Hartford, Conn. - The Trinity College football team, coached by Jeff Devanney (12th Season), captured its ninth New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title in dominant fashion last fall, clinching the title in the seventh game of the season with a 24-14 win against Amherst and finishing with a 45-21 victory at Wesleyan to go 8-0 for the seventh time and the sixth season since 2003. The Bantams won six games by at least 24 points, scored at least 36 points in seven of eight games, and extended winning streaks of 18 games or more against Bates, Hamilton, and Bowdoin. Trinity returns 58 letterwinners and 12 starters from last year's squad, led by All-NESCAC senior tri-captains Liam Kenneally (Reading, Mass.), Sonny Puzzo (West Caldwell, N.J.), and Chris Simmons (Manchester, Conn.) in 2017. Seven players who earned All-NESCAC honors in 2016 will grace the roster this autumn, and an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball and on special teams return.
The Bantams have once again set themselves up for a run at an undefeated campaign, but it will require an extra effort as the NESCAC has added a ninth game to the league schedule for the first time in conference history. Trinity, ranked No. 2 in New England in 2016, will play five times at home this fall, including a chance at its 21st-consecutive, season-opening win on September 16 against Colby. An undefeated season has been necessary to win the NESCAC title in 13 of the last 16 years.Puzzo is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the Northeast, having won the NESCAC Rookie of the Year award and a Boston Globe Gold Helmet Award, and having collected All-NESCAC First Team honors in 2016. Puzzo, a dual threat, totaled 1,778 yards in a total offense while completing 60.1 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns and a QB rating of 153.1 last year. Junior David Ryan (Woodbridge, Conn.) has developed into a quality backup under center. Trinity looks to continue its lethal efficiency in the red zone after scoring 91.4 percent of the time last fall.
Junior RB Max Chipouras (Longmeadow, Mass.) was the 2015 NESCAC Offensive Rookie of the Year and added All-NESCAC First Team honors in the Trinity offensive backfield last fall. He gained 910 rushing yards and averaged 5.8 yards per carry with eight touchdowns in 2016. Sophomore Shelby Grant (Darien, Conn.) is an exciting tailback option, while versatile senior Ethan Suraci (North Haven, Conn.) can fill in at either fullback or tailback. The Bantams will need to replace the 990 all-purpose yards that departed WR/KR Darrien Myers provided prior to his graduation in May, but junior John Spears (Haverhill, Mass.) has shown flashes over his first two autumns as a Bantam, and classmate Andrew Meoli (Guilford, Conn.) has potential. Juniors Matt LaPorta (Ridgefield, Conn.), Ryan Brown (Fairfield, Conn.) and Ben Feola (Woodbridge, Conn.) are also possibilities and provide quality depth at wide-out. Seniors Clifford David (Lower Gwynedd Valley, Pa.) and Matt Hirshman (Berwyn, Pa.) are both solid at tight end both blocking and receiving.
Simmons is nothing short of dominant on the Trinity offensive line, and has even attracted the attention of NFL scouts while leading the Bantam ball carriers to averages of 4.7 yards per carry and over 215 yards per game in 2016. Simmons was the 2014 NESCAC Rookie of the Year, has received All-NESCAC recognition the last two seasons, and graced the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division III All-American Team in his junior season. Classmate Joe Farrah (West Hartford, Conn.) returns for his third year as a starter, and sophomore Austin Baiardi (Smithtown, N.Y.) is back for his second after both played themselves onto the All-NESCAC team a year ago. Juniors Sam Bowtell (Darien, Conn.) and Steve O'Reilly (Topsfield, Mass.) also have significant game experience on the offensive line, and a host of others, both veterans and newcomers will push for time in pre-season and beyond.
The Trinity defense finished No. 5 nationally in pass efficiency defense (91.61), No. 6 in sacks (3.88 per game), No. 9 in scoring defense (13.6 ppg) and No. 12 in total defense (263.5 ypg) while yielding less than 100 rushing yards per game. The linebacking corps will once again be a team strength, led by Kenneally and fellow senior Carty Campbell (Stamford, Conn.), a two-year starter, on the inside and multiple talents on the outside. Kenneally, a two-time All-NESCAC honoree, has 105 tackles over the last two seasons, and added a team-high six sacks in 2016, while Campbell was third on the squad with 33 hits. Juniors Shane Libby (Scituate, Mass.), Dago Picon-Roura (Roslindale, Mass.), and Sean Smerczynski (Topsfield, Mass.) have each been outstanding over two seasons, while junior Jacob Martilotti (Wayne, Pa.) and sophomore Daniel Negron (Hartsdale, N.Y.) are also capable. Libby has 56 tackles, eight sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in his career, while Picon-Roura adds 56 tackles and three interceptions, and Smerczynski made 20 tackles as a rookie and was a disruptive force when injuries didn't keep him off the field a year ago.
The secondary will feel the loss of four All-NESCAC selections to graduation, including 2016 NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year Shane Donahue, but senior John Medina (Pinecrest, Fla.) and junior Sameir Madden (Norristown, Pa.) should fill in nicely at safety, and junior safeties Chandler Colberg (Madison, Conn.) and Niles Easley (Norristown, Pa.) are eager to make their mark along with talented sophomore Matt Patry (Medfield, Mass.). On the corners, senior Dominique Seagears (Silver Spring, Md.) leads a young group that also includes junior Edosa Onaiwu (Roslindale, Mass.) and sophomore Emile Bamfield (Brooklyn, N.Y.).
Senior Brandon Blaise (Morristown, N.J.) and juniors Corey Jean Jacques (Haverhill, Mass.) and Nick Rose (Arlington, Mass.), who emerged as a starter on the end in 2016, are veteran returners on the defensive line, who will look to replace graduated All-NESCAC honorees Matt D'Andrea and Jamie Law. Senior Denzel Munroe (Brooklyn, N.Y.) comes back healthy for his final year, while sophomores Josh Brito (Wayland, Mass.) and Devyn Perkins (Brookline, Mass.) have shown promise.
Junior Eric Sachse (Cheshire, Conn.) was an All-NESCAC honoree and an All-American last fall after enjoying arguably the best season of any Trinity placekicker in history. His perfect percentage on 50 kicks led the nation, as he nailed all 37 of his PAT tries and each of his 13 field goals (2nd nationally) while finishing No. 13 in the country in scoring with 82 points. Sophomore Ian McDonald (Avon, Conn.) averaged 37 yards on 39 punts in his first season as the Bantam punter, and will face competition from classmate Kimball Winans (Los Angeles, Calif.). Spears is a likely replacement for Myers as Trinity's top kick return threat.