Trinity Football Suffers First Loss Of The Year At Amherst
Amherst, Mass. - The visiting Trinity College Bantams came up just short in a furious comeback effort, losing a 35-28 game to the Amherst College Lord Jeffs in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) football action this afternoon on Pratt Field. Trinity, ranked No. 1 in New England, loses its first game of the year and sees its winning streak snapped at 12 games. Amherst, ranked No. 2 in New England, improves to 7-0 and clinches at least a share of the NESCAC title. Trinity needs to win its season finale against Wesleyan next weekend at home, where the Bantams have a 42-game winning streak, coupled with a loss by the Lord Jeffs in their game at Williams next Saturday to earn a co-share of the league crown.
Trinity trailed, 21-0, advantage at halftime and,35-7, lead late in the third quarter, but scored the final 21 points of the game. Trinity could have easily rolled over after Amherst's Gordon Lockbaum intercepted a Ryan Burgess (Dracut, Mass.) in the end zone in the third quarter, thwarting the Bantams' chances of cutting the lead to three scores, but the visitors showed incredible poise and mounted a heroid comeback effort. In the midst of a promising drive with less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Bantams had their hopes dashed when Amherst's Landrus Lewis '13 intercepted a pass at the hosts' 19-yard line.
"I never thought we would lose that game until it actually ended," said Trinity senior co-captain Herman Brito (Wayland, Mass.). "That's been our attitude my whole career here. I am so proud of my teammates. This is a tough one to swallow."
The comeback attempt began when sophomore LB Steve Goniprow (Barrington, R.I.) blocked a punt, allowing classmate Brendan Bader (Brookfield, Conn.) to pounce on the ball at the Amherst one-yard line. Sophomore RB Evan Bunker (Topsfield, Mass.) took care of the rest, bringing the score to 35-14 with 3:07 remaining in the third. The Bantams closed out the third period with an interception by senior CB Matt Paskalides (Scarsdale, N.Y.), who brought the ball down to the Amherst 29-yard line. The turnover led to another Evan Bunker touchdown run, this time from six yards out. Bunker was stopped to his right, but cut back to his left and evaded more than one Amherst tackler to make it a 35-21 game with 14:08 to go.
Paskalides once again came through for the Bantam defense moments later, this time intercepting McMahon along the right sideline and returning the ball to the Amherst 30-yard line. Facing 4th-and-goal from the two-yard line, Burgess lofted a pass to tight end senior Allen Even (Wethersfield, Conn.) in the back of the end zone, cutting the visitors' deficit to only seven (35-28) with 5:21 left in regulation. Amherst killed a good chunk of the clock by picking up first downs, thanks to a Trinity face mask penalty and a pair of pivotal 3rd-and-11 catches by Samela and Ben Kettering. The Jeffs came as close as the 13-yard line, but a Rawson field goal attempt from 32 yards out was blocked by Bantam senior Mark Snyder (Rockaway, N.J.), giving the Bantams the ball back with 2:21 to work with. Facing 1st-and-10 from their own 48-yard line, the Bantams were finally laid to rest when Burgess was picked off by Lewis down the left sideline on a deep pass attempt to sophomore WR A.J. Jones (Freetown, Sierra Leone). With 1:26 remaining, the Jeffs took a knee and ran out the rest of the game clock.
The only points of the first quarter came when Amherst senior QB Brian McMahon hit Wade McNamara over the middle for a 14-yard touchdown pass. Amherst caught a break early in the second quarter when Trinity was called for roughing the kicker on a punt attempt, a critical play that led to a 14-yard touchdown run by McMahon with 13:50 on the clock. The Jeffs again capitalized on a Bantam miscue when the visitors fumbled a punt return, allowing Gordie Lockbaum to pick up the loose ball on Trinity's nine-yard line. Senior RB Eric Bunker ran in for a touchdown on the first play of the ensuing drive, giving the Jeffs a 21-0 lead with 8:59 to play in the second quarter. Neither team would score again in the first half, as the Bantams put together strong drives but were 0-for-3 on fourth down attempts. Trinity reached as far as the Amherst 24-yard line, keyed by a 32-yard pass from Burgess to rookie WR Will Herbert (Winchester, Mass.) but Trinity's next four passes fell incomplete.
Trinity needed less than two minutes to take back some of the game's momentum, as Burgess faked a handoff and took off to his left for a 56-yard touchdown run, making it a 21-7 game with 13:27 remaining in the third quarter. The next four minutes marked the turning point of the game, however, as the Jeffs scored two touchdowns of at least 60 yards to break open a 35-7 lead. On the drive following Burgess's big run, Mike Samela caught a pass at the Trinity 40-yard line with his back to the end zone. The Bantam defender slipped, allowing Samela to turn and pull away from the Bantam defense for a 60-yard touchdown. On the first play from scrimmage following a Trinity punt, Bunker broke through for a 75-yard touchdown run up the middle. Bunker out-ran a pair of Bantam defenders to make it a 28-point game with 8:56 to go in the third.
Eric Bunker ran for 111 yards on only 16 carries (6.9 ypc) and scored twice. Amherst had not allowed any opponent to run for 90 yards in a game this season, but the Bantams used their conference-leading rushing offense to pile up 286 yards on the ground. Evan Bunker carried the load with 124 yards and two touchdowns, with Burgess adding 77 yards and a TD. McMahon finished 22-of-42 for 250 yards and three touchdowns, two passing and one rushing. Burgess was 18-of-34 for 169 yards and two scores (one passing), while each quarterback was intercepted twice in the game. Samela led all receivers with 92 yards on five catches. Paskalides stood out with his two interceptions, while Goniprow had a team-high 10 tackles and Snyder recorded 3.5 tackles for loss. Amherst's Sam Clark had 14 tackles on the afternoon, with Kevin Heller adding 13 stops and a pair of pass breakups.