ANTHONY ZUCARO ’16
The Trinity College Football team pulled off an impressive comeback to beat Middlebury 26-14 during a frighteningly close Halloween game this past Saturday. The Bantams have now improved their undefeated record to 6-0, making them and Amherst the only undefeated teams left in the NESCAC. Meanwhile, Middlebury’s record drops to 4-2.
Both teams came out fighting in the first quarter, but neither was able to score early on. Panther quarterback Matt Milano drew first blood with a 35-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tanner Contois. The Bantam offense responded with a good drive down the field, but stalled in the red zone, settling for 3 points from Kyle Pulek ’16 on a 32-yard field goal to get Trinity on the board.
Despite the slow start, the Bantams were able to get the ball rolling offensively in the second quarter. Bantam punt returner and receiver Darrien Myers ’17 returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown giving Trinity a 10-7 lead. Andrew Meoli ’18, Nicholas Gaynor ’17, Sean Smerczynski ’19 and Jameson Law ’17 made huge blocks on the play to allow Myers to reach the sideline untouched. The Bantam defense followed through by holding off the Panthers for most of the quarter.
The Panthers eventually scored on an 8-yard pass to tight end Daniel Fulham, Myers’s had another big return on the ensuing kickoff to set up a 25-yard field goal. Defensive tackle Brandon Blaise ’18 blocked a Panthers field goal attempt holding Middlebury’s halftime lead to 13-14.
The third quarter started off with both sides stalling out. A series of punts and another missed Panthers field goal put the Bantams up on their own 20-yard line. Shortly after, though, Trinity quarterback Sonny Puzzo ’18 was intercepted in Bantam territory. While the Panthers made their way to the red zone after the pick, they were stopped on fourth and goal by a strong effort from the Trinity defense.
After a scoreless third quarter and a battle for field position for much of the fourth, defensive end Lyle Baker ’16 forced the Middlebury runningback to fumble in Panther territory with 6 minutes left in the contest. Running back Max Chipouras ’19 fumbled a couple plays after the Bantams took the ball back, but a crucial recovery by receiver Bryan Vieira ’18 allowed Chipouras to score on a 14-yard run on the next play, giving the Bantams a 19-14 lead after a failed 2-point conversion.
Middlebury got the ball back, but safety Spencer Donahue ’17 was able to pick off Milano and give the Trinity offense another go. The Middlebury defense forced a three and out, but was forced to spend all of its timeouts. Middlebury’s final effort to score was stopped when cornerback Archimede Jerome ’17 intercepted a pass at the 50-yard line and ran it back for a touchdown with just 1:17 left in the game. It was Jerome’s first career start for the Bantams, in which he recorded four tackles and the game-sealing pick-6.
Puzzo passed for 229 yards while Vieira led the team with 71 yards on three catches. Ian Dugger ’16 and Myers also performed well with a combined 118 receiving yard on seven catches. On defense, co-captain linebacker Frank Leyva ’16 led the team in tackles with 13, while linebacker Liam Kenneally ’18 had 11 tackles and two sacks, and safety Patrick Dorsey ’17 had 10 tackles. On special teams, Pulek kept the Panthers at bay with four punts inside Middlebury’s 10 yard line, six inside the 20, and two converted field goals. Myers had 215 yards from scrimmage.
This Saturday’s, Nov. 7, matchup with the Lord Jeffs is essentially the NESCAC championship game, as the winner will be the only undefeated team remaining in the league. Should the Bantams win, it would set a great stage for a huge homecoming match against rival Wesleyan on Nov. 14.