The San Quentin 49ers held their first scrimmage game on the Lower Yard on a warm Presidents Day, Feb. 20.
Head Coach Bryant Underwood and Defensive Coordinator David Barela divided the 22-man roster into two teams to determine who would make the team and who may be cut.
“We’re looking for sportsmanship and knowledge of the game,” Coach Underwood said. “I expect 100% from everyone trying out, and I hope not to deal with messed-up attitudes and an unwillingness to play.”
Underwood and Barela chose their squads, called everyone in, and gave them a pre-game team pep talk about player expectations, then joined a prayer huddle.
“We won’t tolerate any swear words, disrespect, or racial slurs, specifically the N-word. Leave all of your aggression on the field,” Underwood admonished the participants.
Barela identified a few players that he thought may have potential defensive skills, but cautioned to the players that potential may not be enough.
“I have to take a good look at a lot of these players position-wise — who wants to be a starter in their chosen position and if they will actually play in only that position,” Barela added.
Of the many breakout players in the scrimmage, there were: Ryan “Taz” Matlock at wide receiver, Kolby Southwood at wide receiver and cornerback, Willie “Pit” Wilkerson at defensive back, Marcus “Q” Eugene at receiver and cornerback, and Taiosisi Shaka at quarterback.
Taz Matlock has been a resident at San Quentin for close to a year and has occupied almost all of his free time engaged in sports.
“Football is my number one sport since I played Pop Warner and in high school,” said Matlock. “Football helps me channel and control my energy instead of me doing stupid stuff.”
The scrimmage game kicked off with QB Shaka Mantagi throwing a few midfield passes to advance the ball down the field, throwing to multiple receivers.
Shaka ran a route and threw across the field and into the end zone to Southwood for the first score of the game.
Southwood, 30, has been a resident of San Quentin for a little more than two years and was introduced to the game here.
“I’ve learned everything I know about playing football and all other sports at Quentin,” Southwood said. “Playing is the only time I really relate and connect with others. I speak better because of talking to my teammates.”
Receiver Marcus “Q” Eugene caught a pass from Shaka and scored a touchdown. Q would catch two more touchdown passes before the game ended.
Offensive plays were not the only highlights of the game. There were also a few notable defensive plays that showcased talent on the other side of the ball.
Marquese “Quese” Whitaker tested the offensive line every play until he forced the QB to throw an interception. There would be three more interceptions thrown during the scrimmage.
Coach Underwood seemed impressed at the end of the practice game and went to work deciding who would be the best fit for the San Quentin Niners.
“We want all types — different races and religions — so we can learn from each other,” Underwood said. “It’s not just in here, but outside these walls, too. What we’re doing is way bigger than football.”