Graphic by Lydia Calderon
Defense wins championships.
In this case for the Olivet Comet football program, history would suggest defense plays the most vital role for a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) championship this year.
Olivet, who comes into the 2015 season tied with Trine for third in the MIAA preseason poll, exploded offensively in 2014, totaling an outlandish 34.7 points per game.
Since 2000, the Comets have played a minimum of 10 games each season (except in 2002). In that era, only one team in school history has manufactured more offense: the 2004 Comet program shattered expectations when it rushed for more than 4,100 yards and dropped on the scoreboard 46 points per game.
Only one could think, how the hell did that roster fail to attain a playoff bid?
The defensive statistic you are looking for is 28.4 points per game allowed.
Olivet finished the year 5-2 in the MIAA. The two losses coming against Alma, 21-18, and Hope, 41-24. Alma would secure the conference title later that season finishing 6-1.
The key in both losses came from a lackluster performance on the offensive side of the ball. Eighteen was the lowest amount of points Olivet scored in 2004.
Does it sound selfish that an offense which dominated all season fell short in back-to-back weeks? Or was it an unreliable defense that was needed at the most opportune time?
So why does protecting the end zone hold so much significance in the MIAA?
Since 2002, only four times has the conference champion allowed 20 points per game or more in the entire season, including non-conference opponents. Albion won the title in 2013 when they gave up a staggering 27.7 points per game. But in conference play, the Britons defense only allowed 13.1.
Let’s switch perspectives.
In the last 13 seasons, five of those MIAA champions surfaced 20-plus points per game.
That means roughly 72 percent scored 30 points or greater on average. Only once has the conference titleholder boasted a favorable 40-point average. Trine accomplished that feat back in 2010, unleashing an absurd 47.5 points per game.
In that same season with that same group of individuals, the Thunder devoured offensive egos, holding opponents to a whopping 10.7 points per game.
Behind a lightning quick and flashy offense came a controlling defense that helped neutralize opponents. But, we as fans, are always entertained by an energetic, high-powered offensive attack over a robust, old-fashion defensive beat down.
Olivet accompanied the other 28 percent in 2007, leading the way with 25.3 points per game. But thanks in part to a sturdy defense: 17.7 points allowed on average, and the Comets captured an MIAA title.
I believe the time has come once again for this senior-oriented football squad.
The Olivet Comets will win the MIAA title in 2015.
More importantly this will be their second Div. III playoff birth in school history.
Olivet returns 10 starters on offense and six on defense.
It all starts up front. In this case, a loaded senior crew that is easily the most experienced in the conference. First-team offense Jacob Cramer and second-team offense Ty Rozema highlight the offensive line.
Second-team senior wide out Kyle Bryson and second-team senior tight end Dominik Givens, lead the receiving attack. Not to forget senior Jason Barbosa who led the Comets in receptions and receiving yards last season. Second-team junior running back Damorria Lilly returns after a 1,000-yard rushing season.
Finally, senior quarterback Braden Black returns after a remarkable season, in which he holds career records in Comet history for passing completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns.
Defensively, Olivet returns with an exceptional pass rush, including stand out transfer and junior nose tackle Robert Cuba, junior defensive end Justin Madar and senior Andrew Pabst. Senior linebackers Zachary Gropp, Trevor Garbow and Curtis French solidify their starting roles from a year ago.
Safety Javon Moore and cornerback Beau Langs are no longer with the team, which means new starting roles for promising sophomores Walter Love III and Christopher Thomas.
This is more than a team; it’s a family that has poured out blood, sweat and tears for more than three years together.
Now is the time to put the finishing touches on a well-endeavored career for these seniors.
Now is the time for history to be made. Now is the time for Comet football.