiver Davis Patterson. Moloney finished the game with no touchdowns and one interception but did lead a drive that resulted in a field goal.

“I thought [Johnson] had a nice day,” Cignetti said. “I thought Ben did a few nice things, too. You know, I thought Gage had a really nice spring, but he was just OK. This battle will continue on.”

Toward the end of the game, the team went into situational drills. Cignetti had the offense drive the field down seven to simulate a late-game comeback. In Moloney’s attempt, a pass was tipped and intercepted by redshirt junior safety D’Angelo Amos, who returned it for a touchdown.

Redshirt junior kicker Ethan Ratke went 3-for-3 for field goals and made all of his point after attempts, while junior punter Harry O’Kelly and redshirt freshman kicker Camden Wise alternated at the punter spot.

“This is probably one of the most explosive springs since I’ve been here,” senior defensive lineman John Daka said. “We just have to continue to play fast and more violent and basically buying into what [defensive coordinator/defensive ends] coach Corey Heatherman is saying, so I’m confident.”

The countdown to the Aug. 31 season-opening game at West Virginia has now begun with the spring practices wrapped up. With 140 days separating the Dukes from its first regular season game, the next phase of the offseason is summer practices.

Contact Noah Ziegler at For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

There comes a time where an athlete realizes their true potential. When I realized that I was never going to make a living on the court, I figured I’d make it on the sidelines. I hope to be able to attend and cover the World Cup and NCAA tournament.