Monarch Football Cap Off Spring with Priority Charity Bowl ODU Spring Game

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ODU Athletics

D.J. Mack Jr. #8 drops back in the pocket to find an open receiver.

Benjamin Draper, Sports Editor

Coming off their best season in five years and a bowl appearance for the first time since 2016, the Old Dominion football team stepped out onto the gridiron for the last time of the spring season. The Monarchs have had 14 spring practices thus far and capped off its final practice in the Priority Charity Bowl ODU Spring Game. Unlike last year’s spring game, the fans were treated to actual scrimmaging instead of drills as the Monarch offense and defense went toe to toe in front of about 2,000 fans at S.B. Ballard Stadium. 

The annual spring game also brought back former ODU alumni such as Zach Pascal, the former ODU wide receiver, who is now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles and Oshane Ximines, the defensive end for the New York Giants. Along with them, former wide receiver Jonathan Duhart, former placekicker Jarod Brown and former punter Jonathan Plisco were among previous ODU players that came out to the event. 

Reese Poffenbarger #7 slings the ball to his target downfield. (ODU Athletics)

The Monarchs brought back 19 starters from the 2021 campaign and although there were missed assignments, passes dropped and missing tackles throughout the spring game, ODU looks far improved compared to the 2021 spring game. Head coach Ricky Rahne held out about a dozen players from his roster because they are all dealing with injuries. Of the players held out, redshirt sophomore quarterback Hayden Wolff, who started the second half of last season, is for now recovering from a minor surgery earlier in the week. Presumably, Wolff will be the starting quarterback when it comes time for fall camp in which he will be healed by then. 

In his absence, the Monarchs had three candidates to see action throughout the spring game. Senior quarterback, D.J. Mack Jr, the transfer from Central Florida who started the first half of last season, has improved since then and was the first quarterback to see action on Saturday afternoon. Sophomore quarterback Brendon Clark, who is a transfer from Notre Dame, and a former 4-star quarterback at Manchester High School just outside of Richmond VA, led the offense down the field that resulted with a touchdown. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Reese Poffenbarger also played well in the scrimmage as he had multiple scrambles that resulted in solid gains and also converted several third-downs to extend drives. Although he’s the least experienced in the quarterback position, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude mentioned afterwards how impressed he was with the throwing arm. 

Head coach Ricky Rahne looks on before the scrimmage portion of the Spring Game. (ODU Athletics)

After the spring game, coach Rahne mentioned that this event is a good way to scout the team in front of spectators and that the program has a long way to go, but it’s in a good place. “We wanted to be better the 15th practice they were on the first and we were. The best thing about a spring game is that you’re able to see guys perform under a little bit more pressure,” Rahne said. “We had a good spring and we stayed relatively healthy. We’re headed in the right direction. But we’ve still got a long way to go.”

ODU will join the Sun Belt Conference on July 1st, 2022 and is set to play its most difficult schedule ever. The Monarchs begin their 2022 reign with a huge home-opener on Friday, Sept. 2 as, in-state, Virginia Tech comes to town for a big showdown. It will mark the coaching debut of Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry, who was the former defensive coordinator at Penn State and is a close friend with Rahne. Old Dominion is 1-2 overall against the Hokies. The last time Tech came to Norfolk was in 2018 when the Monarchs upset the nationally ranked Hokies, 49-35 and earned its biggest victory in program history.  

The Monarchs have a total of four in-state schools on the schedule for 2022, when they will welcome Liberty University and the University of James Madison, which is an old rivalry renewed. ODU also will be traveling to Charlottesville, VA to play the Cavaliers of Virginia. To cap off the non-conference slate, the Monarchs will be facing East Carolina on the road. They’ll finish the season playing a tough conference schedule in the Sun Belt Conference against schools like Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Marshall, South Alabama and Arkansas State.