Hartford, Conn. – The home-standing Trinity College Bantams extended their winning streak on Jessee/Miller Field to 51 games with a 40-10 victory over the visiting and previously-undefeated Wesleyan University Cardinals in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) football season finale for both teams this afternoon. The Bantam defense held Wesleyan, the league's top rushing offense with 225 ypg, to 99 yards on 31 carries and intercepted three passes, while Trinity senior RB Ben Crick (Middlebury, Conn.) rushed for a game-high 103 yards and a touchdown, and senior captain RB Evan Bunker (Topsfield, Mass.) added 85 rushing yards and became the all-time leading rusher in NESCAC history with 3,828 career yards.
The Bantams, ranked No. 6 in New England, finish the year at 6-2, their 12th consecutive season with a 6-2 record or better, and improve their all-time mark against the Cardinals to 60-52-1 with their 13th win in a row over the state rivals. Trinity, which last lost at home in 2001 to Williams, 31-10, and has never lost a home game on turf (48-0), snaps a two-game losing skid and keeps Wesleyan from winning the outright NESCAC title. The Cardinals, ranked No. 1 in New England, finish the campaign at 7-1 and tied with Amherst and Middlebury for first place in the conference.
After punts by both teams to start the game, which was broadcast live on CPTV Sports and will be rerun at least twice during the coming week on the same channel, Trinity first-year QB Sonny Puzzo (West Caldwell, N.J.) tossed a first-down pass 44 yards to senior WR A.J. Jones (Upper Darby, Conn.) to give the Bantams the ball on the Wesleyan 11-yard line. Puzzo found senior WR Eddy Franca (Miami, Fla.) for Franca's first career reception and a three-yard score on 3rd-and-2 to give Trinity the first points of the contest, but the extra-point was missed for a 6-0 home-team lead. Trinity scored another touchdown on its next drive, marching 66 yards in six plays and finishing with Crick's 13-yard touchdown run for a 13-0 Bantam lead with 8:12 into the game.
Wesleyan got on the board with 7:09 left in the second quarter on a 39-yard field goal by senior K Sebastian Aguirre (Denville, N.J.), but Bantam freshman Ben Rosenblatt (Newton Center, Mass.) returned the favor with a field goal from the same distance set up by a 52-yard kickoff return by classmate Darrien Myers (North Andover, Mass.). On the ensuing Wesleyan drive, a Jesse Warren (Chicopee, Mass.) pass was tipped into the air at the line by Trinity junior LB Rob Gau (Westport, Conn.) and intercepted by sophomore LB Frank Leyva (Pinecrest, Fla.) who returned it 20 yards to the Cardinal 20-yard line. On 3rd-and-2, Bunker ran right, but stopped and passed back across the field to Puzzo streaking down the left sideline for Trinity's third touchdown of the half and a 23-3 Bantam lead heading into the break.
Trinity took advantage of a short Cardinal punt midway through the third quarter, taking the ball on the Wesleyan 42-yard line and eventually upping its lead to 26-3 on a 24-yard field goal by Rosenblatt at the 5:53 mark. Trinity junior CB Brian Dones (Philadelphia, Pa.) broke up a Warren pass on 4th-and-3 to stop Wesleyan's first drive of the fourth quarter at the Cardinal 42-yard line, and two plays later Bunker rumbled 10 yards to pass Amherst's Fletcher Ladd (3,817 yards) as the all-time rushing leader in the conference. Two plays after that, Puzzo hit Jones for a 31-yard scoring toss down the left sideline, and the Bantams led, 33-3. Warren connected with sophomore WR Rob Manning (South Kingstown, R.I.) for a 15-yard pass on first down, and found junior WR Jay Fabien (Avenel, N.J.) first for 13 yards and then for 45 yards down the middle for a touchdown with 8:17 left in the game. Leading , 33-10, Trinity killed off 5:57 on its next drive, thanks largely to six Crick runs for 36 yards, but the Cardinals stopped Crick on fourth down one-yard shy of the first-down marker at their own 25-yard line. Wesleyan gained 26 quick yards, but Warren was hurried by Trinity junior OLB Tom Szymanski (Dracut, Mass.) and his pass to the left flat was picked off by junior S Casey Tanner (Wellesley, Mass.) who returned the ball 60 yards to paydirt to account for a 40-10 final tally.
Trinity totaled 249 rushing yards, averaged 5.1 yards on 49 carries. Puzzo finished 6-for-12 for 105 yards passing and added 53 rushing yards, while Jones totaled 75 yards on his two catches. Junior RB Kyle Gibson (Ridgewood, N.J.) led Wesleyan with 54 rushing yards on 15 attempts, and Warren was 15-for-36 for 171 yards through the air but was victimized by his only three interceptions of the season. Senior OLB Mike Mancini (Rocky Hill, Conn.) was the game's leading tackler with 10, while Gau had nine stops. Trinity broke up 13 passes, including three to go with an interception by senior S Brendan Bader (Brookfield, Conn.) and a game-high five breakups by Dones. Junior DT Nik Powers (New York, N.Y.) and freshman DB Justin Sanchez (Chicago, Ill.) paced Wesleyan with six tackles apiece, and Cardinal senior DE Jordan Otis (Maplewood, N.J.) added four tackles, two tackles for losses, and a sack.