Dragons routed in season finale

ALLENDALE, Mich. — Tiffin had an early lead but turnovers got the best of the Dragons which allowed Grand Valley State to come back and take a commanding win Saturday 45-7.

The Dragons lost three of their four fumbles and threw an interception in the loss.

TU took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. JaQuan Hardy capped an eight-play, 58-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring run. Hardy rushed for 45 yards to lead the drive.

“The running game was pretty successful up to that point,” Tiffin coach Gary Goff said. “Our defense came up with some critical stops there early and got us the ball and we had a few nice drives.”

The Lakers tied the game 7-7 with 6:37 left in the second quarter. A nice punt return setup a short field for Grand Valley. The Lakers started at the Tiffin 23. Bart Williams found Brandon Bean for a quick 8-yard toss to finish the drive.

Grand Valley took a 14-7 lead with just over two minutes left in the half. The Lakers had great field advantage after setting up shop at the TU 33. Dre’on Kemp capped the drive, pushing his way in for a 4-yard score.

“We had a turnover right there in the second quarter and it gave them a second touchdown,” Goff said. “Then we drove down and attempted a field goal that got blocked … We had a chance to go in at 14-10 but we were down seven at halftime and we though we were in pretty good shape right there.”

The second half was all Grand Valley.

Williams connected with Bean for two more scores in the third quarter. The first was a 17-yard pitch-and-catch that came at the 10:50 mark on a drive that went 40 yards on two plays. The second hookup came a little over three minutes later from 3 yards out for a 28-7 lead.

Kemp added another scoring run with under five minutes left in the third. He was able to break free for a 25-yard sprint for a 35-7 lead.

Early in the final quarter, place kicker JJ McGrath — who was 5 for 5 on extra points — kicked a 24-yard field goal to cap a drive that took over four minutes off the clock. Shortly after the field goal Bean scored his fourth TD of the day. The scoring pass came from backup QB Cole Kotopka from 3 yards away.

“Just turnovers,” Goff said about what happened in the second half. “We had way too many turnovers. We had some mistakes on special teams and let (Grand Valley) play on the short end of the field in the second half.

“They got some deep balls on us and scored. Offensively we just couldn’t get anything going,” he said. The Dragons finished with 192 total yards while the Lakers piled on 450.

Tiffin entered the game a little beat up. Goff said that he had 14 starters, including his No. 1 QB Nick Watson, were injured or banged up.

“We were a banged up squad, but that’s no excuse. We can’t make those critical mistakes against very good football teams. The turnovers and the play on special teams really cost us,” he said.

Tiffin finishes its season 6-5 overall and 5-4 in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference giving the program its second winning season in a row.

“Considering all the adversity and everything we were faced with this year, I’m very proud of our team,” Goff said. “To have another winning season in arguably the toughest Division II conference in the nation is pretty impressive.”

The Dragons finished fourth in the GLIAC behind Saturday’s opponent.

“We’ve got a lot to be to be upbeat and positive about,” Goff said. “We’re looking to add some more weapons to our team … We played a lot of young guys this year. We’re gonna lose a couple key players here and there but we’re very excited about the direction of the program.”