NHIAA D-IV Football Championship: Pioneers on streak heading into rematch
MANCHESTER - After a 22-point regular-season loss to Plymouth in September, Trinity head coach Steve Burns said his team got punched in the mouth.
"We lost every phase of the game," said Burns. "You name it. Offense, defense, special teams. They won all three phases that day and I'll say it again. We got punched in the mouth that day."
On Saturday, defending state champion Trinity (9-1) will have a solid hour on the bus thinking about that 36-14 punch as they journey back to Plymouth to face the undefeated top-ranked Bobcats (10-0) for the Division IV state title game at 1 p.m. at George Zoulias Field.
"We committed four turnovers that day and Plymouth, being the good team they are, just took advantage of every one of them," said Burns. "If we don't take care of the ball, our chances of winning Saturday will not be great."
The good news for Trinity is that since that loss, it has won seven straight games - a sign the team is peaking at the right time.
"It starts with leadership and we've got three solid captains in (quarterback) Carmen Giampetruzzi, (lineman) Pat Taillon and (fullback) Ryan Carrier," said Burns. "Ryan is the heart and soul of the team and Pat, who seems to run 900 miles an hour every single play, just leads by example."
Trinity leads the state in scoring points with 433 this year and it starts with Giampetruzzi, who has 12 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in 10 games. "It says something when your teammates select you as team captain when you're a junior," said Burns. "He's a competitor who earned his spot on the varsity team ever since he came to Trinity. He ranks ninth in his class with a 4.10 GPA. He's been big for us throughout his career and it goes without saying that he'll give it his all on Saturday with the rest of the team."
Austin Chambers and Romeo Masuku will be two of Giampetruzzi's main targets through the air against the Bobcats Saturday.
There's one more thing to remember when Trinity takes the field Saturday. The program will be playing for a state football title for the fourth straight year.
In 2009, the Pioneers won the Division V championship with an 11-0 record. The following year they finished 9-3, losing to Lebanon in the state finals. Last season, the team beat Plymouth for the state crown, improving to 10-0 before losing to Manchester Central in the non-league Turkey Bowl.
If you include the 2008 season (8-2) under former head coach John Trisciani, the Pioneers are a combined 46-7 over the last five seasons.
It's a remarkable turnaround when one considers and remembers that it was only seven years ago when Trinity was on the brink of eliminating its football program because it was lacking players.
"I remember when I took it over that we only had 16 players and I had to go searching for them," said Trisciani. "At the time we had few players and a very limited playing schedule because we had dropped out of Division I and were an independent program. The program was getting hammered and just couldn't compete."
Trisciani will always be credited for saving the program, but he points out there are many others who share the credit.
"You start with Dick Powers, who was there to hold the fort before I got there," said Trisciani. "We brought in Denny Richmond, who did a great job and when I left, Gary Leonard for three years and Steve Burns this year kept the system in place. Trinity is no longer a struggling team, but a program which just keeps reloading every year."
Trisciani even said Trinity has become a "carbon copy" of Plymouth.
"How Trinity prepares and plays is a lot like Plymouth. We stress discipline and fundamentals. We teach respect, not only for our opponents, but the referees working the game. I personally have a lot of respect for (Plymouth head coach) Chuck Lenahan. There's a reason he's the winningest coach (344 coaching wins) in New England history. You can learn a lot by just watching his program."
Trisciani said Saturday's championship game will be competitive. "It could be a 6-0 game or a 35-28 game. I can't predict the score. What I do know is it will be physical. Both teams will come out hitting."