By Todd Purvis/Sports editor

The 2004 football Colonels will hit the gridiron at 3 p.m. Saturday for their annual Spring football game at Roy Kidd Stadium. Eastern is ranked as the preseason favorite in the conference.”It’s going to be a showdown between our offense and our defense,” coach Danny Hope said. “Hopefully we can execute on both sides of the football with some enthusiasm.”

The Colonels will take the field for their first public scrimmage of spring practice this year. So far this spring Eastern has held three intersquad scrimmages that have been pretty evenly matched by the offense and defense, Hope said.

Hope believes this year’s scrimmage will be very exciting due to the progress the team made this spring.

“We’re way ahead of where we were at this point last year,” Hope said. “We’ve made a lot of progress in a lot of different areas this spring.”

The high-powered Colonel offense returns nearly all of its backs and receivers with the exception of running back Terry Ennis and tight end Mike Woolridge.

“I feel good about our quarterback and receivers because they’re all coming back from last year,” Hope said. “We’re pretty polished in throwing and catching the football so far this season.”

The Eastern offense also returns running back C.J Hudson.

“C.J. is playing really hard right now and has been showing great leadership,” Hope said.

Eastern also returns their linebacker core of Will Stilley, Justen Rivers and Jerome Jones.

“We’ve got all of our linebackers back this season, and they’ve been playing really well this spring,” Hope said.

Although the Colonels have made a number of strides this spring, their biggest improvement has been in the secondary, Hope said.

“Our secondary is paying more attention to the details and has improved a great deal on their alignments and assignments,” Hope said. “I think the fans will be impressed with the improvement of our secondary.”

The Colonels will come into the scrimmage looking to feed off the momentum from last season, when they won their final five games and finished second in the conference.

Last year’s spring football game had a record turnout, and Hope is optimistic this year’s game will draw an even larger crowd.

“We had a record of 2,000 fans at last year’s spring game, and it was a lot of fun, but hopefully we can set a new attendance record this year,” Hope said. “I hope that a lot of people are excited about the game; we need people to come out and tailgate like they were last season.

This season the Colonels have a very fan-friendly schedule, as they play their home opener against Western Kentucky University on Sept. 18, then come back the following week to host Jacksonville State, the defending OVC champs, along with the rest of the league schedule.

“Hopefully the fans will come out to the spring game and set the tempo for our home schedule next year,” Hope said.

So far this spring the Colonels have been working hard to prepare for the spring scrimmage as well as the upcoming year.

“We’ve had some long, hard practices this spring and we’re going to be ready to go,” Hope said. “People that come out here to the scrimmage are going to see 22 guys going at it.”