The Trinity Catholic football team walks a tightrope in the FCIAC.
Two or three injuries to key players, a couple mental mistakes over the course of a game or an ill-timed penalty and the Crusaders can find themselves in holes too big to dig out of.
Such is life for the smallest school in the FCIAC.
Playing as a Class S school in a conference stacked with LL teams, Trinity Catholic annually faces an uphill battle based purely on numbers. For instance, Greenwich had nearly 200 players come out for the football team this year. Trinity on the other hand has 200 boys at the school and 42 in the football program including freshmen. Trinity faces Greenwich in Week 2 after taking on Danbury which has over 1,600 boys enrolled.
Despite the wide gap in student body, Donny Panapada and staff routinely have the Crusaders not only challenging the big boys in conference, but also contending for Class S playoff spots.
In 2016 the team was 6-4 and in 2015 Trinity went 8-1, qualifying for the Class S playoffs and reaching the semifinals.
The team struggled to a 2-8 record last season, but Panapada feels his Crusaders have the talent to once again push for the postseason.
“I am happy with what I have seen, so far. We don’t have a lot of kids and we are not the biggest, the fastest or the strongest,” Panapada said. “These kids will play hard and play with heart and soul every game.”
The talent on offense gives Trinity reason to be optimistic with QB Sam Pensiero back along with WR Anthony Anderson, slot receiver Jason Svec, and Chris Amboise who can line up in the backfield, the slot or split out wide.
“I feel like the offense is coming together as all of the guys start to know each other better,” Anderson said. “The offense is going to be better this year. We know we have to work harder than anybody else. We have to be smarter, we have to be in the weight room more and we have to follow what our coaches tell us.”
Anderson (DB), Svec (DB) and Amboise (LB) will also be anchoring the defense as the Crusaders work in younger players on both sides of the ball.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Crusaders success will also come from limiting mistakes and staying physically fit, which is challenging with so many players going both ways.
“That is everything for our team because we are not deep, at all,” Svec said. “We need everyone on the same page and we have a small margin for error. The key is just bringing it every single play. Everyone has to play both aides of the ball and you can’t get tired. That’s the key, you have to keep your energy up. That’s the only way we are going to win games.”
Panapada feels the Crusaders can not only compete for the city championship, but make push at a Class S playoff spot if they stay disciplined.
“We have some young kids that have come along very well,” Panapada said. “We need to be more consistent and eliminate the negative plays. We are a team that if we get in 2nd and 15, we are going to be in trouble. If we can keep positive plays and move the chains, eliminating the negative plays that will be very important for us”
Trinity’s first goal, as always, will be winning the city championship after losing to both Westhill and Stamford last season.
This season, Trinity hosts Stamford sandwiched between games against Greenwich and Trumbull and plays Westhill after facing New Canaan and before hosting defending Class M champion Killingly.
The 124-mile trip between Killingly and Trinity is one of the longest in Connecticut this season. Trinity made the trip to Killingly last season and lost, 49-7.