Trinity Catholic dominates Morgan in Class S quarterfinals

STAMFORD — Every week has been about opportunity for the Trinity Catholic High School football team.

And the Crusaders continue to seize every moment.

Trinity Catholic rolled to its ninth consecutive victory Tuesday night, dominating No. 5 Morgan School, 40-12 in the Class S quarterfinals at Stamford High’s Boyle Stadium.

The triumph means No. 4 Trinity Catholic (9-1) will travel to battle No. 1 seed and perennial state power Ansonia High School in Monday’s Class S semifinals. Ansonia eliminated No. 8 Capital/Achievement Trailblazers of Hartford, 35-13 at home Tuesday night.

“The last time the Trinity Catholic football program won a state playoff game was 1993,” Trinity Catholic senior quarterback Anthony Lombardi said. “To come out and win this game tonight is sweet. All our work continues to pay dividends.”

Lombardi was the orchestra leader as Trinity Catholic rose above the chaos, constant rain and light winds to end the season for Morgan (9-2).

“We had some chances but we stalled,” said Morgan’s first-year head coach Peter Nye. “The fact was that Trinity Catholic’s offensive and defensive lines were bigger, stronger and faster than we were. We had heart. I’m proud of our effort. But it simply wasn’t enough.”

Trinity Catholic never allowed Morgan to settle into the contest. Jonmichael Bivona (11 carries, 123 yards rushing) scored on a 10-yard burst with 5:39 remaining in the first quarter for a 6-0 Crusader edge.

After the Trinity defense forced a three-and-out, Lombardi found 6-foot-3 senior tight end Johnny Somers on a 75-yard seam pass. Nick Melia bulled into the end zone for two points and Trinity Catholic lead 14-0 after one quarter.

“We wanted to play with pace and aggressiveness early,” said Trinity Catholic head coach Donny Panapada, who was an offensive lineman on the 1993 team. “Offensively, it was all about speeding up the tempo.”

The early deficit looked even larger to Morgan as the Huskies played without their No. 1 wide receiver, senior Mateo Zumpano. Zumpano (53 receptions, 1,008 yards, 11 TD) had been plagued by back issues for the last month and couldn’t go in the cold, wet conditions.

Zumpano’s absence made it easier for the Trinity Catholic defense to focus on Morgan’s senior running back Gabe Eriksen. Eriksen entered with 1,350 yards rushing on 143 carries, 456 yards receiving and 23 total TDs.

The Crusaders limited Eriksen to 40 yards rushing on 19 carries and two receptions for 36 yards until the final five minutes when the senior added 76 yards on four carries and a TD.

“People do talk a lot about our offense,” Panapada said. “But our defense was magnificent tonight. They bent and didn’t break the entire evening. This was a big win for us.”

The Crusaders, playing their first state playoff game since a quarterfinal loss in 2012, took over on downs at its own 33 in the second quarter. The Crusaders marched 67 yards in eight plays. Lombardi found 6-foot-2 senior Izaiah Sanders for 24 yards then a 6-yard TD with 7:17 left in the half for 20-0.

The defense brought the hammer down with 59 seconds left before intermission. Trinity Catholic junior Nick Granata intercepted a Chucky Kostek pass and returned it 66 yards for the TD and a 26-0 halftime edge.

Morgan senior quarterback Kostek finished the evening 15 of 30 passing for 87 yards with four interceptions, three QB sacks and one TD.

With Justin Greene (nine carries, 75 yards rushing) giving Bivona considerable rest, Trinity Catholic moved 68 yards in six plays as Lombardi’s 19-yard scoring run made it 32-0 after three quarters.

Melia (three-yard run) had the final Trinity TD after a Willie Sadler interception. Morgan’s two touchdowns came in the final four minutes to avoid the shutout.

“We believe we can play with anybody,” Trinity Catholic’s Panapada said. “We love the idea that we are one of just 16 high school football teams in the state still practicing. Morgan was a good team. But we showed that we are a good team as well.”


MORGAN 0 0 0 12 — 12

TRINITY CATHOLIC 14 12 6 8 — 40

Records: Morgan 9-2; Trinity Catholic 9-1.

TC — Jonmichael Bivona 10 run (run failed)

TC — Jonny Somers 75 pass from Anthony Lombardi (Nick Melia run)

TC — Izaiah Sanders 6 pass from Lombardi (run failed)

TC — Nick Granata 66 interception return (pass failed)

TC — Lombardi 19 run (run failed)

TC — Melia 3 run (John Petrizzi pass from Lombardi)

M — John Lee 2 pass from Chucky Kostek (kick failed)

M — Gabe Eriksen 2 run (pass failed)