From 2008 through 2012, the Trine football program won 45 of 55 games, an average of nine victories a season.
And the beat appeared to be continuing last September when the Thunder began 3-1. But plagued by some injuries, Trine lost five of six to close the 2013 season, finishing with a disappointing 4-6.
“It had not happened to us for a while, so I guess it was our turn,” ninth-year coach Matt Land said.
“You don't like it, but like the old saying goes, ‘You are what you are,' and we were 4-6.”
The Thunder returns seven offensive starters and six defensive starters and fully expect to return to their winning ways.
“Our offensive line has to come together early,” Land said of what could be an early indication of a winning season.
Gage Corner, a junior receiver from Leo and a second-team MIAA selection last season who caught 62 passes for 915 yards and four touchdowns, will be the primary big-play weapon for Land's offense.
“Gage is a great wide receiver,” Land said. “He had a great year last year and hopefully will follow it with an even better one this year. He has a knack for playing the wide receiver position, which includes catching, blocking and running routes. He is a great and very skilled wide receiver who works very hard at his craft.”
Senior quarterback Andrew Dee also returns, as does running back Austin Shoemaker. The offensive line will be anchored by right tackle Jacob Turner from Bishop Dwenger.
Defensively, the Thunder expect to be better.
Safety Tyler Guzy is the team's leading returning tackler with 56. He also has six interceptions during his career that includes 20 starts. Michael Spears likely will start at the other safety position.
Trine has three defensive line starters returning, including Brian Hogan.
“Defensively, we have to develop some depth in our secondary,” Land said. “Because of what happened last year, we have a lot of kids in our program who got a lot of playing time. Hopefully, that will be a benefit to us this season.”
While 13 of 22 starters are slated to return, Trine will have a new place-kicker and a new punter, which means Land will be focusing on special-teams play during training camp.
“A lot of our kids had opportunities to play a lot of downs for us last season,” Land said. “We hope that pays off in a big way for us.”