Centre Football: Colonels face old nemesis Trinity one final time
Centre College running back Monte Scotton (3) tries to avoid a tackle during the Colonels¿ loss to Millsaps earlier this season. Scotton is expected to return to action Saturday after missing two of the last three games. (Hal Morris / October 19, 2012)
The Colonels have one last showdown with Trinity (Texas), the team that has been on the other side of some of their most memorable victories and some of their most frustrating losses over the past two decades and change.
They are no longer in the same conference, but they will meet one more time Saturday at Farris Stadium before going their separate ways.
“It’s unfortunate, because it’s been going on for 23 years,” Centre coach Andy Frye said. “We’ve had some great games, and some games I’d like to forget.”
Their final meeting — at least for the forseeable future — pits Centre against a Trinity team that isn’t part of the national rankings, where the Tigers were a fixture for years, but is still a formidable foe.
“They’re always talented, they always have good speed, and it’s Trinity,” Frye said. “Are they the same team as in 2002, when they were national runner-up? No, but they’re pretty good.”
The Tigers and Colonels have identical 4-2 records, and they are statistically similar as well. Trinity averages a few more points and yards per game, but Centre is slightly better in points and yards allowed.
Centre comes into the game off an open date that included a longer-than-usual break to make room for last week’s vice presidential debate, and Frye said the practices prior to the debate and the down time that followed were good for the Colonels.
“I think the biggest thing in the first week off was just to shore up our injuries and work on those things that we think we need to do a better job with, pass protections, blitz protections, defensively maybe working a little harder on some of our fundamentals,” he said.
He said the Colonels are a much healthier team than they were in their last game two weeks ago, a 10-7 win at Sewanee. One of those who is feeling better is running back Monte Scotton, who has missed two of the last three games with an injury and who has rushed for 324 yards and five touchdowns in four games.
Others who were just healthy enough to play but had been held out of practice, such as wide receiver Jason Osterman and linebacker Erich Vogelsang, are getting reps again in practice, and quarterback Heath Haden, who had been hampered by an illness, is at full strength again.
Haden has thrown for 1,182 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception, and he is Centre’s leading rusher for the moment with 365 yards and two TDs. Osterman and Rob Melillo share the team lead in receptions with 23 each.
Vogelsang leads the Colonels’ defense with 47 tackles, followed by linebacker Michael Bozarth with 42. Defensive end Grant Poston has 4 1/2 tackles for loss, and tackle Tami Aderoba has a team-high three sacks.
Centre’s offense averages 391 yards per game, and its defense is allowing 357 yards per game. Trinity is averaging 452 yards on offense and 363 yards allowed on defense.
Trinity has scored 30 or more points in all six of their games, thriving behind a two-quarterback platoon. Nyk McKissic is the more prolific passer, having thrown for 1,271 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Mason Blaschke has thrown for 396 yards and four touchdowns and is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 199 yards and five TDs.
“Both of them play real well a times, and sometimes they make some bad mistakes. We’re hoping that they make a few more mistakes against us,” Frye said.
Pat Granchelli is the Tigers’ rushing leader with 366 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tigers’ defense features a typically strong front led by linebacker Tom Puskarich (42 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss) and defensive end Tomy Boboy (13 tackles for loss, 8 1/2 sacks).
Trinity is one of only two football teams remaining in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference after Centre and six other schools broke away to form the Southern Athletic Association.
Because the 2012 schedule was already in place, the Tigers will play all five SAA football teams this season. They are 2-0 so far against the SAA, with wins over Rhodes and Birmingham-Southern in their last two games.
Trinity joined the SCAC in 1989 and has won 15 league championships and made 12 NCAA Division III playoff appearances since 1993. Centre finished second to the Tigers in four of those years and shared the title twice.
Centre has won only eight of its 23 meetings with Trinity, but that is more wins than any other SCAC opponent has against the Tigers. The Colonels’ most memorable win in the series was a 25-21 homecoming victory in 2002 over a team ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time.
Trinity won last year’s matchup of top-25 teams 20-14 in San Antonio, but the teams have split their last four games. The Tigers are a familiar homecoming opponent for Centre, which has hosted them seven times on homecoming and won five of those games.
“I’m excited that it’s homecoming and it’s a great opportunity for us to finish up what I think has been a nice little rivalry for them and for us,” Frye said.