MANCHESTER, NH – The Trinity Pioneers’ cinderella football season came to a bitter end under bitter temperatures on Saturday night at Gill Stadium. There, they fell 7-0 in the NHIAA Division III Football Tournament quarterfinals to the Cardinals of Stevens High School.
As the scoreboard would attest, Saturday night’s game did not lend itself to much offense. However, Trinity struggled in particular, ending the first half with just 40 yards from scrimmage, a figure made more stunning by the fact that they reached the red zone on their first two drives.
Stevens did not fare much better, going three and out on their first two drives. On their third drive however, the Cardinals marched 98 yards, concluding with a 23-yard touchdown run from junior Keaghan McAllister.
Trinity began the second half with another trip to the red zone, but again left with no points as the Cardinals successfully blocked a 30-yard Liam McCoy field goal attempt to finish the drive in its tracks.
Stevens gave the ball back to Trinity near midfield on the subsequent drive, but the Pioneers offense still could not capitalize, as the Cardinals got the ball back thanks to a Baylor Rozzell interception.
With the Pioneers’ limited offensive capabilities, Stevens seemed continuously poised to finish off the contest once and for all after the interception, but Trinity’s defense forced fumbles on the next three consecutive Cardinal drives.
Just under a minute remained after the third Stevens fumble, coming at Trinity’s one-yard line and deftly downed by Jacob Brown for a touchback. However, the Pioneers offense stumbled one last time, with John Thibault’s lost fumble giving the ball back to Stevens one last time before the clock expired.
The interception to Rozzell was the only time anyone from either team caught a pass from Trinity quarterback Foster Stacey, who went 0-for-7 through the air on the night.
Although the Trinity offense sputtered due in large part to key injuries coming into the contest, reaching the playoffs after the varsity program did not play at all in 2017 was a herculean feat in itself, an accomplishment burnished by Saturday’s heroic defensive effort.
“I’m just disappointed that we didn’t advance further, but I’m definitely proud of what these guys accomplished this year,” said Trinity head coach Rob Cathcart. “We have a lot of good team speed on defense, on offense we just weren’t able to block their big guys up front and keep a sustained drive going.”
Thibault led the Pioneers with 21 yard of rushing on the evening while Stevens quarterback Quintin Bicknell had 92 yards on the ground as well as 92 yards through the air on five completions.
Stevens heads to Litchfield next weekend for a semifinal matchup against third seeded Campbell.