Trinity Football Looks To Clinch Second NESCAC Title In A Row At Amherst

Tri-captain Liam Kenneally '18 had eight tackles and two pass breakups in last year's 24-14 win over the Mammoths
Tri-captain Liam Kenneally '18 had eight tackles and two pass breakups in last year's 24-14 win over the Mammoths

Hartford, Conn. - The Trinity College football team, which took care of Middlebury, 27-5, over the weekend to improve to 7-0, will visit the Amherst College Mammoths on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. with a chance to clinch its second consecutive New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title.  Trinity sits at least two games above every team besides the Mammoths in the league standings with two weeks remaining and will secure the conference crown with a win on Saturday.  The Bantams also own the third-longest winning streak in all of NCAA football at 16 games in a row, trailing Mary Hardin-Baylor's streak of 23 straight wins and James Madison's streak of 20 consecutive victories.  Amherst, who won the NESCAC title the three seasons prior to Trinity's championship in 2016, is 6-1 after 31-26 win against Tufts over the weekend.  Trinity, is No. 2 in New England and Amherst is No. 8, while the Bantams have received 30 votes in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division III National Poll and 10 votes in the D3Football.com National Poll, and Amherst had five votes in the AFCA poll.  All-time, Amherst has beaten Trinity 59 times and Trinity has won 44 times with nine ties.  Amherst or Trinity has had at least a share of the NESCAC Championship title in each of the last six seasons.

Game Notes

Trinity junior RB Max Chipouras (Longmeadow, Mass.) rushed 33 times for 182 yards and senior tri-captain QB Sonny Puzzo (West Caldwell, N.J.) ran for the game's first two touchdowns in the Bantam victory at Middlebury.  Bantam sophomore DB Matt Patry (Medfield, Mass.) caused and recovered a fumble that led to a 27-yard field goal from junior Eric Sachse (Jefferson, Mass.), and Dago Picon-Roura (Roslindale, Mass.) picked off a pass and returned it to the Panther nine-yard line to set up the third Trinity touchdown on a razzle-dazzle play. Puzzo faked a hand-off right on third down and tossed a backwards pass left to sophomore OT Austin Baiardi (Smithtown, N.Y.) who rumbled in for a two-yard touchdown, making it a 24-5 game with 8:01 remaining in the third quarter.  Sachse added a 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, and rookie DL James Christiano (Middlebury, Conn.) forced a fumble on one drive and junior DT Corey Jean Jacques (Haverhill, Mass.) had a four-yard tackle-for-loss inside his own 10-yard line to keep the Panthers out of the end zone.  Puzzo totaled 188 yards through the air and on the ground, going 9-for-20 for 112 passing and gaining 76 yards on a dozen carries. Chipouras finished four yards shy of his career-high rushing total of 186 achieved in Trinity's 49-13 win over the Panthers, while sophomore WR Koby Schofer (Northbridge, Mass.) led the receiving corps with seven catches for 85 yards. Picon-Roura led all tacklers with 11 stops, including a pair of pass break-ups and an interception, while senior S John Medina (Pinecrest, Fla.) added five tackles and an interception, and Jean-Jacques notched four tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a pass breakup.  Picon-Roura was rewarded with the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week award, and joined Chipouras, Puzzo, Jean-Jacques, and Sachse on the Noontime Sports Northeast Team of the Week.

Trinity tops the NESCAC in no less than seven different statistical categories, including scoring offense (36.7 ppg), scoring defense (8.1 ppg, 2nd in nation), pass defense (159.9 ypg, 19th in nation), rushing offense (217 ypg), total offense (443.7 ypg), pass efficiency defense (90.5, 8th in nation), and turnover margin (+11). Chipouras leads the league in rushing with 804 yards and Puzzo ranks second the conference in quarterback efficiency rating at 160.8 and has a completion percentage at .696, while Schofer is second in pass receptions with 42 and fourth in receiving yards with 593. Puzzo has thrown for 13 touchdown passes and run for four more while Chipouras has scored 13 times, and eight different Bantams have caught touchdown passes. On defense, jPicon-Roura leads Trinity with 47 tackles (31 solo), while senior tri-captain ILB Liam Kenneally (Reading, Mass.) has 33 hits, Medina adds 28 tackles, and junior OLB Shane Libby has 26. Kenneally, Libby, and senior DE Brandon Blaise (Morristown, N.J.) have 4.5 tackles for a loss each, while Medina and Patry pace the Bantam secondary with eight pass breakups apiece. On special teams, Spears ranks 16th nationally with an average of 13.6 yards per punt return in addition to his 16 pass receptions for 197 yards, and rookie Colin Beaulieau (Bethany, Conn.) averages 23.1 yards per attempt on 11 kickoff returns.

Amherst, under the direction of Head Coach E.J. Mills (21st season, 127-40), is 6-1 after a 31-26 win at Tufts and boasts the top defense in terms of total yards and rushing defense in the NESCAC with 252.4 ypg allowed and 87.1 ypg allowed on the ground.  The Mammoths started the year with three wins against three teams that currently have two victories combined, before losing at home to Middlebury, 35-31, on October 7.  Amherst rebounded to clobber winless Colby, 40-7, on the road before gutting out crucial close triumphs against Wesleyan (21-17) and versus the Jumbos.  Sophomore QB Ollie Eberth (Andover, Mass.) leads the league in pass efficiency at 161.2, and was named the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week after running for two scores in the Tufts win.  The Mammoths boast a powerful one-two punch in the backfield with junior Jack Hickey (Melrose, Mass.) and senior Hasani Figueroa (Bronx, N.Y.) teaming up for 892 yards on the ground, while Junior Bo Berluti (Westwood, Mass.) and sophomore WR James O'Regan (Wilmington, Mass.) have been Eberth's favorite targets with 61 catches between them.  Defensively, Amherst junior LB Andrew Yamin (Cheshire, Conn.) leads the NESCAC with 10.5 sacks and classmate Andrew Sommer (Larchmont, N.Y.) adds five sacks and a team-high 56 tackles.  Sophomore DB John Ballard (Houston, Texas) leads the Mammoth secondary with two interceptions and 23 tackles.

"The Mammoths are a very good football team," said Devanney. "They have an explosive offense that creates a lot of big plays. We will have to contain their option running attack while limiting the big pass play. They are very physical on defense and we will have to be at our best on offense. This should be an exciting football game."