Please Be Kind, Rewind: Taking a Look Back at the Thunder Football Season

The Thunder had their fifth consecutive winning season under head coach Matt Land, finishing 7-3 for the second year in a row. While they did not achieve the ultimate goal every team dreams of, winning the national championship, let’s take a look back of some of the highlights of the season.

Offensive MVP: Wide receiver JaVontae Hence

Is there any doubt in this selection? Hence was the go-to guy on offense, catching 64 passes for 865 yards (86.5 yards per game) with four touchdowns. He was nearly responsible for half the Thunder’s receiving yardage and catches. He had four one hundred yard games, including an otherworldly 175 yard effort against Hope. Always seeming to be in the right spot at the right time, Hence is the all-time leading receiver in Thunder history and was named the 2012 Offensive MIAA MVP as well.

Defensive MVP (tie): Defensive back Blaek Combs & Defensive end Louis Danesi

Both of them played key roles in the Thunder defense, swinging the outcome of games and helping Trine finish in the upper half of total defense in Division III.

Combs performed double duty as hard hitter and big play machine, finishing the year with 60 total tackles (31 solo), five interceptions, two fumble recoveries and three pass breakups. His 17 total tackles versus Albion and two interception game versus Adrian were individual game team highs. He was a second team All-MIAA defense selection.

Danesi finished with 68 tackles (35 solo), 8 sacks, and 15.5 tackles for loss on the season. His seven tackle, three sack, game versus Kalamazoo was a key factor in the 30-20 win. Danesi finished first in total tackles for loss and finished thirdoverall on the Thunder defense in total tackles on the season.  He was a first team All-MIAA defense selection.

Special Teams MVP: Kick returner/Punt Returner JaVontae Hence

The return units were one of the best in the nation, and Hence was one of the biggest reasons why. Teaming up with Myron Puryear on kickoff returns Hence averaged 31.2 yards on nine returns which would have ranked second nationally if he had enough attempts. Hence’s 93 yard kickoff return versus Hope was a school record and was such a source of excitement for the team the sideline got an excessive celebration penalty.

Hence took on most of the punt return duties, and finished with seven returns for 105 yards and a touchdown. Teams wanted to avoid Hence as much as possible through pooch kicking and booting it out of bounds in an attempt to limit his impact. Teams in the conference had so much respect for him in conference; they voted him a 1st team All-MIAA selection as a return specialist.

Most Improved Player: Linebacker Caleb Nitz

After a 2011 season in which he did not start a game and finished with 30 total tackles, Nitz started every game and emerged as a first team All-MIAA linebacker in the Thunder defense in 2012. Nitz finished with 72 tackles (37 solo), 9.5 tackles for loss, and a sack. He finished with five games of nine tackles or more, including a twelve tackle effort in the opener versus Manchester.

Rookie of the Year Award: Linebacker Charles Dreessen

Dreessen as a freshman had a big impact off the bench for the Thunder defense this year. He played in seven games, finishing with 13 total tackles and 2.5 sacks on the year. Him along with freshman contributors such as defensive lineman Jake Boswell, wide receiver Gage Corner, and running back Jamil Davis are what give the Thunder a very bright future.

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