Football prepares to open season against reigning NESCAC champion Trinity

Quarterback Ryan McDonald (LA'19) prepares to pass the ball while (from left to right) offensive line Nick Roy (LA'19), sophomore wide receiver Tanner Gordon and offensive line Dan MacDonald (LA'19) block defenders in the homecoming football game at Bello Field against Bates on Sept. 29, 2018. Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily Archives

The NESCAC football season kicks off this weekend, as the Jumbos host the NESCAC powerhouse Trinity Bantams on Saturday afternoon at Ellis Oval.

The Jumbos are coming off a 7–2 season last year, which was good for third place in a difficult NESCAC. The Bantams, meanwhile, have won three straight NESCAC titles, and historically have been one of the strongest teams in the conference.

Senior co-captain and linebacker Greg Holt, who has received All-NESCAC honors every year he has been on the team, explained that the team has been preparing for Trinity like any other opponent.

“Every year we’re definitely excited to play them,” Holt said. “We take them on [in] the same way we take on any other team — focus on the game plan, focus on playing the best version of Tufts football that we can play, focus on fundamentals that our coaches are coaching us to do — and at the end of the day, try to execute our assignments and be the best we can be.”

Coach Jay Civetti — a Trinity alum and former football captain for the Bantams — added that success will entail focusing more on what his team can control, and not what Trinity brings to the table.

“Know thyself, know thy enemy, right?” Civetti said. “It’s important to know who you’re going against, but at the end of the day, if you spend too much time worrying about them, you’re not going to spend enough time on what you’re doing. That versus Trinity is a recipe for disaster.”

But there certainly is a lot that one could worry about with Trinity.

In last year’s matchup, Trinity handed Tufts its first of two losses for the season, 38–24. Tufts struggled the most with stopping the run game, as Trinity outrushed the team 250 yards to just 68 yards. However, the Trinity running back and 2018 NESCAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year Max Chipouras, graduated in the spring.

Among NESCAC squads, the Bantams led almost every statistical category as a team in 2018. Ten Bantams were named to the All-NESCAC first team on the offensive and defensive sides, as well as special teams.

In addition, perhaps the biggest hurdle for the Jumbos this fall will be the quarterback position. Quarterback Ryan McDonald (LA’19) — who led the NESCAC last season in touchdowns and passing yards and won the NESCAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year award — graduated, along with backup quarterback Ryan Hagfeldt (LA’19).

That leaves the Jumbos with several options: senior quarterback Jacob Carroll, junior quarterback Drew Gally, sophomore quarterback Cam Carti, first-year quarterback Trevon Woodson and senior running back Dom Borelli (who handled wildcat plays in the past).

“It’ll probably be a combination of seeing multiple guys — honestly right now I don’t know where it’s going to go yet,” Civetti said, referring to his quarterback plan for the season.

Holt expressed confidence that the team as a whole shows unique potential this year as well.

“I think you take things from previous seasons every year, but every team is unique in its own way,” Holt said. “Our [first-year] class is a little bit different than any ones that we’ve had come in — different personalities and a different group of guys — so it’s been a lot of fun. I think our focus has just been different — we’ve been focusing on ourselves mostly every day, day in and day out, and trying not to look too far ahead into the future.”

This Trinity matchup is also historical, schedule-wise: The schedule this year has completely changed from the standard lineup of years past. While this poses a significant change to the typical flow of the season, Civetti emphasized that the team should not let that affect them.

“Here’s what I’m not going to allow us to do — for people to tell us ‘hey it’s OK that you lost because you had to open with Trinity, Williams and Amherst’ — that’s not OK,” Civetti said. “All I can control is how I prepare the team for each week, and the league put that in front of us and it’s a tremendous opportunity, so let’s find out who we really are. I always want the best of the best, so we’re getting it.”

Saturday’s kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.