Knights rack up eight sacks, two interceptions; Carlson records three scores
The 2023 season could be the year that John Carlson becomes a household name in the Santa Clarita Valley football scene.
The Trinity Classical Academy junior racked up three touchdowns — two as a receiver and one on a fumble recovery — to help the Knights (1-0) to a thumping win over the Firebaugh Falcons (0-1), 37-8, to open the season on Saturday at College of the Canyons’ Cougar Stadium.
“Almost unfairly to him, but we know we can expect from him and he did nothing to disappoint,” Trinity head coach Mike Parrinello said in a phone interview with The Signal. “He was everything we thought he’s capable of, and actually a little bit more. It was good to see. I expect just for him to keep continuing to build on that.”
Carlson has developed a good relationship with junior quarterback Noah Visconti, who completed 15 of 32 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns. Five of those completions went to Carlson, who picked up 126 yards on those grabs. Junior Luke Backes, playing in his first tackle football game, racked up three catches for 32 yards and a touchdown, and sophomore Hudson Sweitzer had two catches for 79 yards.
Visconti took over as the undisputed starter under center after splitting time at the position last season. Parrinello enjoyed watching him go about his business without worrying about what could happen if things go wrong.
“He proved through spring and summer that he was the man for us,” Parrinello said. “And he just went out and did what we expected. You know, things to improve. We got to work on reads and make sure we’re getting the ball to the receiver we want to hit, honing in on some of the accuracy. But for a first game, it was incredible.”
There wasn’t much of a need for the Knights to dominate on the ground, but Carlson still led the squad with 46 yards, just ahead of Sweitzer at 35 yards.
The Knights’ defense was nearly impeccable, allowing a touchdown pass on the opening drive before shutting the Falcons out the rest of the way. Trinity had a goal-line stand at the end of the first half to keep Firebaugh at one score.
“We want to attack the football,” Parrinello said. “We’re never going to be a big, powerful team, but we’ve got some really good athletes and some good football players, and so part of our game is we got to attack and we got to make things happen.”
Carlson led the way on defense yet again with 14 total tackles, one for a loss, to go along with an 88-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
He did not, though, pick up one of the eight sacks that the Knights recorded. Sophomores John Ryan and Skyker Hillemann led the way there with two each, while Backes, senior Holden Algee, sophomore Patrick Cherry and freshman Nick Delgado had one each. Delgado and Cherry were tied for second on the team with nine total tackles each.
“We had people in there, they were attacking hard,” Parrinello said.
Sweitzer and junior Andrew Kelly each recorded one interception.
While it wasn’t the 50-0 win that Trinity that got over this Firebaugh team to open last season, Parrinello saw many positives for a group of players that, for some at least, had never really played tackle football.
“We are only a varsity team,” Parrinello said. “We do not have a freshman or a JV team. So, with us, a lot of these guys, this is their first time playing football. We had a couple of freshmen that actually started. We had, I want to say, eight or nine guys that have never played a tackle football game in their lives and got in and played, and some of them actually really contributed.”
Trinity will stay at home for its next game, another repeat from last season as the Knights welcome the Bosco Tech Tigers (1-0) to COC on Saturday with kickoff set for 6 p.m. The Tigers topped Riverside Prep in their season opener, 33-14. Trinity won last year’s matchup, 50-8.
“I think we have the athletes that we were hoping to run our offense and our defense,” Parrinello said. “Our schedule only gets harder and harder as it goes, and our league schedule is really tough. But we were very happy with our first game and what we saw out of some guys and what we think they’re capable of.”