Hartford, Conn., Sept. 18, 2013 - The Trinity College football team, which won its sixth New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title in the last 11 years with a perfect 8-0 record last fall, will open the 2013 campaign with a trip to Lewiston, Maine to take on the Bates College Bobcats on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 1 p.m. Trinity, under 2012 NESCAC Co-Head Coach of the Year Jeff Devanney (8th season, 49-7), owns a 34-year winning streak (19 games) against the Bobcats that dates back to 1979 including a 37-16 triumph in last season's opener in Hartford. The Bantams, 36-4 over the last five autumns, led NESCAC in seven statistical categories a year ago, and boast 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. Trinity, which leads the all-time series against Bates, 33-7, finished 2012 ranked No. 1 in the New England Division III Poll and sits in the second spot in this year's first poll. This week's New England Division III Football Poll: 1. Springfield (2-0), 2. Trinity (Conn.) (0-0), 3. Worcester State (2-0), 4. Framingham State (1-1), 5. MIT (2-0), 6. Salve Regina (1-1), 7. Middlebury (0-0), 8. Endicott (1-1), 9. Amherst (0-0), 10. Western Connecticut (1-0).
Bunker and Crick combined for 1,867 of Trinity's 2,401 yards (281 ypg, 7th in nation) on the ground last season. One of the nation's top returning running backs, Bunker was second nationally in rushing in 2012 with 1,275 yards and eclipsed the College's all-time rushing record in 2012 with a total of 3,066 yards in less than three seasons as the starter. Crick, who has the burst and speed to break any run, catch, or return for a long touchdown, rushed for 540 yards last fall with six touchdowns on his way to a second-straight All-NESCAC season. Budness joins the two seniors as an elite talent, having earned all-league honors as a fullback last season while rushing and receiving for 325 yards and six scores last autumn. Trinity has to replace the loss of four graduated offensive linemen due to graduation, but junior C Joe Magardino (Chappaqua, N.Y.) and sophomore OT Matt Porter (Chicago, Ill.) are returning regulars on the interior and junior Brendan Oliver (Danvers, Mass.) is back at both tight end and as the long snapper. Sophomore Henry Foye (Madison, Conn.) and freshman Sonny Puzzo (West Caldwell, N.J.) are the top candidates under center, while senior A.J. Jones (Upper Darby, Pa.) is a legitimate deep threat at wide receiver. Jones had 373 yards receiving with five touchdowns and set a Bantam record with 28.7 yards per catch.
Trinity topped the NESCAC rankings in five major defensive categories last season, as the Bantams allowed just 13.9 ppg (9th in nation), yielded 138 yards through the air per game (5th in nation), held opponents to 254.8 yards per game (8th in nation) and an 80.8 pass efficiency rating (3rd in nation), and posted a 152.8 pass efficiency on offense. Cde Baca is a two-year starter at one inside spot who had 35 tackles and eight tackles for loss last season, and junior Rob Gau (Westport, Conn.) is a top-notch playmaker with 39 tackles, six tackles for loss, and three pass breakups in 2012 at the other inside linebacker position. On the outside, senior Mike Weatherby (Atlantic City, N.J.) and All-NESCAC junior Tom Szymanski (Dracut, Mass.), who amassed 42 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in 2012, make the position one the team's strengths. Senior CB Akeem Labitue (Dorchester, Mass.) and junior S Mike Mancini (Rocky Hill, Conn.) are top returners in the secondary, having recorded 29 tackles and 41 tackles, respectively, last season. Junior Nate Cyr (Kingston, N.H.), who finished with eight tackles for loss and a pair of sacks in his first season as a starter, and sophomore Preston Kelly (Orange, Calif.) are solid returning defensive ends. Sophomore P Kyle Pulek (Cheshire, Conn.) was stellar as a rookie, earning All-NESCAC honors with 38.3 yards per attempts and 13 kicks inside the 20-yard line last year, and rookie Ben Rosenblatt (Newton Center, Mass.) is placekicker.
"Bates is an extremely well-coached and disciplined team that causes headaches on both sides of the ball," said Devanney. "Both their triple option offense and their 3-5-3 defensive alignment are very different than anything anyone else in our league will do."
The Bates College football squad enjoyed a historic season in 2012, finishing 5-3 to record the program's first winning season since the team went 6-2 in 1981. Bates also won its first CBB championship since 2002, defeating both Colby and Bowdoin last year, and finished third in the nation last season in turnover differential at +13. Bobcat Head Coach Mark Harriman earned NESCAC Co-Coach of the Year honors, while current Bates safety Andrew Kukesh took home All-NESCAC First Team accolades. Senior K Charlie Donahue and senior OL Liam O'Neil were 2012 All-NESCAC Second Teamers for the Bobcats. Bates does not a returning quarterback with experience, but senior WR Kevin Davis led the team with 30 receptions and 366 receiving yards in 2012, and senior RB Shawn Doherty had 237 rushing yards and 182 receiving yards last fall with a team-leading seven touchdowns. Junior LB's Gilbert Brown and John Durkin and Kukesh lead the Bates defense. Durkin led the team with 44 solo tackles and 12 tackles for loss a year ago, while Kukesh added 55 tackles and six interceptions, and Brown had 49 total stops and picked off three passes.