Hartford, Conn., August 18, 2011 - The 2011 Trinity College football team, under the direction of Head Coach Jeff Devanney (6th Season), expects to be right back in the hunt for its sixth New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship title since 2002. The Bantams, who won the 2008 NESCAC crown with a perfect 8-0 mark, tied for second a year ago at 7-1 and won their final six games of the season. Trinity's usual dominance on the offensive and defensive lines and its outstanding special teams units should once again keep them near the top of the NESCAC. The Bantams have plenty of experience with 15 starters returning, and several other veterans with varsity experience. Trinity starts the 2011 season on the road on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. against Colby College.
Junior Drew Grombala (Cincinnati, Ohio) is the top returning wide receiver, having started for two years with two-time All-NESCAC honoree Michael Galligan, while senior Chike Madu (Fairfield, Conn.), junior Chris Harris (Winnetka, Ill.), and sophomore A.J. Jones (Freetown, Sierra Leone) also possess considerable varsity experience. Grombala is a smart and skilled pass catcher with 25 catches for 235 yards and four touchdowns in his first two seasons. Madu, Harris, Jones, and converted sophomore RB Brendan Bader (Brookfield, Conn.) are expected to play increased roles this fall, while several other veterans and freshman prospects will compete for playing time in pre-season. Seniors Allen Even (Wethersfield, Conn.), who closed 2010 playing at a high level, and Jim Fisher (Franklin, N.J.) are the tight ends.
Trinity brought in a host of rookie running backs last fall, and the group combined to give Trinity the top rushing attack in the league. 2010 NESCAC Rookie of the Year Evan Bunker (Topsfield, Mass.) took over as the feature back in the fourth game of the season, and rushed 180 times for 881 yards in those five games. Fellow sophomores Ben Crick (Middlebury, Conn.), who opened 2010 as the starter, and Dante Astheimer (Pottstown, Pa.) both return healthy from early injuries that held each of them to 117 rushing yards and two games last season. Speedy senior Nana Appah-Sampong (Lake Mary, Fla.) is also a viable option at running back and classmate Josh Golden (Hingham, Mass.) can catch, run, and block from the fullback/H-back spot. Bunker was named to the Consensus Draft Services Pre-Season All-American Honorable mention this summer.
Trinity's annual elite play on the offensive line reached a new height last fall, as the unit paved the way for a group of rookie Bantam ball carriers to average 225.5 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry on the ground. Junior All-NESCAC selection Mike Valenti (Bethel, Conn.) and classmate Gino Arnold (Ridgewood, N.J.) return as the starting guards this fall, while classmate Andres Weiss (New York, N.Y.) is the front-runner to replace three-time, all-league honoree Matt Santora at center. Junior Tim O'Brien (White Plains, N.Y.) has been solid at the tackle position in his career, while sophomore Mac McGinty (Cleveland, Ohio), who returns from an injury and has starting experience, and classmates Will Emery (Glenside, Pa.) and Mike Helmer (Summit, N.J.) will compete with several young players for the other tackle position.
Trinity, which topped the NESCAC in scoring defense (13.2 ppg) and total defense (253.8 yards per game), and led the nation in rushing defense (4.5 yards per game) last season, boasts no less than five excellent seniors on the defensive line in front of reigning NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year Walter Fallas (Everett, Mass.) at inside linebacker. Senior ends Herman Brito (Wayland, Mass.), a two-time All-NESCAC honoree, Matt Walker (Middlebury, Conn.), and Gary Williams (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.), a 2010 All-NESCAC Second Teamer, have combined for 100 tackles, 40 tackles for loss, and 28 sacks over the last two seasons, while classmates Matt Delconte (Berlin, Conn.) and Tom Finnucan (Orange, Conn.) were equally solid on the interior line a year ago.
Fallas, a 2011 pre-season All-American according to D3Senior Classic, could close his career as one of the top defensive players in Trinity football history. In three seasons, Fallas has 199 tackles and 22.5 tackles for loss with 69 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, and five pass breakups last year. His skills and Trinity's defensive line depth allows the Bantams to easily switch to a 4-3 alignment when necessary. Senior ILB Mark Snyder (Rockaway, N.J.) has developed steadily over three seasons, and classmate Eamon Hanifan (Vienna, Va.) looks to move inside after a strong year as a starting OLB a year ago. Sophomores Brett Cde Baca (Millbrae, Calif.), who came on strong late in his rookie year, and Andrew Paul (Pompton Plains, N.J.) are also candidates to play alongside Fallas on the inside. On the outside, sophomores Steve Goniprow (Barrington, R.I.) and Tom Haverty (Marion, Mass.) are both athletic and productive young players with exciting potential, and will compete with experienced and versatile junior Tyler Dziama (Wellesley, Mass.) for starting roles.
Junior Rae Haynes (Hartford, Conn.) proved himself capable of joining Trinity's long tradition of hard-hitting, big play safeties with 31 tackles (2nd on team) and two picks in his first season as a starter in 2010. Classmate Julian Brown (Philadelphia, Pa.) is the early favorite to replace two-time All-NESCAC free safety Ben Sherry, and converted WR/KR Nick Campbell (New Albany, Ohio) is poised to step in for All-American Harry Melendez at one of the cornerback spots. Senior Matt Paskalides (Scarsdale, N.Y.) has been reliable as a cornerback and safety throughout his career, while junior CB Matt Noble (Hartford, Conn.) has shown promise in his first two seasons, and sophomore CB Akeem Labitue (Dorchester, Mass.) was the top freshman in the secondary a year ago.
Senior K/P Tim Costello (Solano Beach, Calif.) is a consistent weapon for Trinity, both scoring points and helping the Bantams win the field position battle with his leg. He enjoyed a record-breaking, All-NESCAC season at placekicker in 2009, and followed that with another solid year last fall that saw him average 36.4 yards per punt and nail seven of 11 field goal tries. Campbell is one of the top special teams players in the NESCAC, having finished 13th nationally in kickoff return average with 28.0 yards per attempt.