Trinity Catholic 38, Westhill 28: Crusaders’ New Long Distance Game Has Buoyed Confidence

Trinity Catholic's Randy Polonia breaks free for one of his four first-half touchdown catches. (Photo: Mark Greene)
Trinity Catholic’s Randy Polonia breaks free for one of his four first-half touchdown catches. (Photo: Mark Greene)

STAMFORD — The Trinity Catholic football team has always been noted for having tough players that get the most out of their ability, and for an offense that would go a few yards and a cloud of dust.

That was due in part because the Crusaders — hopefully for only just a little longer — are one of only two teams with grass fields capable of producing any dust.

Now they also have a vertical game with the capability of being more dangerous than at any time in recent memory.

That was apparent even to those who stopped by the school Saturday afternoon even for only a short time as the Crusaders hosted Westhill in the first step toward the city title. Eighteen minutes and 16 seconds in football time, to be precise.

Trinity scored five touchdowns in that span, on only 11 plays. Four of them came on passes from new quarterback Anthony Lombardi to Randy Polonia, the first covering a paltry 18 yards, the second a screen that Polonia danced his way for 80 yards, and the last two bombs of 55 and 76 yards where Lombardi hit his receiver in stride.

Westhill quarterback Frankie Marcucio breaks a run against Trinity. (Photo: Mark Greene)
Westhill quarterback Frankie Marcucio breaks a run against Trinity. (Photo: Mark Greene)

That gave the Crusaders a commanding and somewhat surprising 32-7 lead. They were able to withstand a furious rally by the Vikings before improving to 2-0 with a 38-28 win.

“It’s great, but I’m not used to it,” Trinity coach Donny Panapada said about a situation few coaches are accustomed to, but would like to have. “It’s great, but you have to be able to do the other stuff. We have to be a little bit more balanced.”

Still, with the Vikings (1-1) stacking the box and unable to get pressure on Lombardi, Trinity tapped the long distance version of pitch and catch, with Polonia, the pitcher who was the FCIAC baseball player of the year, in a different role.

“It’s great. Anthony has a beautiful ball,” Polonia said. “I try to beat the corners and the safeties outside, and if they try to play me 20 yards off then we’ll beat them underneath. We executed.”

Trinity quarterback Anthony Lombardi looks for an open receiver. (Photo: Mark Greene)
Trinity quarterback Anthony Lombardi looks for an open receiver. (Photo: Mark Greene)

Perhaps the only negative residual is putting the defense on the field for longer stretches, though that had little to do with an exceeding number of penalties that smoothed the way for Westhill, which to its credit never backed down when falling behind by so much so fast.

“We felt like we had some opportunities down the field against them,” Panapada said. “We did it in the first half. They did a better job against it in the second half. We’re going to take what you give us. They crowded the box, which is the way they like to play. They like to be aggressive. But I’m not happy with the penalties. I’m not happy with myself because I got one. We’re not going to keep getting away with that.”

Lombardi, one of the league’s new players making the biggest impacts thus far, also had a 40-yard touchdown pass to Sam Ruzzi early in the third quarter to put the Crusaders up, 38-14, before Westhill’s own transfer quarterback, Frankie Marcucio, scored on a beautifully executed 80-yard option keeper and one-yard bootleg.”

Trinity Catholic's Justin Pryzpek brings down a Westhill runner. (Photo: Mark Greene)
Trinity Catholic’s Justin Pryzpek brings down a Westhill runner. (Photo: Mark Greene)

“We did a much better job in the second half because we adjusted more to a zone blitz coverage and Frankie was able to show how athletic he is,” said Westhill coach Frank Marcucio of his son. “We couldn’t get to (Lombardi) in the first half and he was able to throw over us.”

Trinity, which qualified for the state playoffs two years ago, is back on the radar after an 0-11 finish last season. Next week’s home game against Fairfield Warde, also 2-0 after beating Trumbull Friday night for what is believed to be just the second time ever, suddenly has much greater intrigue than it did two weeks ago.

And the Crusaders’ attitude is as bright as their freshly polished air attack.

“It’s great, 2-0 is great,” Polonia said with a huge smile. “But 3-0 is better.”

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