Memphis, Tennessee – The Tiger football team clinched a share of the Southern Athletic Association Championship with a 52-7 win over Rhodes (TN) College on Saturday.
Trinity scored at least once in every quarter of today's game, reaching 50 or more points for the third time this season.
The game started with Rhodes attempting an onside kick, but the Tigers recovered and took advantage of the short field. Trinity did settle for a 40-yard field goal from Charlie Sheppard to take a 3-0 lead after stalling in the red zone.
Rhodes let the Tigers with a short field again after going for it on fourth down at their own 33 yard line, and Trinity capitalized with a touchdown this time to take a 10-0 lead. Wyatt Messex capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge.
Trinity's defense picked up its first of four turnovers just two plays later, as Caleb Harmel forced a fumble that was picked up by Malik Ross inside the Rhodes 20. Three plays later, Messex hit Chris Stewart for a seven-yard touchdown to make it a 17-0 game after one quarter.
Trinity's scored on its next drive as well, which went for 69 yards on 14 plays, and put the Tigers in front 24-0 less than a minute into the second quarter. Messex hit Justin Ventura from six yards out to finish the drive.
Rhodes attempted a long pass downfield just two plays later, but Jesse Garcia intercepted it at the Trinity 15 yard line to put the ball back in the hands of the offense. Tiger offensive lineman Gabe Swift finished off an 11-play drive with his three-yard run that made it a 31-0 game midway through the second quarter.
The two teams got a little sloppy at the end of the half, turning the ball over three times on three straight possessions. Trinity took its 31-0 lead into the locker room after a late sack by the Tigers kept Rhodes from grabbing a last-minute score.
Messex hit Tommy Lavine for a 32-yard touchdown on Trinity's first drive of the second half, then the Tiger special teams got in on the scoring. Trinity blocked a punt for the second time in the game, but this time it was recovered for a three-yard touchdown by Griffin Lay. That put Trinity up 45-0 with 9:53 left in the third quarter.
Neither team threatened again the rest of the quarter, with Sheppard's 50-yard field goal attempt being the closest to a score either team had.
Rhodes started its only scoring drive in the final minute of the third, driving 88 yards in 13 plays to stop the Tiger shutout.
Trinity finished off the scoring after KaDarius Lee picked off his second pass of the game and returned it 44 yards to the Rhodes 2 yard line. Timmy Ware hit Lavine for a short touchdown on the next play, giving the Tigers a 52-7 lead with just under four minutes to play.
The Tigers finish the season with a seven-game winning streak and an overall record of 8-2. Trinity ties Berry (GA) College for the top spot in the final SAA standings, after Berry also won its final game today and both teams stand at 7-1 in conference play.
Tommy Lavine tied his season-best with 11 receptions for 152 yards, which is also the third time this season he has topped 150 receiving yards. He also caught two touchdown passes to pass Canaan Factor (1996-99) for third on the all-time list with 32 touchdown receptions in his career.
Wyatt Messex completed 18-28 through the air for 197 yards and three touchdowns, as well as running for another touchdown to account for four of the team's six offensive scores.
Griffin Lay rushed 12 times for 64 yards to lead the team, as well as picking up a special teams touchdown on a blocked punt by the Tigers.
Chris Stewart had a touchdown among his seven catches on the day, tallying 44 yards receiving and 10 more yards on punt returns.
KaDarius Lee had two interceptions for 56 yards in the game, doubling his career total in the process. He also had four tackles on the day and assisted on his first career sack as well.
Speaking of career firsts, senior wide receiver Justin Ventura tallied his first career touchdown in his final game with the Tigers. Offensive lineman Gabe Swift also scored on a three-yard run on his first career rushing attempt.
Trinity's defense had six sacks to go with four turnovers and six pass breakups, allowing just 161 yards of total offense and 32 yards rushing.
Matthew Willis had 1.5 sacks and 2.0 tackles for loss, totaling four stops on the day. Seven different Tiger players had at least a half-sack in the game.