August 9, 2013

Trinity Football Set To Defend NESCAC Title This Fall

More news about: Trinity (Conn.)

Hartford, Conn. - The 2013 Trinity College football team, under the direction of Head Coach Jeff Devanney (8th Season), looks to become the first team to repeat as England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Champions since the Bantams took four in a row from 2002 to 2005 this fall. In a league where the title-winning team has had to win all eight games the last five years, Trinity is up to the challenge with the return of 60 letterwinners from the 2012 undefeated squad including no less than four who received pre-season All-American recognition. The Bantams, 36-4 over the last five autumns, led NESCAC in seven statistical categories a year ago, and boasts one of the most talented and accomplished stable of running backs in all of NCAA Division III with senior co-captain Evan Bunker (Topsfield, Mass.), senior Ben Crick (Middlebury, Conn.), and junior Michael Budness (Belchertown, Mass.). Fellow senior co-captain Brett Cde Baca(Millbrae, Calif.), an All-New England Division II/III linebacker, leads Trinity's perennially dominant defense.

The Bantams open 2013 at Bates, a formidable opponent that enjoyed its best season in recent memory last fall at 5-3, on Sept. 21, before hosting longtime rival Williams in its home opener on Sept. 28 at Jessee/Miller Field where Trinity holds a 47-game winning streak dating back to 2001. The following three weekends include games against teams with a combined record of 2-22 last season, but the last three Saturdays will be a tough test with road games at Middlebury and Amherst who were 7-1 and 6-2, respectively, a year ago, before the Homecoming finale in Hartford against Wesleyan. In 2012, Trinity edged the Cardinals, which were 5-3 last season, in overtime to clinch sole possession of the league crown.

Bunker will go down in Trinity football history as one the greatest players of all time. Already the Bantams' all-time leading rusher after three seasons including his rookie year when he was a reserve until the fourth week, Bunker is versatile, multi-skilled, and durable as the team's feature back. Bunker is the only player in Trinity history to rush for over 3,000 yards, and has 3,066 on 577 carries for a 5.3 per-carry average. He gained 1,275 yards on the ground last fall, 735 more than the second-leading rusher in the conference, with a league-best 11 touchdowns and has 28 pass receptions out of the backfield in three seasons. Crick is an explosive weapon out of the backfield and in the return game who averaged over 100 all-purpose yards per game and finished seventh in the NESCAC with 540 rushing yards. Budness, who possesses the skills to be a starter at tailback, fills countless roles for the Bantams, including FB, H-back, TE, and RB, and joined Bunker and Crick as Pre-Season All-American selections. He was second on the team with 14 catches in 2012, scored six touchdowns, and helped the Bantams average 5.5 yards per carry as the lead blocker on many occasions. All three can run, catch, and block as needed, allowing Trinity to use multiple formations without changing personnel.

Trinity graduated four players with starting experience, all of whom received various levels of post-season honors and awards during their careers, on the offensive line, but return two solid players to rebuild around. Junior Joe Magardino (Chappaqua, N.Y.) stepped in as a starting tackle last fall, but should slide easily to his natural position a center this season, while sophomore Matt Porter (Chicago, Ill.) enjoyed a fine year as a rookie starter at tackle. Replacing multiple-year starters at guard will not be easy, particularly All-East Region honoree and three-time All-NESCAC selection Mike Valenti, but sophomore Jake Golden (Hingham, Mass.) is a leading candidate to win one of the spots. Senior William Emery (Glenside, Pa.), juniors Connor Flynn (Sarasota, Fla.) and William Lynner (Cohasset, Mass.), and sophomore Mike Castellana (Brooklyn, N.Y.) will also be among the contenders for major roles on the Bantam offensive line.

Quarterback is another position where pre-season competition will determine the depth chart, as Trinity looks to replace Ryan Burgess' 15-0 record as a starter under center. Sophomore Henry Foye (Madison, Conn.) had a good rookie year and junior J.P. Morales (Uncasville, Conn.) is a talented athlete and has leadership skills. The pair will vie with underclassmen throughout late August and early September for the starting nod. Senior WR A.J. Jones (Freetown, Sierra Leone) will give any Trinity quarterback a lethal outside deep threat, having averaged 28.7 yards on 13 catches with five touchdowns in 2012. Juniors Chris Ragone (Sarasota, Fla.), Adrian Johnson (Philadelphia, Pa.), and Will Herbert (Winchester, Mass.) and sophomore Ian Dugger (West Hartford, Conn.) are the other top returning wide outs hoping to fill the shoes of four-year starter Drew Grombala. Ragone has 15 catches for 276 yards over two seasons. Junior Brendan  Oliver (Danvers, Mass.) is a solid returning tight end and freshman TE Luke Viering (Ponte Vedra, Fla.) makes his return after missing 2012 with an injury.

Trinity, which finished in the top ten nationally in scoring defense, total defense, pass efficiency defense, and passing defense last season, has five returning starters and a host of upperclassmen with significant varsity experience at several positions. Junior Nate Cyr (Kingston, N.H) was outstanding at DE late last fall, tying for the team lead in tackles for loss with eight to go with 27 tackles and a pair of sacks, while senior Andrew Paul (Pompton Plains, N.J.) and sophomore Preston Kelly (Orange, Calif.) are also solid at the position. Senior David Jung (Edgemont, N.J.) and sophomore Tyler Hightower (Darby, Pa.) give the Bantams a strong rotation at nose tackle.

Cde Baca and junior Rob Gau (Westport, Conn.) are as good a pair of inside linebackers as any in the league, and both have been regulars in each of the last two years. Cde Baca had 35 tackles and tied for the team lead with eight tackles for loss, while Gau helps the team in a variety of ways having notched 39 tackles, six tackles for loss, and three pass breakups as a sophomore. Junior OLB and Pre-Season All-American Honorable Mention selection Tom Szymanski (Dracut, Mass.) is a force on one side of the defense, and senior Michael Weatherby (Atlantic City, N.J.) is in his third year as a starter on the other side. Szymanski, All-NESCAC First Teamer last year, is Trinity's top returning tackler with 42 hits and 4.5 tackles for loss in 2012.  Several young players will compete for playing time.

In the secondary, three multiple-year regulars were lost to graduation including 2013 NESCAC Player of the Year and All American Rae Haynes and Defensive MVP Julian Brown at the safety positions. Senior CB Akeem Labitue (Dorchester, Mass.) is an exciting and opportunistic veteran at one corner, while junior CB's Joe Diaz (Monroe, Conn.) and Brian Dones (Philadelphia, Pa.) and sophomore Paul McCarthy (North Attleboro, Mass.) all have the ability to start as well. Junior Mike Mancini (Rocky Hill, Conn.), who was fourth on the squad with 41 tackles (26 solo) last season, has started a number of games the last two seasons.  Senior Brendan Bader (Brookfield, Conn.) and junior Casey Tanner (Wellesley, Mass.) are the top candidates at the strong safety position and will compete with a number of talented young players. Sophomore Kyle Pulek (Cheshire, Conn.) was an All-NESCAC honoree at punter in his first season and will look to add the placekicking duties to his responsibilities with the graduation of Tim Costello.

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