OLIVET, Mich. -- The Trine football team dropped a 44-27 decision to Olivet in the season finale Saturday afternoon at Cutler Athletic Complex.
The Thunder took a 20-6 lead in the early stages of the second quarter, but the Comets did not allow Trine an offensive touchdown the rest of the afternoon on their way to clinching the outright MIAA title. Olivet out-gained the Thunder by a 452-371 margin, including a 277-84 difference in rushing yards. Trine wrapped up its season 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the MIAA, good for fourth place in the conference. The Comets advanced to the Division III playoffs with a 6-0 conference mark and 9-1 overall record.
Marcus Winters (Toledo, Ohio / Central Catholic) tied a Thunder program record with his eighth interception of the season. He matched Aaron Selking's season record set in 2010. Winters also moved into a tie for third in team history with 12 career INTs. He entered today's contest tied for fourth in the nation in picks and was third nationally in passes defended.
A quick start put Trine up on its first drive. Mark Wilson (Indianapolis, Ind. / Lawrence Central) capped a seven-play, 74-yard march with a 10-yard TD run to put the Thunder up 7-0. A 39-yard completion from Brandon Rooze (West Lafayette, Ind. / Benton Central) to Jeffery Barnett (Fremont, Ohio / Fremont-Ross) was a key play on the drive.
After Olivet's first TD on a Braden Black 11-yard pass to Trenton Moore cut the score to 7-6, the Thunder matched down the field to extend the lead to 14-6. Senior Frank Vuocolo (Jackson, Mich. / Grass Lake) punched in a four-yard TD run to cap a 10-play, 83-yard drive.
Winters' INT set up Trine's next scoring drive. The sophomore's pick stopped a Comets at the Thunder 32-yard line. Barnett capped the ensuing drive nine plays later, collecting a short pass from Rooze and picking up yards after the catch to score from 16-yards out to make the score 20-6 early in the second quarter.
Rooze and Barnett was once again a strong combination for the Trine offense. Barnett hauled in 10 passes for 187 yards and the TD. Barnett finished the season with 937 receiving yards, the fourth-most in program history. His 59 receptions this year with the fifth-most all-time. Rooze completed 22-35 passes for 257 yards and the score. His 16 pass TDs this year are the sixth-most in team history.
The Comets scored the final 17 points of the half to take a 23-20 lead into the break. Black connected with Mitchell Bailey on a 35-yard strike, before a blocked punt resulted in a safety to cut the score to 20-15. Black then found Kornelius Saxton for his final TD toss of the day. A two-point conversion gave Olivet its halftime lead.
Me'Leick Miles (Indianapolis, Ind. / Pike) gave the Thunder the lead right back early in the third quarter with his latest big special teams play. The junior blocked a punt and scooped up a short return to score and put Trine up 27-23. Miles now has seven career blocked kicks.
The running of Damorria Lilly gave the Comets all the offense they would need the rest of the way to take care of the victory. Lilly scored on an 11-yard run midway through the third quarter to give OC the 30-27 lead. Additional scoring runs of two and 15 yards provided the final scoring margin.
Lilly carried the ball 37 times for 203 yards and the three touchdowns to pace the Olivet offense. Black completed 9-16 pases for 175 yards and three scores. The Comets, who boasted the sixth-best rushing defense in the nation coming into Saturday's action, held the Thunder to 84 yards on the ground- 174 yards below Trine's season average.
Robert Riley (Mendon, Mich. / Mendon) and Zachary DeMeester (Coldwater, Mich. / Coldwater) each had 13 tackles for the Thunder defense. Miles added 10 stops, one pass break-up, the blocked kick and a sack.
Miles also finished the season with 16 tackles-for-loss, fifth-most in a season in team history, and 7.5 sacks, tied for the fifth-most in program history. He concluded the season with 14 career sacks, tied for sixth in Trine history.