Football: Team uses spring game for development

The Butler football team is playing the waiting game.

With 19 weeks remaining until they open their season at South Dakota State, the Bulldogs played their annual Blue and White spring game Saturday.

Quarterback Matt Lancaster, who will be a senior in the fall, was in prime form. He completed three of four passes on the Blue team’s opening drive, capping it off with a 30-yard touchdown run.

The Blue team went on to win 20-0.

“It’s fun to come out here and play a game and play against a real defense,” Lancaster said.

Alongside Lancaster on the Blue squad was junior running back Trae Heeter.  Heeter also scored a touchdown.

“The summer is the most important part of the season, and it helps us get ready going into fall camp,” Heeter said. “Once we come back in August, we’ll all be ready to go and get ready for the Jackrabbits on the 31st.”

Junior defensive lineman Jeremy Stephens anchored the White squad’s defense. Stephens said it felt good to get back on the field despite typical spring ball kinks.

“Spring ball is definitely a developmental thing as far as the team goes,” Stephens said. “It was good to get back out there in game situations.”

For the upcoming season, the Pioneer Football League champion will receive an automatic bid to the Football Championship Series playoffs.

Lancaster said the team’s yearly goal of winning the PFL will remain the same, but it has the added incentive of making the FCS playoffs.

“We won the conference last year, and that’s still our goal this year, except now we get to play for the tournament,” Lancaster said.

The Bulldogs open with the Jackrabbits on Aug. 31 and return home the following week to play against Division III Wittenberg. Two weeks later Butler hosts Ivy League school Dartmouth.

Stephens said the tough schedule should prepare them for PFL play and help them reach the FCS playoffs.

“(South Dakota State) is probably the biggest program we’ve played in the history of this program,” Stephens said. “South Dakota State and Dartmouth will definitely get us ready for those bigger schools that we would potentially play in the postseason.”

Coach Jeff Voris said reaching the playoffs is certainly a team goal, but as they did last season, the Bulldogs will be taking the season one game at a time.

“Our success last season came from the commitment and dedication of playing one-game seasons,” Voris said. “The biggest thing is to get ready for August 7 and have a good camp and attack the non-conference (schedule) one game at a time.”

The Bulldogs will spend the summer doing individual workouts with one date in mind, Voris said.

“If you worry about the playoffs and conference titles, you’re never going to reach your goals because you’ll lose focus,” Voris said. “Our focus right now is South Dakota State in August.”

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