Mmmm, mmmm. Football.
    Whatever the flavor this year's Red Demon football team turns out to be, head coach Justin Burke said that he aimed to keep the play during Friday's annual watermelon scrimmage vanilla.
    "We got to see if everyone's healthy and who's still a little nicked up," Burke said after the scrimmage. "That's one of the biggest things about tonight (Friday night), seeing if we're injury-free or not, and we'll know that by tomorrow morning (today)."
    One key cog in the 2008 Demon football system, starting tailback Keanu Espinosa, was sidelined for Friday's watermelon scrimmage due to a sprained ankle suffered in practice. Burke said it was still unclear whether Espinosa would be healthy in time to play in Friday's season opener against the Wichita Southeast Buffaloes.
    "That's the thing about ankles, you never know," Burke said. "Some take three days, some take two weeks."
    For all Burke's talk about keeping the play simple, the night was not without its exciting moments. At the end of the scrimmage, which lasted just over an hour, the Red Team had beaten the White Team 16-6, though after two quarters, possession was switched according to Burke's calls.
    Just before the first half expired, first team quarterback and junior Ty Thomas completed his first long pass to junior receiver Zach Harvey for a gain of 25 yards. Shortly after, senior linebacker Layton Dowling, who could make a big impact for the Demons in 2008, hit Thomas for a loss with a solid tackle.
    Thomas showed sound decision-making all night, eating the ball on Dowling's penetration, throwing it away when he had to and using his escapability when receivers were covered.
    The Red Team got the ball first in the second half and Thomas showed off that escapability right off the opening whistle, with a 62-yard run. Junior running back Steven Mills cashed in the touchdown with a run from 25 yards out.
    White Team sophomore defensive lineman Joe Miller broke free on another series for a big tackle in the backfield as well. Red Team senior defensive back Jordan Slaton laid the wood to a receiver late in the game and senior defensive lineman Justin Long was able to penetrate the White Team's offensive line for a tackle in the backfield as well.    
    On one of the last drives of the scrimmage, the Red Team gave fans a look at a Thomas-to-Jason-Kirchman connection that has the potential to break games wide open on a 61-yard touchdown throw down the sideline. Kirchman will be the leader of the wide receiver unit and one of the offense's leaders on the field all season long.
    Burke was quick to temper the excitement that filled Memorial Stadium, though.
    "These were our 'ones' going against our 'twos,'" Burke said. "They're not going to be as good as Southeast's 'ones' by a long shot."
    The Red Demons and the Titans square off in the season opener Friday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m.

Other Action
    The freshman Red Demons football team scrimmaged a group of sophomore players to kick off the football action Friday. Several freshman got a chance to show their skills to the entire coaching staff, which was on hand for the evening's activities.
    Running back Jesus Sumaya cashed in a 20-yard touchdown against a more experienced defense, while freshman defensive lineman Jose Carillo forced sophomore quarterback Josh Ginther to fumble on a hard hit in the backfield later in the scrimmage.
    Freshman quarterback BJ Teben showed presence in the pocket and the ability to work effectively outside it as well against a defense with the size advantage as well. Sophomore running back Christian Mills showed his speed by breaking free for a 45-yard touchdown run toward the end of the scrimmage.
    The boys soccer scrimmage at the beginning of the festivities gave coach Virgil Hutchcraft a chance to see where his team was before Monday's first round of the Titan Classic tournament at Wichita South. The Demons scrimmaged their junior varsity counterparts and will face Wichita North in Monday's match.
    "Our varsity looked really organized and they played with a lot of speed, which is what we want to be able to do all season," Hutchcraft said. "Our JV gave us a good test and we were pleased with what we did out there."
    The exact significance of the watermelon at the watermelon scrimmage remains a mystery, but the day was a productive beginning to the fall sports calendar for the programs on the field.
    USD 443 athletic director Jay Gifford said that the tradition was in Dodge long before he played football at DCHS in the late 1980s and that he had no idea where it originated. Burke suggested that the end of the summer may have something to do with it.
    The peak of the watermelon season is late-July and the month of August. Both Burke and Gifford acknowledged that several high school football programs in the area also have watermelon scrimmages.