In a Homecoming contest against Madonna, Taylor football elevated their play on both sides of the field en route to a 52-23 win and their fourth win at Turner Stadium this 2022 season.
Fresh off a tight victory over Concordia University on Oct. 15, the Trojans rode their momentum against a young Crusaders program. In the second half, TU expanded an eight-point lead to an eventual 29-point spread as junior Stephen Ellis and freshman Damon Hockett rushed for two touchdowns in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
With Madonna still in striking distance down 24-16 at half, quarterback Elijah McCloskey led the Taylor offense through time-consuming scoring drives of 77 and 74 yards. Running back Dylan Scally ran in the first touchdown from 2 yards out, one of two on his day, and Stephen Ellis caught a 17-yard strike from McCloskey for the first of his two scores.
“The people that are associated with Taylor University are the best in the world … and they certainly provide a boost,” head coach Aaron Mingo said. “There was a buzz in the air certainly.”
This season marks the 75th year for Trojan football and Mingo honored that by inviting all of the program’s alumni to the game. Mingo said the five winningest coaches in Taylor history were all present.
Inside of the win, Taylor football matched or set season-bests, including 52 points scored, 507 total offensive yards, 323 rushing yards and 32:44 in time of possession.
From a team identity standpoint, Mingo said the dominant rushing attack demonstrated was an ability they want to maintain, but he does not want their offensive to be one dimensional.
“I loved how we were able to pick up the first downs (35) and keep the chains moving throughout the game,” Mingo said. “It was not a flawless day. We had a couple turnovers and some missed opportunities, but it’s cool to see our program in a place where we can have those missed opportunities and there’s (still) a lot of positive outcomes.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Trojans surrendered 432 total yards but held the Crusaders to only a 4 out of 16 conversion rate on third down. Freshman Reese Pinckney, junior Hojun Yun and senior Christian Severt all had one interception apiece, each in the first half of play.
Severt, a defensive back, was also responsible for five total tackles, three of those being solo. His interception came in the waning minutes of the second quarter at TU’s own 11-yard line, a takeaway that potentially saved the Trojan’s lead and prevented Madonna from capitalizing on two consecutive drives. It was his first interception of the 11-game season slate and one Severt said both his parents and grandparents were able to witness.
“That was a great feeling,” Severt said. “I think there’s always stuff to improve on… but I think it’s a good starting platform to grow from the rest of the season.”
Taylor now moves to 5-3 overall, with a 3-1 conference record in the MSFA Mideast League. In Mingo’s second season at the helm, the program has already eclipsed last season’s win total by two through eight games. A year-plus under new team philosophies and systems, Mingo said the players continue to double down on who they are not only as a team but on how they can be the greatest stewards of the talents and gifts God has given them.
Severt said the whole team is beginning to see the work they have been putting in come out on the other side in the form of wins and success.
“There’s just a sense of hope and encouragement that feels really good surrounding the team,” Severt said.