The Trinity Knights (3-1) suffered their first loss of the season Saturday night at Valencia High School, falling behind early to the Santa Paula Cardinals (4-2) before eventually succumbing, 34-26.
The Knights simply had no answer for the Cardinals’ run game. Santa Paula sophomore Allen Macias rushed for 195 yards and four touchdowns, while senior Bryce Zavala had 73 yards on just eight carries.
Trinity head coach Mike Parrinello said that his team was missing three linemen, though he would not say that his team being shorthanded was the reason for the Cardinals’ success. It was actually a trail of bad news leading up to Saturday’s game, as the Knights had not played since Sept. 10, and before that on Aug. 27.
“Guys stepped up and played hard. We never gave up,” Parrinello said. “You know, we lost our running back, at one point. So I’m very proud of the team and how they played. But we got to tighten up. We got to tighten it up.
“There’s a little rust. I mean, we’ve played one game in three weeks. You could see it a little bit and we got down early, and you can’t get down early to a good team. I like the comeback after that. But you spot a good team 14 points, and it’s just tough to get it all back.”
Trinity was able to mount a comeback, scoring at the start of the second quarter on a fumble recovery by senior Rocco Izzo. The Knights then stormed back to tie it midway through the third quarter on senior Tanner Moore’s 2-yard run.
After a couple more Santa Paula touchdowns, the Knights also found themselves without senior Dominic Smith at quarterback for a short time after he got hit hard trying to run for a first down. He would return, though, and tossed a 6-yard score to senior Jack Spector to bring it back to a one-score game.
Santa Paula saw Macias score his fourth touchdown of the game after that, but the Knights would continue to believe, even when backup quarterback Noah Visconti was thrown into the game late. The sophomore, who had played a small role in the Knights’ third touchdown drive before handing the keys back to Smith, found Spector for his second touchdown catch of the game with 21 seconds left in the fourth.
Smith finished the game throwing for 132 yards on 13-of-27 passing with a touchdown and an interception, adding eight carries for 48 yards. Spector had eight catches for 94 yards, while senior Noah Estanol had six catches for 24 yards. Izzo had one catch for 28 yards.
Visconti, normally coming in with his team already up big, was tasked with leading his team down the field trailing late in the game, and Parrinello thought that he ran the offense as it was supposed to be run, which led to the score. Visconti finished with 58 yards on 6-of-9 passing.
Parrinello said that Smith is still the starter under center, but that Visconti, like everyone else on the team, will have the opportunity to win a spot.
“I think, in all reality, I think he ran the offense better, because he ran the offense we’ve called, he ran the plays that were being called,” Parrinello said. “The future is bright at quarterback.
“We are a team that’s in competition every week. We are in competition every week. So the best quarterback’s gonna play moving forward. Dominic Smith is our quarterback and we’re moving forward, but everybody, I don’t care who you are on this team, how long you played, we have competition every week and you got to earn your spots.”
Special teams, a big part of the Knights’ success in their first three games, became an issue in this one. After the Cardinals scored less than 90 seconds from kickoff, they recovered an onside kick and marched down the short field, finishing it off with Macias’ second touchdown.
The Cardinals recovered their own onside kick twice, and three onside kicks in total, scoring once more before taking a knee on the final recovery to end the game.
Parrinello focused on the special teams as a big reason for the loss, as well as penalties and turnovers.
“We talked about winning the turnover battle, winning special teams and not having more penalties,” Parrinello said. “We lost all three and we lost the football game by a touchdown. This team is a good football team. You can’t make those kinds of mistakes and expect to win.”
Trinity was without senior Nick Parrinello at running back for much of the game after he came out with an injury in the first half.
The Knights will now turn their focus to Arrowhead Christian, the first opponent for the Knights in the Mesquite League. Trinity is playing in this league for the first time, an exciting, if not challenging, prospect for coach Parrinello.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “We know we’re moving up. We know we got good competition. But I’m excited. We look forward to that. We want to play good teams. We want to be challenged. We want to know that we beat somebody, we beat a better team than us. And I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fun league schedule.”