Hartford, Conn. – The Trinity College football team, under the guidance of Head Coach Jeff Devanney (12th season), brought the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship crown back to Hartford for the second consecutive season, putting together an 8-1 record in the conference's first nine game season. The Bantams finished ranked No. 1 in New England at the end of the fall and boasted a league-best 14 All-NESCAC selections.
Offensively, the Bantams topped the NESCAC in scoring, putting up 33.9 points per game with 41 total touchdowns. Trinity continued to preside as one of the most dominant defenses in the country, finishing fifth in the nation in scoring defense (9.8 points per game). The Bantams led the NESCAC with 14 interceptions and boasted the league's best run-defense, limiting opposing rushing attacks to just 98.7 yards per game. Trinity also recovered 10 fumbles and were one of two teams to hold opposing offenses to under 300 total yards per game. The team concluded the year ranked second in the country in turnover margin (+14) and 13th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
Three different players received weekly honors from the league this fall. Senior ILB Carty Campbell (Brooklyn, N.Y.) was the first to earn the award on the defensive side of the ball, thanks to his stellar performance in a 17-9 victory over Williams College. A week later, junior K/P Eric Sachse (Jefferson, Mass.) was named the league's special teams player of the week thanks to his all-around great kicking performance in the team's 41-13 win over Hamilton. Junior OLB Dago Picon-Roura (Roslindale, Mass.) was the last Bantam to earn NESCAC Player of the Week honors thanks to his outstanding performance on defense in a 27-5 beatdown of Middlebury at the end of October.
Senior tri-captain OT Chris Simmons (Manchester, Conn.) was named to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division III All-American First Team and to the 2017 D3Football.com All-East Region Third Team to highlight Trinity's post-season award winners. Simmons also joined Bantam senior tri-captain ILB Liam Kenneally (Reading, Mass.) on the New England Football Writers (NEFW) Division II/III All-New England Team, and Simmons and Kenneally were two of no less than 14 Bantam football players who were named to the NESCAC Football All-Conference teams. Simmons was named an AFCA First Team All-American and New England Football Writers Division II/III All-New England honors for the second straight year and All-NESCAC recognition for the fourth consecutive season to cap off his college career. He was the Rookie of the Year in 2014 and earned First Team honors in 2015 and 2016 and was an American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division III All-American, New England Football Writers Division II/III All-Star and D3Football.com All-East Region honoree last season as a junior.
Simmons, Kenneally and fellow senior tri-captain QB Sonny Puzzo (West Caldwell, N.J.), were joined by senior CB Dominique Seagears (Silver Spring, Md.), junior NT Corey Jean-Jacques (Haverhill, Mass.), junior RB Max Chipouras (Longmeadow, Mass.), junior K Eric Sachse (Jefferson, Mass.), and sophomore OT Austin Baiardi (Smithtown, N.Y.) on the All-NESCAC First Team. Campbell, Picon-Roura, senior G Joe Farrah (West Hartford, Conn.), senior DE Brandon Blaise (Morristown, N.J.), senior S John Medina (Miami, Fla.) and sophomore WR Koby Schofer (Northbridge, Mass.) graced the All-NESCAC Second Team. Senior Cliff David (Ambler, PA.) represented the team on the NESCAC Fall All-Sportsmanship Team as well as the All-Academic squad, and was joined by juniors Matt LaPorta (Ridgefield, Conn.), Sameir Madden (Norristown, Pa.), Steve O'Reilly (Topsfield, Mass.), Nick Rose (Arlington, Mass.), Brad Whitman (Salisbury, Mass.) and sophomores Josh Brito (Wayland, Mass.), Matthew Evans (Whitham, Mass.), Dan McKeeney (Westwood, Mass.), Daniel Negron (Hartsdale, N.Y.) and Kimball Winans (Los Angeles, Calif.) on the NESCAC Fall All-Academic Team.
Trinity dominated the opposition in the first four games of the season, outscoring their opponents by a 144-22 mark, highlighted by defensive shutouts in its first two games. After starting 4-0, the Bantams handed Tufts its second loss of the season behind 165 rushing yards and a late fourth quarter touchdown from Chipouras, as well as a pair of interceptions, including one ran back for a college-record 100 yards, by Seagears. For the fifth straight season, the Bantams opened the year with five straight wins, setting up a week six matchup against Bowdoin. The Bantams took care of business against the Polar Bears, led by rookie RB Colin Beaulieu (Bethany, Conn.) who rushed for 125 yards on 10 carries and scored his first two career touchdowns, as the Bantams won easily, 63-14.
Trinity won for the 16th-straight time dating back to 2015 with a 27-5 triumph over Middlebury in late October. Chipouras rushed 33 times for 182 yards while Puzzo ran for a pair of first-half scores to lead the way on offense. Trinity's defense forced four turnovers for the first of two times this autumn as well to set up a week eight showdown at Amherst in a game that had major championship implications. Against the Mammoths, the Bantams faltered for the first time in nearly two years with a 28-20 setback. Trinity came back from a 21-point deficit with two touchdowns in the final 4:08 and nearly recovered an onsides kick in the final minute but was not able to complete the comeback as they moved to 7-1 on the year. The loss diminished Trinity's chances at repeating as champions as Amherst controlled its own destiny, but the final Saturday of the regular season proved to have some excitement left in store.
Against Wesleyan on Saturday of homecoming, Trinity dominated throughout the afternoon, to come away with a 28-3 victory to finish the season 8-1. Against the Cardinals, Puzzo threw two touchdown passes to first-year WR Jonathan Girard (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) and ran for a third to lead the Bantam offense. Seagears, Medina and sophomore DB Matt Patry (Medfield, Mass.) all recorded interceptions defensively for Trinity which held the Cardinals to a meager 52 yards on the ground. The game, which was never in doubt, ended at 2:30 p.m., but Trinity's celebration after the game was subdued until Williams College finished off its 31-24 upset victory over Amherst a half-hour later. A large group of players, coaches, alums, and parents watched the Mammoth loss in the locker room, and the place exploded when the Bantams learned the league crown was theirs once again.
Offensively this year, Chipouras led the NESCAC in rushing with 937 yards and averaged 104.1 yards per game, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored a NESCAC-best 10 times on the ground. He also caught 12 passes for 100 yards, and finished fifth in the conference in all-purpose yards with 1,047. Chipouras broke the college record for career rushing touchdowns in just three seasons, having found paydirt 29 times so far in his career. Schofer established himself as one of the Bantams' best pass catchers this fall in his first season as a starter. Schofer had 52 receptions (4th in NESCAC) for 741 yards (82.3 per game, 4th in NESCAC) and hauled in six touchdowns, including a 90-yarder (2nd longest reception in NESCAC) against Hamilton. Under center, Puzzo posted the best pass efficiency among the league's quarterbacks at 155.2, threw 17 touchdowns with just five interceptions, and totaled 1,857 yards on 130 pass completions in 214 attempts and 332 rushing yards with five scores on the ground in 84 attempts while guiding Trinity to the league's most potent offense at 33.9 points per game. He finished fourth in the league in total offense with 2,189 yards. In his fine career, Puzzo was only the second Bantam signal caller to eclipse 6,000 passing yards (6,060) and 1,000 rushing yards (1,005) and the first to reach both milestones. He also finished second all-time at Trinity in completions (435), attempts (742), and passing touchdowns (48) and third all-time in both completion percentage (58.6, tied) and efficiency rating (142.4).
On the defensive side, made 42 tackles, including 33 solo stops, and was captain of a Trinity defensive unit that limited opponents to 98.7 rushing and 179.8 passing yards per game and ranked No. 5 in the nation with 9.8 points allowed per game. He also had 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery thus fall. Jean-Jacques ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 38 (25 solo) and was among the league leaders and tied for the team lead in sacks with 4.5 (T9th in NESCAC). Jean-Jacques also collected nine tackles for loss, forced two fumbles and recorded a pass breakup. Picon-Roura had a standout season at outside linebacker, leading the team with 61 tackles (42 solo) and added three tackles for loss, one interception and five pass breakups this fall. Blaise finished 2017 with 18 tackles (13 solo), including 7.5 behind the line of scrimmage, recovered one fumble, tallied one sack and had the team's lone blocked kick in his first season as a starter. In the secondary, Seagears enjoyed a breakout autumn as a lockdown cornerback, registering 24 tackles, two tackles for loss, five pass breakups, and a fumble recovery in addition to his three interceptions (T2nd in NESCAC), while Medina was a weapon in Trinity's secondary, finishing with 36 tackles (25 solo), and was tied for third in the NESCAC with nine pass breakups, and had three interceptions (T2nd in NESCAC) that he returned for a combined 67 yards and 0.5 tackles for loss.
Sachse repeated as the league's first-team kicker after ranking second in the league in scoring with 56 points on a conference-best 35 PAT's in 38 tries and seven field goals in 11 attempts with a long of 46 yards. He also filled in at punter with a 37.3 average and six dropped inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Beaulieu made an immediate impact as a first-year in Trinity's kick return game, leading the squad with 371 kick return yards and 177 punt return yards with a touchdown.