His first few trips back to his alma mater, Trinity, first as an assistant at Tufts, and then as head coach, there was some nostalgia for Jay Civetti.
“There were a lot of great memories for me there,” said Civetti, a 32-game starter on the offensive line for the Bantams from 1997-2000, serving as captain his senior season.
“Trinity has gone through a lot of transition, facility-wise, but it is the same footprint.”
And the footprint on the field is as impressive as ever.
The third-ranked Division 3 program in New England, Trinity has trampled its first three NESCAC foes: Bates (38-7), Williams (38-13), and Hamilton (37-6).
Junior QB Sonny Puzzo (8 TD passes, no picks) pilots an attack that features sophomore back Max Chipouras (NESCAC-leading 126.0 yards rushing per game).
Tufts has not been as dominant in its second 3-0 start in two seasons, but the Jumbos have exhibited grit in wins over Wesleyan (17-14), Bates (12-7), and Bowdoin (41-21). Senior Chance Brady is averaging 115 yards rushing per game and sophomore QB Ryan McDonald is making plays with his legs and arm.
Saturday afternoon, Tufts will be after its first win in Hartford since Oct. 24, 1998, when Civetti was in the trenches.
“For the first time since I have been the coach at Tufts, our kids are not afraid of anybody,” said Civetti. “They have so much confidence in each other, they have played so hard for each other, regardless of whom we are playing, or how they are playing.”
A year ago, Trinity prevailed in overtime at Tufts, 34-27, its eighth straight win in the series.
“We’ve got the players in the right place, I have all the respect in the world for Trinity, they have earned that, but I think that we are pretty good, too.”
Tanner Lee did not wow colleges with his 5-foot-10-inch, 180-pound frame, or speed. A junior defensive back out of Spanish Fort, Ala., and Daphne High, Lee was one of Harvard’s final recruits for the 2014 class.
“Just a really tough, instinctive player,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy. “Sometimes, at that point, you take a kid just based on character . . . and it always seems to work out.”
Lee emerged as a playmaker in the Crimson secondary first as a nickel back, and now, as a starting safety. Making his first career start in Saturday’s 29-13 win over visiting Cornell, Lee recorded two interceptions. The first derailed a Big Red second-quarter drive at the Harvard 16, and the second came in his own end zone in the third quarter.
On Wednesday afternoon at Dillon Fieldhouse, Lee snared the first Division 1 Gold Helmet of his college career from the New England Football Writers.
“He’s a dynamite Division 1 college safety . . . and those two big interceptions [last] Saturday were game-changing plays,” said Murphy, whose 15th-ranked Crimson (4-0) close out the non-conference schedule Saturday at Holy Cross (2-4).
Like Lee, Andrew Benson is stepping forward in the secondary at Assumption (5-1), ranked 18th in this week’s AFCA Division 2 poll. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior from East Bridgewater was all over the field in the Greyhounds’ 42-7 Northeast-10 win over host Bentley.
Benson collected D2-3 Gold Helmet honors after he racked up seven tackles, recovered a fumble, blocked a punt, returned a punt 30 yards, and took a pick-six 30 yards for his first touchdown as a collegian.
And like Lee, Benson “was on our last recruiting visit,’’ according to Assumption coach Bob Chesney. “We knew on character alone, he would make a huge impact on our team, and he has made a huge difference in our secondary,” the coach said.