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Football wins big against Trinity Bible College

Ryan Slager ’19 takes down a player from Trinity Bible College

With a 46-0 win, The Grinnell College football team made a statement last weekend in their home opener against Trinity Bible College. The Pioneers scored 27 points in the second half and held Trinity to 34 yards of total offense. The team also set a school record for sacks in a game, with nine total, recorded their first shutout since 2009, and scored the most points in a game since 2014.

“Blowing out a team we’ve played competitively with for the last two years is exciting,” said Jeff Keele ’19. “Especially having our defense and offense in sync like that is something that is rare, so it’s a great win.”

The Pioneers set the tone early, opening the game with a five-play, 40-yard drive ending on a 26-yard run by Dustin Saia ’22. Saia ended the game with 16 carries for 162 yards and a touchdown. After punting on the subsequent drive, the Pioneers got the ball at its own 50-yard line and went 50 yards in 10 plays to reach the end zone again. This time quarterback Jake Kaplinski ’22 scored on an 8-yard run. Kaplinski ended the game 7 for 16 completions, passing for 94 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 23 yards and a touchdown on the ground. 

“We stayed focused,” said Cole Riley ’19, an offensive lineman for the Pioneers. “Even with a lead you can’t get too excited, you need to focus on your assignment every play. There were times we had to change up protections based on Trinity showing us some different looks, but we executed like we’ve been planning all season.”

The defense was just as dominant, only allowing Trinity across the 50-yard line three times all game. Ryan Slager ’19, linebacker, led the team with 11 tackles while Keele, a defensive end, had eight tackles and 3.5 sacks. 

“Everyone was just doing their job,” Keele said. “In past years we had guys get out of position to try to make a play but on Saturday everyone stayed disciplined. When that happens, gaps stay closed and really the offense can’t do very much. I think you saw that on Saturday.”

The Pioneers get a bye week following their big win, giving them a chance to gear up for a tough upcoming matchup. Head coach Jeff Pedersen knows it’s early but is also looking forward to the upcoming contests.

“We know we’ve got a big challenge ahead,” said Pedersen. “But we have a great mix of guys who are hungry. We might be fighting an uphill battle, in terms of numbers, against these teams, but we’re taking a good approach. The bye week gives us a chance to go back to fundamentals and also condition pretty hard, but we are definitely going to enjoy the bye week.”

Beyond St. Norbert, the Pioneers will match up with Ripon College at home and then away at Monmouth College, the reigning conference champions.

“We are facing some tough teams in the upcoming weeks, so we’ve got to be ready to meet that challenge,” Riley said. “The bye week will allow us to prepare, but we are going to need a good game from our defense, along with controlling the ball on offense so we don’t put our defense in a bad situation. If we can do that I’m optimistic we can have a good showing against the top teams in the conference.”

It’s early in the season, but Pedersen is encouraged by the strong start.

“It’s great to win at home,” he said. “It’s great for our veteran guys for all the hard work they’ve put in and great for our younger guys to get their first win. The whole team recognizes the work it takes, and they’ve been putting in that work so I’m excited for things moving forward.”

Ryan Slager ’19 takes down a player from Trinity Bible College
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