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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Echo

Football makes critical improvements in Mingo’s second year

Improvements include fewer turnovers

In head coach Aaron Mingo’s second season, Taylor’s football team took a step forward on the process toward the team’s goal of being the best Christian college football program in the country.

With a record of 5-6, the team finished fifth out of eight teams in the MSFA Mideast League, finishing ahead of Saint Francis, Lawrence Tech and Madonna.

Picked to finish seventh in the league, only ahead of Madonna, the team exceeded expectations with a record of 3-4 in the league.

The season kicked off on Aug. 27 on a beautiful night in Detroit against Lawrence Tech. 264 rushing yards for Taylor and a stout effort against Lawrence Tech’s running game helped the Trojans to a 27-12 victory.

Taylor’s home opener against Judson was close in the first half, but the Trojan offense flourished in the second half with 38 unanswered points, winning 52-6.

The first loss of the season came against Butler. Out of the gate, Taylor scored on the first drive but stalled after, scoring just three points after, losing 45-10.

Back at Turner Stadium the next week, the team got back on track, defeating Trinity International 41-19 to move to 3-1, their best start since 2011.

The next two games did not bode well for the Trojans. Olivet Nazarene spoiled Taylor’s perfect home record the next week, scoring 35 first half points before eventually winning 49-14. Taylor then traveled to Marian, the Knights’ homecoming game, only to get blown out 67-7. While the team only scored seven points, they put up 300 yards of total offense in the game.

A much-welcomed bye week was next for the Trojans before returning back to Turner Stadium to face off against Concordia. The Trojans started out strong, getting out to a 14-0 advantage, though it would be erased by halftime. A strong second half performance gave the Trojans a huge 24-21 victory.

Homecoming was next, with the Trojans taking on Madonna. The Trojan offense had quite the day against Madonna’s defense with 507 yards of offense, winning 52-23 — the last Trojan victory of the year — to make their record 5-3.

The last three games of the season were spoiled by multiple turnovers each game. Losses to Saint Francis, Indiana Wesleyan and Siena Heights closed out the season. 

The Trojans ended their season 5-6, an improvement over last season’s record of 3-7. It was one of many improvements. Two of the biggest improvements were nearly doubling the amount of passing yards and having fewer turnovers.

“The alignment inside our program, the love that our guys have for one another, the work put in during the off-season last year and a strong incoming group of newcomers all combined to produce positive results for us,” Mingo said were other reasons for the growth.

Senior Elijah McCloskey threw for 1,496 yards to go along with 10 touchdowns as he led the improved passing game. 

Sophomore Dakohta Sonnichsen and junior Hutson Hohlbein were McClockey’s favorite targets, with 546 and 467 receiving yards, respectively. 

“Our offense will always evolve, and this year we felt like it could be one of our strengths with the speed we had on the perimeter,” McCloskey said.

Juniors Dylan Scally and Brendan Lamb led the running game with 595 and 531 rushing yards, respectively. Scally led the team with six rushing touchdowns.

Defensively, junior Jacob Hockett led the team in tackles and tackles for loss with 122 and 15. Junior Braxton Green led the team in sacks with four sacks, despite an injury-filled season. Junior Reid Wheeler was a ballhawk with three interceptions: the highest on the team.

Senior kicker Zane Shilts was nearly perfect throughout the season, making eight of his nine attempted field goals and 32 of his 33 extra point attempts.

The team will only graduate 16 seniors and will bring back numerous players that contributed, showing that the Trojans have a bright outlook for 2023.