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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Echo
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Trojan football victorious in instant classic

Taylor wins thriller against St. Ambrose

Taylor University won an instant classic in their season opener at home against the St. Ambrose University Fighting Bees 37-34 on Aug. 26. 

A last-second, 24-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Damon Hockett put the Trojans up by three with only nine seconds left, but it was enough time for St. Ambrose to attempt a field goal to send the game to overtime. The Trojan faithful erupted when the kick came up short, clinching the win for Taylor University.

“Attendance at the game was awesome and there was so much good energy. I just want to say a huge thank you to the students and President Lindsay and the staff for rallying behind us and giving us their all,” senior defensive back Reid Wheeler said.

Both offenses fired on all cylinders as soon as the opening whistle blew. Taylor and St. Ambrose combined for 809 yards, 39 first downs and 9 touchdowns, but it was Taylor’s run game that propelled them to victory. Out of their 448 total yards, the Trojans earned 305 of them via the ground game.

Sophomore wide receiver Ja Thomas led the way for the Trojans with 108 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown on just 12 carries. Thomas also hauled in one reception for 56 yards.

Other significant contributors on the ground were senior wide receiver Stephen Ellis and sophomore quarterback Damon Hockett. Ellis had six carries for 60 yards and Hockett had nine for 31 yards, including the game-winning touchdown run.

“On that last play, I saw a crease and I knew I had to hit it. You could tell their defense was tired and I knew I had to get in the endzone,” Hockett said.

The defensive side of the ball was on point as well. Reid Wheeler and sophomore defensive back Dawson Scally each came down with interceptions with returns of 30 yards and 23 yards, respectively. 

Wheeler was a disruptor on defense last year coming down with three interceptions and 61 total tackles. With one interception already to his name this season, he says he is looking to add to that total.

“From the snap, I just watched the quarterback’s eyes and he was staring at his receiver, so when his arm came up to throw I jumped all over it,” Wheeler said.

Sophomore kicker Lucas Shilts won the MSFA (Mid-States Football Association) Special Teams Player of the Week. Shilts accounted for 13 points with three field goals, including one from 40 yards, and was perfect on extra points.

Senior wide receiver for St. Ambrose, Yemi Ward, had a career-defining game to start off his final season with the Fighting Bees. He hauled in five catches for 216 yards and four touchdowns. His biggest play came when he outran the Taylor secondary for a 76-yard touchdown catch.

 The Taylor football team has made solid improvements in just two short years under head coach Aaron Mingo. Coach Mingo led the Trojans to a 5-6 record last season after going 2-8 the season before. Mingo looks to give the Trojans their first winning season since the 2015 season where they went 7-3. 

“We’ve been steadily improving, and ironically, we are really focusing on individual games rather than worrying about our final record,” Mingo said.

Taylor does not have an easy schedule this season with three opponents ranked in the preseason Top 25 and two NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision opponents.

Taylor’s next game will be at home on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. versus #17 St. Francis (Illinois).