Walking into the sunny but windy Saturday game, the Tufts football team, led by head coach Jay Civetti, looked to start the season off strong, with Civetti ready to take on his alma mater. Notably, the Jumbos walked out of last year’s matchup with the Trinity Bantams with a 26–23 loss. The 2022 game featured a big second-half comeback for Tufts, even though they just fell short. Trinity, looking to repeat their undefeated NESCAC record from last year, came out strong.
“They started fast and they put their foot on the gas and didn’t take it off,” senior wide receiver Jaden Richardson said. The combination of fifth-year quarterback Spencer Fetter and dynamic junior wide receiver Sean Clapp had the Bantams moving in the right direction straight out of the gate. Two rapid touchdowns from sophomore running back Tyler DiNapoli and senior wide receiver Max Roche had the Bantams up 14–0 with three minutes and 20 seconds left in the first quarter. After that, Tufts’ offense started to slowly get the ball rolling. Junior wide receiver Cade Moore had a 27-yard gain to get the Jumbos into Bantam territory for the first time.
The Jumbos’ momentum wasn’t enough to stop the Bantams though, as fifth-year tight end Nicholas Zalanskas caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Fetter, and senior running back Colin McCabe had a three yard score of his own. The score going into halftime was a lopsided 28–0. Fetter had a good day, throwing for a total of 313 yards and two touchdowns, completing 20 out of 38 attempts.
Even with Trinity’s momentum, Tufts defensive players did their best to stop their victory. The combined efforts of senior linebacker EJ Comerford, sophomore linebacker Jeff Xu and senior defensive back Vic Garza provided a stop for the Jumbos, giving the offense back the ball at the start of the third quarter.
Tufts, historically a second-half football team, especially against Trinity, stayed true to their past. An 82-yard catch and run from junior quarterback Michael Berluti to Richardson put the Jumbos on the board. Sophomore kicker Vaughn Seelicke put it through the uprights, making the score 28–7. The Jumbos continued to find momentum, with Garza stopping a long Bantam pass from going through.
Not to be outdone, Trinity’s DiNapoli made an impressive run to gain ground right at the end of the quarter for the Bantams. DiNapoli was an impact player throughout the game for the Trinity squad, gaining them a combination of 23 receiving yards and 62 rushing yards, averaging 4.4 yards a carry. Fetter continued to find receiver Clapp as well; Clapp caught nine passes for a total of 172 yards with his longest being 41 yards.
Tufts continued to respond and find their second-half wind, with Richardson making a catch over a Trinity defender for a nine yard touchdown to make the score 35–13. A stellar receiving game by Richardson had him catching the ball six times for 146 yards.
McCabe of the Bantams found the endzone again to make the score 44–13 off a 13-yard run, after a very successful drive led by Trinity senior running back Will Kirby. Kirby rushed for 48 yards, averaging six yards a carry. Richardson was not done yet, with Berluti finding him on a 38-yard pass to put more points on the board for Tufts, making the score 44–19. Berluti had a stellar season last year, throwing for the most yards in the NESCAC with 2,752 and was certainly looking to continue that momentum going into the season. His stat line was exceptional, throwing for 344 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for an additional 23 yards. But his completion rate was well below last year’s completion rate of 69%, as he only completed 23 out of 53 attempts in the game against the Bantams. The final score of the Saturday game was 44–19 to the Bantams.
Statistically, it was a decent day for the Tufts defense. Comerford led the Jumbos’ defense, bringing Bantams down all around the field for a total of 13 tackles. Senior defensive back Kristian Rosario had the second most tackles, with a total of eight. Junior defensive back Jameer Alves, senior defensive lineman Javier Rios and Garza had six stops each. Offensively, Moore caught six passes for a total of 103 yards, with a long of 28 yards. Junior wide receiver Henry Fleckner, a former Jumbo baseball player, also made his debut after changing fields, playing for the football team for the first time this season and making three catches for 44 yards.
After the loss, Berluti spoke with the Daily about the Jumbos’ performance.
“Our execution is the biggest thing that we’re going to focus on and we’ll get wired tight on that,” Berluti said. He is optimistic about the future.
“We used our mulligan, but we just have to take it one day and one game at a time and play our brand of football,” Richardson said. Tufts will challenge Bates on Sept. 23 at 6:30 p.m. for the homecoming game.
“It’s going to be fun being home under the lights, [we have to just] not get too caught up in [the fact that it is homecoming] and understand it’s just another game,” Richardson said.
Last year, Tufts beat Bates 35–7, but two years ago the Bobcats came to the Ellis Oval and surprised the Jumbos, beating them 33–10.
“They’re a good team, they’re gonna come down under the lights to give us their best shot, so we definitely need to be ready for it,” Berluti said.