STAMFORD, Conn. – Trinity Catholic was buzzing with the return of running back Shaquan Howsie in Saturday’s season opener. But it was the Crusader defense that did a lot of the heavy lifting in a 28-10 victory over Westhill in a battle of Stamford schools.
With the most players on its team in years, Westhill was fired up entering the season opener. The momentum seemed to favor the Vikings early when a muffed punt on the fourth play from scrimmage led to a safety and a 2-0 Westhill lead.
That would be as good as it would get for the Vikings, as Westhill’s offense showed it still has a long way to go in the rebuilding process. Westhill fumbled on its first play from scrimmage and Trinity’s Riley Kinahan scooped up the loose ball, scampering 36 yards for the Crusaders’ first score of the season.
The big news of the day was Trinity’s powerhouse running back, Howsie, returning from and ACL tear in his knee. Westhill’s defensive front provided the game’s silver lining for the Vikings, holding Howsie in check to 83 yards on 20 carries.
Despite averaging just over four yards a carry, Howsie still had a nose for the end zone. The senior back added rushing touchdowns of eight and 22 yards. The 22-yarder in the fourth quarter was his longest run of the day.
The rushing numbers didn’t matter to Howsie, though. He was just glad to be back.
“I’m so happy to back, to be playing and that we got the win today. I’m ready to play again right now,” Howsie said. “200 yards, 100, 50 – doesn’t matter. As long as we get that win, that’s all I care about.”
Trinity’s defense wreaked havoc on Westhill’s inexperienced offense, holding the Vikings to just 156 yards of total team offense. The Vikings also turned the ball over three times on a pair of fumbles and an interception by Trinity’s Cody Zaro. Trinity also racked up racked up four sacks against Westhill’s quarterback tandem of Ryan Coppolla and Davell Cotterell.
“We stuck with the course today and I’m proud,” Trinity head coach Pete Stokes said. “It’s time for us to play with the big boys. We’re senior heavy and we know that we can play against any 11 other guys.”
A frustrating day on offense did yield one Westhill touchdown, thanks in part to four straight Trinity penalties late in the fourth quarter. Coppolla connected with Yveson Cassamajor for the Vikings’ only offensive score of the day, adding the two-point conversion.
“Three turnovers led to three touchdowns – that’s the difference in the ballgame,” Westhill’s first-year head coach Frank Marcucio said. “We held them, but then we put the ball on the ground our first play of the game. The ball just didn’t bounce our way.”
Trinity Catholic faces one of its toughest tests of the season next week when New Canaan comes to town on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game.
Westhill, meanwhile, will travel to Trumbull on Friday for a 7 p.m. game.