Friday, October 16, 2015

Game Day, Part I:
Olivet conquers Trine in MIAA matchup

Trine University has produced formidable football teams through most of the past decade, and this year's team had a record of 3-1 after four games of the 2015 season. But the Thunder had to be wary entering last Saturday's homecoming game against undefeated Olivet (Mich.) College, which had won all four of its games by double-digit margins, including a 74-13 blowout of Earlham College to open the season.

The Comets demonstrated without a doubt which was the better team Saturday, amassing 420 total yards, including 265 on the ground, in winning their fifth straight, 49-24, to share the lead in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with Albion at 2-0. The co-leaders square off Oct. 31 at Olivet.

Trine, which is in northeastern Indiana and is the only Indiana school in the MIAA football league, got off to a good start after winning the toss and electing to defer possession. The Thunder defense held Olivet to a three-and-out -- and the Comets' only punt of the game -- before the Trine offense came on the field and marched 72 yards in 13 plays before sputtering inside the red zone. Twice the Thunder offense started plays from the 1-yard-line and could not punch it in, settling for a 19-yard field goal by Mark Haydock.

The Comets and Thunder then traded touchdowns, and the Thunder's 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter was their last of the game. Olivet would score 21 unanswered points -- all in the second quarter -- to hold a 28-10 halftime lead. When Braden Black ran it in from 2 yards out with 8:57 of the 4th quarter, the Comets held their biggest lead of the game, 35-17. Andre Houston capped the Comets' scoring with a 30-yard run with 1:02 left to play. Houston had 82 yards on 13 carries for the day, but teammate Damorria Lilly was the Comets' rushing workhouse, gaining 138 yards on 25 carries, including second-quarter touchdown runs of 7 and 10 yards. He is completing the former in the photo leading off the post.

Trine had 345 yards of total offense on the day, 294 of those coming through the passing of Taylor Masiewicz. who tossed 5- and 1-yard touchdown passes to Gage Corner. But Masiewicz also threw a costly interception that defensive back Trevor Haas returned 58 yards to set up one Olivet 4th quarter score, and the Thunder senior quarterback lost a fumble at the Comets' 3-yard-line in the second quarter. Comets' defensive end Cody Ross ran back the fumble 49 yards.

My visit to Trine was the latest in an ongoing personal project -- something I've labeled "Game Day" -- in which I tour and photograph small Indiana colleges and universities that field football teams.

It's a project that began with a visit to Franklin College in 2009 for a dramatic win by the Grizzlies over Trine then picked up steam two years later with trips to four campuses (Hanover, Wabash, DePauw and Marion) and in 2012 with visits to five, although only three of those (Taylor, Indianapolis and St. Francis) were first visits. Also visited as part of the tour were St. Joseph's, Rose-Hulman and Manchester. Still left on the list are Anderson and Earlham.

Photo geek stuff: I tried some new things for the Trine-Olivet game. For the game, instead of using the heavy Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens and 1.4 extender, which I've done to shoot most of the games in this project, I decided to use the lighter, and newer, Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens on my Canon 7D camera. I chose the 7D over the newer, and larger frame 6D because the 7D has a much faster burst rate, which is important in sports photography. This Tamron was made for full-frame cameras, but it also works on small-sensor cameras such as the 7D, rendering its focal range to effective 45-480mm. And for the campus shots (which I'll present in a subsequent post), I've normally used one of my Tamron long-range zooms (I also own the small-sensor Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD) because the vibration compensation (VC) and piezoelectric drive (PZD) technology is of superior enough quality to enable me to hand-hold the camera for exposure bracketing and high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing. (My 5.0.5a version of Photomatix HDR software also has some excellent deghosting tools to correct any camera blur I get from subject or camera movement while exposure bracketing). On Saturday, I used my Canon 6D camera and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens, mounted on a tripod, for the landscape shots. The 24-70 has no image stabilization, hence the tripod. But lugging the tripod across the campus in the couple hours it took to do the landscape shots before the game took some wear on my upper body, so I decided to go light for the game, hence the Tamron. The decision meant that I sacrificed some faster f/stops and, consequently, quality bokeh in background shots, and that became apparent with a good number of shots during post-processing. But for shots in which I could key in on just the players, the Tamron delivered just fine. Camera settings for the game shots: Average white balance, shutter priority mode (1/500), ISO-100. Most of the time, the variable f/stop setting maxed out at 3.5 to 6.3, depending on the zoom range at the time.   

For a full gallery of images from the Trine-Olivet game, visit my site at SmugMug. And as usual, to bring up and see bigger, sharper images, click on the photo.

Next up: A look at the Trine University campus and, in a separate post, the Trine marching band and High Voltage Dancers.

Above and below: The Trine cheerleaders led the Thunder onto the field before kickoff, and shortly afterward, several players gathered for a pre-kickoff huddle.

Above: Trine quarterback Taylor Masiewicz scampered for a modest gain early in the first quarter.

Above and below: After Olivet scored a touchdown in the first quarter to take a 7-3 lead, the Trine offense got a huge lift with the completion of a 47-yard pass to Jeffery Barnett (above) from Taylor Masiewicz. Three plays later (below), the Thunder took its last lead when Masiewicz hit Gage Corner with a 1-yard TD pass. 

Above: I don't often devote time to photographing punters' kicks; blocked punts are a rarity, and the odds of catching good shots of a fumbled catch and or a great return are much greater. When I have stuck around to shoot the punt, I've tried to catch that moment when ball meets foot. I hadn't been very successful in the past, but I was in this boot by Trine's Ben Cornell early in the second quarter on one of few times I lingered to photograph the kick. Alas, that "rarity" of a blocked punt materialized in the third quarter, on Trine's first offensive possession of the half. In advance of the fourth-down snap, I had darted to the other end of the field to be in position to photograph the catch and return, which I usually do. But Olivet's Travis Lankerd blocked Cornell's punt, giving the Comets great field position at the Trine 31. A failed fourth-and-4 attempt on that possession merely delayed the Comets' third-quarter offensive steamroll. 

Above and next two below: Olivet's Damorria Lilly ran untouched for this 10-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter, and afterward, teammates lined up to extend congratulations.

Above and next two below: Late in the second quarter, Trine's Taylor Masiewicz recovered from this bad snap from center to pick up 5 yards before being forced out of bounds at the Trine 43. The Thunder would eventually reach the Olivet 1 yard line before the drive ended on Masiewicz's fumble.

Above and next three below: I've had some bittersweet luck capturing pass receptions for touchdowns in the past -- I've gotten some great shots, only to have the plays not count because of a penalty or an official's ruling that a catch was not made in bounds. This one has to be the most frustrating. On a first and 10 from the Trine 10 on the Comets' drive after recovering and returning Masiewicz's fumble, Comets quarterback Braden Black connected with Kyle Bryson on this pass from the Trine 20. Not only was in perfect position to capture the throw from start to finish, but Bryson made a spectacular one-hand catch right in front of me -- and had full possession of the ball all the way to the ground after the catch. Unfortunately, Side Judge Darric Roesler strolled right in front of me as Bryson grabbed the ball, forcing me to implement a radical crop to minimize the distraction in the second photo below. In addition, Bryson was not able to get at least one foot in bounds to validate the catch, rendering the pass incomplete.

Above and next three below: Just like the above series of photos, this Trine pass play came right at me. Masiewcz threw to running back Lamar Carswell (6) behind the line of scrimmage. Carswell juked Olivet linebacker Zachary Gropp to elude one tackle but strong safety Zechariah Jenkins (4) caught up with Jenkins shortly afterward and tackled Carswell for a loss of 2 yards. Jenkins led the Comets' defense with 12 tackles -- 11 unassisted.  

Above and below: Cornerback Marcus Winters gave Trine some hope in the third quarter when he wrestled a Braden Black pass from intended receiver Jason Barbosa and returned it 20 yards to the Olivet 24.  

Above and next two below: Two plays after Winters' interception, the Thunder's Lamar Carswell (6) ran in for a touchdown from 11 yards out to trim Olivet's lead to 28-17. 

Above and below: On Olivet's next possession, Braden Black threw to Mitchell Bailey (12) for a four-yard gain. 

Above and below: With 24 seconds left in the third quarter, Olivet running back Andrew Houston (17) led quarterback Braden Black (15) through a small hole at the 2-yard line for a touchdown, giving the Comets a 35-17 lead.   

Above and below: Olivet runnings backs, including Andrew Houston (17), frequently found holes in the line for significant gains. 

Above and below: A Braden Black fourth quarter pass in the end zone barely slips through the hands of Terence Sheard (88).

Above: Braden Black's second 2-yard touchdown run was much more difficult than the first. He got this one with several Thunder defenders hanging on him.

Above and next two below: On the Thunder's final touchdown drive of the day, Taylor Masiewicz completed five passes to Jeffery Barnett, including this one for 16 yards, in which Barnett put a nice move on Olivet's Zechariah Jenkins (4) to get around the defender before being brought down by defensive back Trevor Haas (29). 

Above: Trine capped its scoring for the day when Gage Corner (1) hauled in -- and hung onto -- this pass from Taylor Masiewicz.

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