Middletown, Conn. - First-year WR Devante Reid (White Plains, N.Y.) scored the game's first and only touchdown on a five-yard end around, as the visiting Trinity College football team captured their third-consecutive New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship title with a 9-0 shutout win over the Wesleyan University Cardinals on a cold and windy afternoon at Andrus Field. The Bantams complete the season with an 8-1 record, tied with Amherst for the best record in the NESCAC, and earns the league crown due to its 27-16 head-to-head win over the Mammoths last weekend. Trinity has now won nine official NESCAC titles (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2018) and five in the last 11 seasons under Head Coach Jeff Devanney. Wesleyan ends its season at 5-4.
The game was scoreless at halftime, as the Bantams did not score in the first two quarters of a game for the first time since 2004 but the Trinity defense took control after the break. A pair of sacks on Wesleyan's first possession of the third quarter by juniors Daniel Negron (Hartsdale, N.Y.) and Devyn Perkins (Brookline, Mass.) forced the Cardinals to punt against the wind from deep in their own end zone. Trinity continued to win the field-position battle, and eventually broke through with a five-play, 51-yard drive late in the third. First-year QB Seamus Lambert (Andover, Mass.) completed first-down passes to both sophomore WR Jonathan Girard (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) and junior TE Joe Samuelman (North Andover, Mass.), before Reid took a sweep around the right side and found the pylon for the touchdown. A missed PAT, made the score, 6-0, with 5:19 remaining in the quarter.
Negron and sophomore DL Jimmie Christiano (Middlebury, Conn.) came up with another sack on the ensuing Cardinal possession to force a punt, and the Bantams pushed their lead up to 9-0 on a 22-yard field goal by senior Eric Sachse (Jefferson, Mass.) with 11:50 left in the game. Trinity senior tri-captain Max Chipouras (Longmeadow, Mass.) ran for 19 yards on 3rd-and-one to keep the scoring drive intact. Bantam seniors Chandler Colberg (Madison, Conn.) and Dago Picon-Roura (Roslindale, Mass.) each thwarted late Wesleyan drives with interceptions, including a pivotal pick by Colberg at his own 12-yard lineNeither team could get much going in the first half, although Wesleyan had an early chance when senior captain Grant Williams recovered a fumbled Trinity snap at the Bantam 28-yard line on the second play of the game. Trinity senior LB Jacob Martilotti (Wayne, Pa.) made three tackles on the next four plays, including an eight-yard sack on 4th-and-3 from his own 21-yard line to end the threat. Trinity came up empty on its own drive into Wesleyan territory due largely to another fumbled snap later in the first quarter, and both defenses kept their opponent out of the red zone for the entire second frame.
Trinity held Wesleyan to 175 yards of total offense and just 62 yards on the ground while sacking Cardinal sophomore QB Dan Smith eight times. Christiano and Perkins had 2.5 sacks apiece, while Negron added two sacks, and Martilotti finished with a team-high nine tackles and one sack. Negron, Christiano, and Picon-Roura all forced fumbles as well for the Bantam defense. Wesleyan senior captain LB Brandon Morris led all tacklers with 11. Lambert completed 10 of 16 passed for 118 yards, while Chipouras rushed for a game-high 79 yards, and Girard added four catches for 58 yards for the Trinity offense. Smith was 13-for-31 for 150 yards to eight different receivers for the Cardinals. Three punts by Bantam junior Ian McDonald (Avon, Conn.) inside the Wesleyan 20-yard line were a key factor in the game.
"The resiliency of the team was amazing to see this year," said Trinity Head Coach Jeff Devanney. "We were a little shaky as a team early, but every week we grew. The seniors did a great job of bringing this team together. It is hard to put into words what it means to be champions three years in a row. The league is so much more challenging than 20 years ago with the resurgence of teams like Tufts and Williams. It has become a really good league, and the guys deserve a ton of credit for winning the championship three years in a row. I also think our coordinators Mark Melnitsky (offense), Lew Acquarulo (defense), and Denver Williams (recruiting), who have all been with us for the whole time, deserve alot of the credit for this as well."