Amherst Goes Back to Back: Stock Report 11/17

Nothing but smiles across the board for Amherst once again. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)
Nothing but smiles across the board for Amherst once again. (Courtesy of Amherst Athletics)

The past week was, and excuse my language, a real shitty time. NESCAC campuses in particular have been tumultuous (not all bad, too). I will focus on the games that happened on Saturday, though, and I encourage you to read the student papers like the Amherst Student and the Bowdoin Orient (to name just a few) to learn more about how NESCAC campuses responded to global events. The football games on Saturday couldn’t wash away or solve these issues, but for me at least, watching a football game on Saturday helped me a little to focus on other things. Let this article serve as another piece of escapism if you need it.

The dominant NESCAC story of the weekend was the win by Amherst which clinched back-to-back 8-0 and NESCAC championship seasons. On the one hand, I feel like we’ve written tons about Amherst this fall. On the other, I don’t think the Jeffs have gotten enough credit for what has been a truly dominating season. A weirdly dominant one, but a dominant one all the same. The Jeffs had an average margin of victory of 17.63 points, a number that puts them just above the 2011 Amherst team that Peter Lindholm named the third best in modern NESCAC history.

Perhaps more impressive is that Amherst won every single game by multiple scores meaning that their opponents never had the chance to tie or take the lead on their final offensive possession. They faced deficits in the first half of several games, but by the end of 60 minutes they had stamped their style on the game. In fact, even though the Jeffs did seem to start the game slowly, they were still so good that in their eight games, they only were tied or trailed in the second half in one game: against Wesleyan for just two minutes and forty seconds at the beginning of the third quarter.

The calling card for the Jeffs continues to be their defense, which was not quite the same monster as the 2014 one but was probably closer than you think. Amherst allowed 9.9 points per game in 2015 compared to 8.9 points per game in 2014, and they allowed 20 more yards per game this year, with most of that difference due to an uptick in passing yards given up. This year’s unit was content often to let teams move the ball between the 20’s, giving up plays of four or five yards in order to not allow any big plays. The depth of the unit was exceptional with a different player stepping up every week. From Evan Boynton ’17 to Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn ’16 to even part-time nose tackle Rob Perdoni ’16, everyone on the defense had a specific role that they filled well.

What this defense was great at was improving as the game went along.  The best way of looking at the way that Amherst shut down teams as time progressed is to isolate the statistics of the four games against teams with winning records: Wesleyan, Trinity, Middlebury and Tufts. In those four games they allowed an average of 9.75 points, impressive when you consider the caliber of those offenses. The numbers get even better when you look at just the second half. Amherst allowed six points total in the second halves of those four games. They held Tufts, Trinity and Middlebury completely scoreless in the second half, and Wesleyan was the only team able to score at all.

Still, what for me enabled Amherst to so comfortably go 8-0 was the big play ability in all areas. On offense big plays were predicated on QB Reece Foy ’18 and the receivers on the outside like Jackson McGonagle ’16 and Devin Boehm ’17. Three long touchdowns against Wesleyan were the difference in that one. The defense and special teams came up with massive turnovers that gave the Jeffs’ offense a short field to score critical touchdowns against Trinity and Middlebury. They weren’t the sexiest or most exciting team, but you can’t help but respect the performance of the 2015 Amherst squad.

Stock Up

Home-Field Advantage

For all those words I just wrote about how Amherst is better this year than last year, an argument can be made that what helped Amherst the most was that they played Middlebury, Wesleyan and Trinity all at home. This weekend four home teams won, and two of the results are because of the victor being at home. Hamilton beat Bates 14-0 in what looks like a case of the Bobcats never getting off the bus from that long ride to central New York. The Bobcats barely had more than 100 yards of offense in a lackluster effort. Even more impressive was Tufts outlasting Middlebury 31-28 to get Tufts to 6-2. Home-field advantage in the NESCAC is less about the impact that the crowd can have on the field than the comfort level of players at home. Any athlete prefers to have a set rhythm before a game, and the ability to have that at home has a real effect, even if it is a difficult one to quantify.

QB Tim Drakeley ’17 (Bowdoin)

The starter at the beginning of the year, Drakeley got injured and then saw his job get stolen from him by Noah Nelson ’19. Nelson was hurt this weekend so Drakeley got the start. Things began terribly with Drakeley going 0-5 with an interception in the first quarter. Then the junior shook off the rust and played great the final three quarters, finishing with over 300 yards passing and three touchdowns as Bowdoin rolled over Colby 35-13 in the consolation game of the CBB. The game was a good finish for the Polar Bears, especially after the disastrous 31-0 shutout loss to Bates. Both Drakeley and Nelson will be back next season, and whoever wins the job already has one game on their resume that gives Bowdoin supporters hope.


Just putting the whole Bantam team here because it was a complete team win (the defense in particular played well). The win over Wesleyan 17-13 makes Trinity the NESCAC runner-up at 7-1 in what constitutes a rebound season. The Bantams did things the old-fashioned way running the ball 57 times for 216 yards with both Nick Gaynor ’17 and Max Chipouras ’19 carrying the ball a lot. Defensive end Preston Kelly ’16 led the way on defense with nine tackles, three for loss. The Bantams lose Kelly and several other key cogs along the offensive and defensive lines, but they are bringing back a whole raft of talent next year. They continue to be the biggest threat to Amherst in terms of top dog status.

Upward Mobility

Long a pretty staid league, the hierarchy of NESCAC football has changed in recent years, and there is the possibility that even more upheaval is afoot in the future. Wesleyan, long the littlest of the Little Three, has proven this year that their move into the upper reaches of the NESCAC is sustainable and likely to last. Tufts, as noted, has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of their long losing streak. The Jumbos could potentially stay close to the top of the heap because of advantages like the large size of the Tufts undergrad population and the more urban setting of Medford and Boston.

The tendency for schools when they see the ability of some schools to climb up the standings is to say “why not us?” The difference between the top and bottom of the league is not a huge one: a few real impact players are capable of making a difference. However, in many ways NESCAC football is a zero sum game. If someone is up, then someone else is down (Williams is the primary culprit here). Of course, one has to remember the express purpose of the NESCAC.

“The primary mission of the Conference is to organize, facilitate, support, and regulate intercollegiate athletic competition among member institutions in a manner consistent with our commitment to academic excellence and our core values.” (From the NESCAC website)

At a certain point, a metaphorical arms race in pursuit of wins will lead almost inevitably to a violation of academic excellence and core values. For all of the positives that a football program has, those can become negatives when priorities become rearranged and compromises are made. Part of the reason for our affection with the NESCAC is our belief and hope that on balance, though not always, the league does things, for lack of a better terms, the right way.

These worries of compromised values are obviously not at all new ones, and we recognize that. We just wanted to take a moment to sort of step back and recognize that in part because I have spent much of the fall dissecting

Stock Down

We’ve made it a tradition to not put Stock Down for any team or player the final week of a season, mostly because it doesn’t seem completely necessary to point out areas where teams can improve when there are no games to show improvement upon for nine-plus months. We’ve still got a few loose ends in our football coverage to finish up like postseason awards before we move onto basketball. Thanks again to all of our readers and especially to our other writers who have made this an awesome fall for us.

More than the Main Course: Weekend Preview 10/9


The Bantams hope to keep their sparkling record and scoreless streak alive. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
The Bantams hope to keep their sparkling record and scoreless streak alive. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

Amherst and Middlebury is the main attraction this weekend, and Joe broke that down in detail yesterday, but the other four games still offer plenty to chew on. Trinity and Wesleyan are heavy home favorites against Hamilton and Colby respectively, but those games are still important measuring sticks. Bowdoin has beaten Tufts five straight times, and it would certainly behoove the Polar Bears to extend that streak to six in order to get their first win of the year. Bates and Williams meet in Western Massachusetts as both teams are in need of a win.

Four to Watch

1. Defensive End Zach Thomas ’18 (Tufts):

Zach Thomas
Tufts Athletics

Last year Thomas saw the field mostly as a kicker filling in for the injured Willie Holmquist ’16, and he has played great through two games at DE after playing there sparingly in 2014. He had 2.5 sacks against Bates, two of which came on third down to end Bates’ drives. Bowdoin allowed six sacks last week (admittedly Amherst is a different animal than most), and Thomas will get plenty of chances to rush the QB if Tufts gets up early. Along with Shane Thomas ’17 (no relation), the sophomore is part of a young group who are emerging for Tufts as difference makers, something that the Jumbos have lacked for a long time.

Shane Thomas '17 (56) is emerging as a force, leading the Jumbos in tackles. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)
LB Shane Thomas ’17 (56) is emerging as a force and nice complement to DE Zach, leading the Jumbos in tackles. (Courtesy of Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

2. Wide Receiver Colin Brown ’16 (Williams):

Colin Brown
Williams Athletics

Brown and fellow wide out Darrias Sime ’16 probably spent much of the week drooling at the tape of Jack Cooleen ’16 ripping up the Bates secondary. Brown is 6’5″, but he was shut down last week against Trinity. A year ago he had by far his best game of the season against Bates hauling in eight catches for 96 yards. The young Bates secondary has to figure some way of forcing Brown and Sime to be physical, not just when the ball is in the air but also at the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately, that lies outside of how Bates usually plays, meaning that Brown should get a lot of clean breaks off of the line. Once he gets moving, he is much more difficult to stop.

3. Running Back Nick Gaynor ’17 (Trinity):

Nick Gaynor
Trinity Athletics

Hats off to Gaynor who has transitioned to running back almost as smoothly as one could hope. Given the long history of Trinity backs, nobody expected the Bantams to have to turn to a wide receiver. He has answered the call averaging 4.5 yards per carry so far. He still retains some of his receiver instincts to cut outside and only try to run through arm tackles, but that is also playing to his strengths as a shifty runner. The one concern for Gaynor is his three fumbles so far. Those are the only turnovers that Trinity has had all year. Freshman Max Chipouras ’19 could take carries away from Gaynor as the year goes along, but for now Gaynor is the signature back for the Bantams.

4. Defensive Lineman Tyler Hudson ’19 (Hamilton):

Hamilton Athletics

The Continental defense has looked much better in 2015, and Hudson has been a stud for them already as a freshman. He was everywhere against Tufts with 4.5 TFLs, and he proved that it wasn’t a fluke against Wesleyan with a sack and pass batted down. His 5.5 TFL are the most in the league. Hudson is from Whitesboro, New York which is a 15-minute drive away from Hamilton. Coach Dave Murray is a longtime coach and recruiter in Central New York, and Hudson is exactly the type of football player that Murray is trying to convince to stay close to home. Already……….

Game Previews

Bowdoin (0-2) at Tufts (2-0): Medford, Massachusetts, 1:00 PM

These two met last year with the same records, and the result was Bowdoin’s first win of the year. The Jumbos have found a way to take that magic oil that helped them win all four home games on the road the first two weeks, eeking out an overtime win and a one-point win. They are still not a great football team, but they are coming close to good and that’s enough to beat the lower half of the league. Chance Brady ’17 might not play because of a concussion, but Dom Borelli ’19 has looked good as the backup running back so far.

Bowdoin has looked pretty listless in their first two games. QB Tim Drakeley ’17 has thrown the ball well, but the Polar Bears have been forced to get away from running the ball with Tyler Grant ’17 because they have fallen behind so quickly. The defense, especially that secondary, has to play better as a unit. Until Bowdoin wins a game, you have to pick against them.

Prediction: Tufts over Bowdoin 19-13

Hamilton (0-2) at Trinity (2-0): Hartford, Connecticut. 1:00 PM

The easy opening schedule for Trinity continues, though the Bantams beat Hamilton by just 12 points last year. That game was at Hamilton, and the Bantams don’t have to worry about a long bus ride this year. Sonny Puzzo ’18 is playing great, attacking the defense downfield and not making any mistakes.

Hamilton is going to struggle unless Trinity suddenly catches the turnover bug. They don’t have the athletes to match up with Trinity in the open field, and they can’t sell out against the run like they did against Wesleyan. Charles Ensley ’17 and Pat Donahoe ’16 are underrated receivers, but even they will have trouble against the Trinity secondary. The scoreless streak ends, but the Bantams still cruise.

Prediction: Trinity over Hamilton 28-6

Bates (0-2) at Williams (1-1): Williamstown, Massachusetts. 1:00 PM

QB Austin Lommen '16 and the Ephs could find no room to operate against the Bantams last weekend. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)
QB Austin Lommen ’16 and the Ephs could find no room to operate against the Bantams last weekend. (Courtesy of Robert LeBel)

On the surface this is the same Williams team we saw last year: an easy win over Bowdoin before a shutout loss to Trinity. However, I think the Ephs have more going for them this year. Much of that rests on the shoulders of Austin Lommen ’16, and despite subpar statistics from him last week, I think he bounces back against Bates. Mark Pomella ’16 is there as a change of pace quarterback, but the Ephs will win or lose because of Lommen. The running game has not improved much, and the Ephs can be made one-dimensional. That might not be a terrible thing against Bates.

Williams’ biggest worry is that their young defense wilts against the triple option, though the Bobcats haven’t been very successful moving the ball so far this year. Shaun Carroll’s ’16 statistics are inflated by one 80-yard run, and the Bobcats have not sustained enough drives. After their tough loss last week, this game is a test of the Bobcats leadership and resilience. Bottom line for me is I see the Williams offense capitalizing at points a week after Trinity gave them chances to make plays and the Ephs failed every time.

Prediction: Williams 27 – Bates 20

Colby (0-2) at Wesleyan (1-1): Middletown, Connecticut. 1:00 PM

Colby has struggled to run the ball and is going up against a Wesleyan team that suffocates teams when they run. Gabe Harrington ’17 might throw the ball 30 times in this game, and he needs receivers like Ryder Arsenault ’17 to get open much more consistently than they have. Last week against Middlebury the only success that Colby had in the passing game was a few go-up-and-get-’ems from young wideout Mark Snyder ’18.

If Wesleyan’s talent is going to coalesce into a very good football team, this is the week for them to do it. A big victory would give the team a huge boost in confidence. Justin Sanchez ’17 has been relatively quiet, and tomorrow would be a great time for him to intercept Harrington once or twice. The front seven has already proven that it is up to snuff with Shayne Kaminski ’18 and Jordan Stone ’17 helping to lead the way. The Mules don’t have the horses (bad pun intended) to hang for four quarters.

Prediction: Wesleyan 30 – Colby 10

Road Teams Rule Week One: Football Stock Report 9/28

After what seemed like an eternity, NESCAC football returned in triumphant glory on Saturday, and a lot of what we anticipated came to fruition, but there were many surprises, as well.

Today we give you the risers and fallers in our estimation, as well as a few game notes from each contest.

Stock Up:

Hamilton Offense

Tufts isn’t the most stout defense in the NESCAC, but you still have to be impressed with how the Continentals moved the ball and the play of QB Chase Rosenberg ’17 and WR Charles Ensley ’17. After starter Brandon Tobin ’18 succumbed to an injury early in the first half, Rosenberg (the starter for the past two seasons) came on and proceeded to go 14-23 (69.9%) for 301 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. Ensley was on the opposite end of 107 of those yards, and displayed some top-notch athleticism with some of his grabs. His teammate, Pat Donahoe ’16, actually tallied even more yards – 174, to lead the NESCAC – so there may yet be some life in this Continental offense. We’ll wait and see whether or not Tobin returns, and how that might shake up the QB situation.

Connecticut Schools

Despite the loss, the Cardinals proved on Saturday that they still belong to the league’s upper echelon. The Cards ran all over Middlebury, and newly-minted QB Gernald Hawkins ’18 flashed potential throwing the ball, though the results were subpar on Saturday. The defense looks like it barely dropped off, and when you can control the clock and move the ball on the ground as effectively as Wesleyan, you always have a chance to win. Panthers players returned from this one bearing rave reviews of the Wesleyan team as a whole.

Meanwhile, the Bantams looked like they were playing a Pop Warner team on Saturday. A 34-0 win on the road, 439 yards of total offense and only 159 yards allowed. Enough said.

Williams QB Austin Lommen ’16

Expectations are great for former D-I players that transfer down to D-III, and that was true for Lommen last year. The BC transfer was about average last year, completing 60.1 percent of his passes and racking up seven touchdowns against nine picks, but it might be time to buy in on the righty. Lommen went 20-30 (66.7%) for 288 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. Lommen managed the offense well, and the Ephs went 6-8 on third downs in the first half, most of them courtesy of throws by Lommen.

Stock Down:

Bates O-line

Yes, the Bobcats were matched up against an elite D-line from Amherst, but still, their performance in the trenches does not bode well for the rest of the season. Bates needs to churn up yards on the ground in order to win (with the occasional shot downfield to Mark Riley ’16). The Bobcats’ backs gathered 199 yards on the ground on Saturday, but 80 of those came on one Shaun Carroll ’16 scamper. Take that out, and the Bobcats rushed for 119 yards on 45 attempts – a 2.6 YPC average.

Colby Backs

Along the same lines as the above, the Mules were unable to consistently move the ball on the ground. QB Christian Sparacio ’18 had the most success of any ball carrier, racking up 30 yards on seven carries. We are still expecting big things from classmates Jabari Hurdle-Price ’17 and Carl Lipani ’17, but it looked like Colby just ran headfirst into a brick wall against Trinity.


Just to complete the Maine college trifecta, Bowdoin has to go in this spot. The offense was stagnant, and Tyler Grant ’16 didn’t get many opportunities with the Polar Bears trailing for much of their game against Williams. The loss of RB Trey Brown ’16 to injury will prove to be costly, as the Bowdoin coaches were hoping to be able to spell Grant far more this year than last – but alas, it was not to be. It was not a good opener for anyone in the black and white.

Game Notes:

Middlebury 28 at Wesleyan 25

Well, it wasn’t easy, but the Panthers hung on to go 1-0. Matt Milano ’16 wasn’t at his best early on, but was still very, very good. It was interesting that Jared Lebowitz ’18 got just one series. His entry into the game was pre-determined, but we don’t know what went into the decision to not use him for the rest of the game. Regardless, the passing game wasn’t the issue for Middlebury. The running game, however, was not effective. Somehow, the Panthers need to figure out a way to become a multi-dimensional team. They like to use screens to substitute for old-fashioned hand offs, but you still have to be able to give it to your back and let him work once in awhile.

On the other side of the field, Wesleyan competed until the very last. Hawkins has loads of potential at QB, despite his struggles throwing. He’s a fantastic athlete, and when he took off for one 17-yard dash up the gut my jaw physically dropped. Obviously, he’ll need to work on throwing the ball – sort of important for a quarterback. As for the running game, I was really shocked that Jaylen Berry ’18 was used as the feature back, carrying the ball 21 times to LaDarius Drew’s ’15 six carries and Lou Stevens’ ’17 two – not because I doubt the youngster’s ability, but because he supplanted two former All-NESCAC First Teamers as the go-to guy on Saturday. That being said, I would not be surprised if next week Drew ran the ball 25 times for 150 yards, and the same can be said about Stevens. Furthermore, Devon Carrillo ’16 continues to be a threat with his legs in many ways – out of the Wildcat, multiple back sets and on sweeps. Defensively, I have to give a shout out to DE Jordan Stone ’16. He’s a physical beast and had a great game and it showed on the stat sheet as Stone gathered 2.5 sacks.

Amherst 37 at Bates 14

Amherst WR Nick Widen '17 and the LJs took care of Bates with ease. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics/Phyllis Graber Jensen)
Amherst WR Nick Widen ’17 and the LJs took care of Bates with ease. (Courtesy of Bates Athletics/Phyllis Graber Jensen)

I didn’t watch any game as closely as I did Middlebury-Wesleyan, but nonetheless there was much to be learned from every contest. Reece Foy ’18 got the start for Amherst, and – this is the surprising part – played every snap at QB. Last season Foy and Alex Berluti ’17 opened the season in a time-share until Max Lippe ’15 came back from an injury. That Foy was able to do enough in camp to completely takeover the gig says something in and of itself. Also of note, Kenny Adinkra ’16 got the lion’s share of the carries and was more productive than Nick Kelly ’17. Will that last, or will Kelly return to 2014 form and takeover the feature role as he was expected to do. OR, will the super-talented Jack Hickey ’19 start stealing away more carries?

For Bates, I know that the triple-option is the staple of their offense, but Mark Riley is just incredible. The Bobcats completed 11 passes for 117 yards, and seven of those catches went to Riley for 87 yards. I don’t think that if you put a prime-age Randy Moss on any team in the NESCAC he would take as large of a proportion of the catches as Riley does.

Williams 27 at Bowdoin 7

For the second straight year the Ephs stomped on the Polar Bears. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/
For the second straight year the Ephs stomped on the Polar Bears. (Courtesy of Bowdoin Athletics/

Not much went right for the Polar Bears in Week 1. I don’t know whether to credit Lommen or crucify the Bowdoin secondary for the Ephs’ success through the air. Overall, I’m reserving judgement on the Polar Bears.

For Williams, though, you have to feel good about this start. Maybe they’ve put something together in Williamstown right under our noses. Although, I vaguely remember writing something to the same effect one year ago after Williams’ 36-0 beatdown of Bowdoin in Week 1. Maybe Coach Aaron Kelton just has the Polar Bears’ numbers. Maybe he’s taping opposing coaches’ signals with a cell phone camera, and 15 years from now, when Coach is getting fitted for his fourth NESCAC Championship ring, and the twilight is setting on a decorated career, NESCAC officials will bust down the door and point a finger at him and call him a cheater for doing exactly what every other team in the league was doing…

I’m sorry, I wasn’t planning that. (And there’s definitely no illegal filming going on anywhere in the NESCAC.)

Trinity 34 at Colby 0

With Joe Moreno ’19, sadly, out yet again with a torn ACL, Nick Gaynor ’17 has become the team’s top back. From a fantasy perspective though, this is a tricky situation, as Gaynor, Ethan Suraci ’18 or QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 could be the team’s leading rusher any given week. I particularly don’t think Gaynor will see many goal line touches. Gaynor is a converted wideout, and Suraci is a much bigger body. Max Chipouras ’19 – who had just two touches – got a goal line TD on Saturday instead of Gaynor. No matter who’s behind him, the return of Puzzo under center is going to be huge for Trinity. Henry Foye ’16 did a great job when healthy last year, but I think that Puzzo brings elite talent to the QB position.

Tufts 24 at Hamilton 21

The best game of the day came between two perennial doormats that look to be rising from the ashes. Tufts already took the first step a year ago by going 4-4, but with the Jumbos still 0-infinity in their last infinity chances on the road, the Continentals were feeling really good about their chances. And with newly-transferred QB Tobin at the helm, it appeared that Chapter 1 of the fairytale was under way.

Then Tobin left the game with an ankle injury, and everything fell into the hands of Rosenberg, the beleaguered vet. And boy, did he respond.

Rosenberg matched a career-high with his 301 passing yards, the program’s fifth-highest single-game mark. His 21.5 yards per completion and 13.1 yards per attempt were Hamilton records. He threw three TD passes, all in the span of 12 plays in the second half. His receivers, namely Donahoe and Ensley, made some spectacular plays, but let’s give all the credit in the world to Rosenberg for his stellar performance.

Alas, the Hamilton offense could not punch it in with the first possession of overtime. K Zach Altneu ’18 boomed his field goal attempt through the uprights, but Tufts Head Coach Jay Civetti was able to call a timeout just in time, forcing Altneu to kick again, and this time he pushed it wide left.

The Jumbos were conservative on their possession, moving the ball to the six-yard line before Snyder took a five-yard loss to position the football right in the middle of the field. K Willie Holmquist ’17 came up clutch for the Jumbos, who celebrated their first road victory since Oct. 3, 2009.

Aside from Rosenberg, CB Jimmy Giattino ’17 was a beast defensively for Hamilton and DL Tyler Hudson ’19 had an impressive debut. Last year’s tackle-leader John Phelan ’16 saw limited action, rotating with Mickey Keating ’17 at linebacker. We believe Head Coach Dave Murray is trying to protect Phelan who was banged up considerably during camp, but only time will tell if this timeshare continues. And lastly, Tobin’s ankle injury appears to be minor, which keeps the QB conversation in Clinton very intriguing. However, after a performance like that, how Rosenberg could not get the keys to the car for at least one more week is a mystery to me.

And in case you missed it, every road team won! Can you believe it? I don’t know how long it’s been since that happened in the NESCAC. Maybe between the 47 assignments I have this week and the job search I’ll try to procure that information.

It’s good to be back.

Two Important Pieces Return to Trinity for 2015

The Coop will have two potential new stars. (Courtesy of
The Coop will have two potential new stars. (Courtesy of

Trinity has a great young team this year, and the return of Sonny Puzzo ’18 and Joe Moreno ’18, two key pieces who weren’t with the team in 2014, could be a difference-maker. Coach Devanney has nothing but praise to give to the two sophomores. For personal reasons, neither player was enrolled at Trinity last season. Prior to that, Puzzo was the 2013 NESCAC Rookie of the Year as a dual threat QB for the Bantams. Moreno, meanwhile, a powerful tailback, missed all of 2013 with a hamstring injury, and so still has four years of eligibility if he choses to use them.

It is tough to predict what Moreno will do in the backfield for the Bantams this season considering he has never played in a collegiate game before, but he’s had a strong camp thus far. Coach Devanney is expecting some production from Puzzo and Moreno but has stated that “they still have to do some work in the next two weeks”.

Moreno was a big time recruit for Trinity in 2013, and he is chomping at the bit to start his Bantam career and help protect the Coop. The New Jersey native is built strong as an ox, and his running style reminds some of former Trinity running back and NESCAC career rushing leader Evan Bunker ’14, as he is a physical, tough, downhill type of runner. Still, Moreno will have to emerge from a crowded backfield if he is to put up big numbers. Nick Gaynor ’17 and Ethan Suraci ’18 should also see some time running the ball as they have proved themselves in camp this year and were productive last season. Suraci was effective in the five games he played as he carried for 4.8 yards per rush. Gaynor was successful the past two seasons at wide receive reeling in four touchdowns, but his skills with the ball in hand should translate well to the backfield should the Trinity coaches choose to employ him there full time.

For his part, Sonny Puzzo has looked good in camp thus far and may be the golden ticket to Devanney’s undefeated season, something that once was almost expected in Hartford, but hasn’t been realistic the last two seasons with the team going 11-5. Puzzo is a phenomenal athlete, and was an All-State baseball player in New York, but decided to focus on his true passion of football. Puzzo comes into a situation where the starting quarterback, Henry Foye ’15, is coming off a solid season in 2014 where he suffered an injury at the tail end of the season, causing the Bantams season to come crashing down as they lost their final three games.

Trinity is poised for a huge turnaround this year and the backfield tandem of Puzzo and Moreno are right in the midst of it, but neither is guaranteed a starting job.

Sonny Puzzo '17 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)
QB Sonny Puzzo ’18 (Courtesy of Trinity Athletics)

As a freshman at Trinity, Puzzo appeared in every game, and helped lead the team to a near perfect season with two close losses against Middlebury and Amherst. He boasted a 58.5 completion percentage, passing for 950 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing for one TD and 53 yards. On the other end of the spectrum, Foye had a good season last fall, playing in six games, passing for 996 yards and five touchdowns. In reality both could see time under center early on. Puzzo’s ability to run with the ball can help the Bantams keep opposing defenses off balance, but Foye has good instinct and has proven he can play well in big moments and is a pure passer. His resume includes a state championship and All-State honors Daniel Hand High School (CT). In Foye’s sophomore campaign at Trinity he threw three touchdowns, including the game-winner, with eight seconds left to top Williams 20-13. Still, Puzzo shows a lot of upside with a very strong and accurate arm and was the team’s starter as a freshman two years ago.

The Bantams and Trinity faithfuls are hoping for another undefeated season, and are planning on keeping the Coop clean this season. The additions of Puzzo and Moreno are huge for the Bantams. They should easily bounce back from their past two disappointing seasons, by Hartford standards. Expect Puzzo and Moreno to emerge as leaders for the Bantams this year.

Coach Devanney believes that they will, and will be an integral part in a special season. As he simply put it, “We’re going 8-and-0”.