MANCHESTER - In the days leading up to Thursday's 32nd Annual Turkey Bowl, Trinity coach Steve Burns told his players that Manchester Central was better than his team on paper. The Gill Stadium scoreboard told a different story.
Helped by four Central turnovers, Trinity capped its season by posting a 27-21 victory.
"We were definitely big underdogs," Burns said. "They're a Division I playoff team. Our kids are gamers. Our kids have pride.
"We told our guys that this is the game they'd be talking about 30 years down the line, and if we lost to them they were going to have to listen to it for a long time. You can't measure heart."
Trinity scored 20 points on the possessions that followed Central's four turnovers, three of which were fumbles. The Pioneers scored their other touchdown after opening the second half with a successful onside kick.
"We've been working on that all week," Trinity quarterback Carmen Giampetruzzi said. "Big momentum swing. They had no clue it was coming."
Trinity, which lost to Plymouth in the Division IV championship game, completed its season with a 10-2 record. It was the first time the Pioneers have won the city championship since 1997, when they defeated Central, 13-12.
"We beat them in all three phases," Trinity fullback/linebacker Ryan Carrier said. "We played our hearts out today."
Central, which lost to Exeter in the Division I semifinals, finished 6-6. The Little Green lost four of their last five games.
"Trinity was a whole lot better than we were today," Central coach Ryan Ray said. "We turned the ball over four times. A lot of that was good defense by them. We had guys play well today, but we didn't play well as a team."
The game turned in Trinity's favor late in the third quarter. It was a 14-14 contest, and Central had the ball on the Trinity 27-yard line after Andrew Slingsby gained 22 yards on a fake punt. Two plays later, however, Austin Chambers intercepted a Riley Cote pass on the goal line and returned the ball to the Trinity 39.
Wingback Romeo Masuku (16 carries, 134 yards) gained 55 yards on the next play, and Trinity took the lead moments later when offensive lineman Ian Landry recovered a Giampetruzzi fumble in the end zone with 9:54 remaining in the fourth.
Central also fumbled on its next play from scrimmage, and Trinity put together a six-play, 27-yard scoring drive. Masuku gave Trinity a 27-14 lead when he scored on a 7-yard run with 7:01 to play.
"It felt like every time we turned the ball over they capitalized," Ray said. "You can't turn the ball over four times and not take it away."
"We're always taught to grab at the ball every chance we get," added Carrier. "If we have them stood up, try and rip it out. It worked today."
Central made sure no one headed to the exits early when Cote scored on a 3-yard run with 5:13 to play, but Trinity maintained possession for the rest of the game.
Central's Troy Pelletier caught two TD passes in the loss. Trinity's other TDs came on Carrier's 1-yard run in the second quarter, and a 9-yard pass from Giampetruzzi to Tristan Theroux on the drive that followed the onside kick.
"I think we shocked the whole city," Giampetruzzi said. "No one thought we could give them a game."
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