The Tigers are getting back on track, coming off a tough few weekends of football. They faced former-SCAC member Rhodes College last Saturday and came up with a 30-22 victory that reversed their streak and put them 3-2 for the season. From here, the Tigers face a tough schedule throughout the rest of the regular season.
“It was great to get a win, but we are going to keep striving to get better,” said assistant coach Jason Guthrie. “We have the toughest stretch of our season coming up. We have to take it one game at a time, but we have to get better.”
The Rhodes game was a testament to the Trinity football team as they needed to turn their season around.
“We are happy with the results. I feel that a win is a win, but at the same time, I feel like we have a lot to work on,” said senior defensive lineman Phillip Hiner-Leamon. “One thing about this game, though, was our sense of confidence. Even when the score was close, it was 100 percent confidence the entire time, and that’s really something I hadn’t seen since last year. We were much more relaxed.”
Rhodes jumped on the board first with a first-quarter touchdown, but the Tigers responded with an 82-yard, two-play drive that combined junior running back ,and SCAC offensive player of the week Desmond King’s 64-yard run and sophomore wide receiver Matt Kennemer’s touchdown catch.
“We started out a little flat and made some mental errors that kept the game a little closer then what we wanted,” said assistant coach L.D. Green. “However, the guys responded well and were able to bounce back when it counted.”
Trinity kept it going in the second quarter with a King 15-yard run, and Rhodes later tied it up with a six-play touchdown of their own. Within forty seconds of Rhodes’ score, King grabbed another for the Tigers, this time a 27-yard pass from senior quarterback Nyk McKissic. The kick was blocked, however, so the Tigers went into halftime with a 20-14 lead.
“Once we started scoring things started rolling,” Hiner-Leamon said. “After halftime, after shutting down their run, we felt confident about this game.”
The third quarter gave senior kicker Garrett Biel his school record-breaking field goal and the Tigers the three points, making him the SCAC Special Teams Player of the Week for the third time this season.
“Going in to half time we knew that we could play better,” Biel said. “We knew that we were a better team but we were allowing them to stay in the game. In the third quarter our defense stepped up. Even though the only points scored in the quarter were my field goal, the feel of the game felt more like it was in our hands.”
In the fourth, the Tigers used 15 plays for 80 yards to score their final touchdown, with sophomore quarterback Mason Blaschke jumping into the end zone. A Tiger fumble gave Rhodes another touchdown and a two-point conversion. On their next possession, the opponent attempted their final drive, but failed just short of the end zone. Blaschke sealed the deal with a 56-yard run on the Tigers’ first play of the drive.
“We got set back with a couple of penalties, but in the end the reason they scored wasn’t because they were better,” King said. “It was just mistakes on our end. Going into halftime, we just kind of re-established why we were out there and why they were scoring — just cleaning up the mistakes. The results were what we wanted.”
Trinity’s offense garnered 493 total yards, utilizing multiple long drives in the game. A few fumbles beset the Tigers; however, they stifled these with a high-powered offensive scheme.
“Despite the turnovers, they played pretty well,” Hiner-Leamon said. “It was Desmond’s first game back, and seeing him run the way he did was relieving. Now we have two very, very strong and fast running backs and we can go back to a run first, pass second offense.”
King led the offense with 94 yards rushing and had six catches for 65 yards. Blaschke had 68 yards rushing, while McKissic threw 270 yards for 20-27 passes, including a touchdown pass. Junior wide receiver Hagen Kattner caught four for 84 yards and senior tight end Mason Lytal caught three passes for 51 yards.
“I wouldn’t want to be out there with anyone else,” King said. “Rhodes held previous teams at 14 points a game and we were able to put 33 points on the board. Considering that and the weather conditions, we did very well.”
For the defense, the Tigers kept Rhodes to only 212 yards. They allowed negative 16 yards rushing, completely shattering any running game Rhodes planned on. Five sacks and 12 tackles for loss contributed to the dominant performance.
“I think our run defense is finally where we want it to be,” Hiner-Leamon said. “It’s how we’ve played the past two years. We’ve held them to 16 rushing yards. Granted, the team’s offensive scheme was quite simple, but, at the same time, holding a team to negative yardage is something special. Holding them to 212 total offensive yards is season best for us.”
Sophomore defensive lineman Tomy Boboy had 2.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries, seven tackles and an interception to earn the SCAC Defensive Player of the Week honor. Junior defensive back Chris Hobbs had nine stops that included six solo tackles. Hiner-Leamon had 1.5 sacks for 12 yards lost. Sophomore linebacker Connor Yorloff had seven tackles—including 1.5 for loss and a half-sack. Junior defensive back Von’Darrick Jones had two passes defended and five solo tackles.
“How does this affect the second half of the season? First it rekindles the fire of Tigers football winning in that we are going into our bye-week with a win. Secondly we can polish up on what we did well, correct our mistakes and build upon that in our preparation for Birmingham and lastly we play one game at a time,” Green said. “We have the second half of the season, and our goal has not changed, and that is to win football games.”
The Tigers are off this weekend but return to action on the road in two weeks. They will face Birmingham-Southern College at noon on Oct. 13 in Birmingham, Ala.