Young, deep team looks to improve in all areas

Trumbull quarterback Riley Simpson passes during the annual Rip It and Grip It tournament in summer 7-on-7 football scrimmages at New Canaan High School.

Trumbull quarterback Riley Simpson passes during the annual Rip It and Grip It tournament in summer 7-on-7 football scrimmages at New Canaan High School.

Dave Stewart / Hearst Connecticut Media

Second-year coach Marce Petroccio expects an improvement at Trumbull coming off its 5-5 record in his inaugural campaign at his alma mater.

“What I know is that we have an abundance of depth and more answers on offense than last year,” said Petroccio, who won 210 games and three state championships in 25 seasons at Staples. “Our defense will be a team strength, as will our skill players as a unit on offense. The best part is that we are still young.”

Before jotting down an unbeaten season that ends with Trumbull players carrying him off the field on their shoulders, take in what Petroccio said next — “A concern for us is that youth, that inexperience. We open with Bridgeport Central and then play last year’s No. 1 team in the state (Greenwich in week two).”

Add playoff teams or state champions in Darien, New Canaan and St. Joseph to the slate, and Petroccio, while excited, isn’t ready to claim a hostile takeover of the FCIAC.

First, Trumbull must improve on the 221 points scored and 255 allowed during last year’s campaign. And there’s still growing to do.

“What’s the saying: ‘For every sophomore starter add one game to the loss column?’” he cautioned. “Well, we could see seven to eight sophomores starting at any one time. But last year’s seniors did a great job laying the groundwork and these boys took it from there. We had a great winter and summer.”

Kyle Atherton, Coby Levinson, Nolan Shay, Cole Smith and Matt Delaney are team captains.

Riley Simpson and Hunter Fitzgibbons are competing at quarterback.

“I like it that both have the ability to be dual threats,” he said. “Both are great leaders. The best thing is that whoever is the quarterback will have a lot of toys to play with.

“(Junior running back) Mileeq Green will a problem to defend, because he is strong and doesn’t need a lot of space to get positive yards. He is a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield (10 receptions, 177 yards, 2 TDs in 5 games), and we can line him up anywhere.

“Jason Knapp and Cole Smith will also be important parts of our running game.”

Trumbull has a wealth of receivers.

“We have a bevy of at least seven guys that catch the ball and then get those yards needed after the catch,” Petroccio said.

Atherton is the main man. He caught 46 passes for 738 yards and six touchdowns from the graduated Colton Nicholas (1,803 yards, 14 TDs) as a junior.

“Kyle is big, physical and will catch anything near him,” Petroccio said. “He is an All-FCIAC kid.

“Ray Leonzi is fast, and you couple that with how tough he is, and you have a good football player.

“Ryan Teixeira is out for the first time as a senior. He is 6-3, 225 pounds and has done well.

“Ryan Quinn will be an outside receiver. He worked hard and is stronger and faster.

“L.J. (Ciambriello) can play any of the four receiving positions. He’ll also be playing defense, so we will spot him in on offense depending on the situation.”

The biggest question mark, but one with the largest upside, is the offensive line.

“Matt Delaney and Kobe Levinson return,” Petroccio said. “Up front is still a battle that won’t work itself out until we play scrimmages with pads on. We have a good mix of seniors and younger kids.

“We could have any combination of players starting with Kevin DiNacola, Jake Delfino, Cooper Dayton, Dylan Moran, Evan Davidson and Anthony Desabella.

“It will be on the job training. But they are a close-knit group”

Kenny Rivera will kick PAT’s and field goals. Andy Ilie will kick off. Teixeira or Justin Delaney will do the punting.

Defensively, Levinson, Dayton and Owen Mikucki will be at ends.

“Matt Delaney and Kevin DiNacola are interchangeable at defensive end and linebacker,” Petroccio said. “Nick Jack will be the Mike (middle) backer as well as an edge rusher. Cole Smith and L.J. Ciambriello will be linebackers, and Jake Peterson and Colin Desouza are pushing hard for playing time.

“I’m most excited about the back end (secondary) because last year we gave up too many third-and-long plays.

“Ray Leonzi and Billy Colbert are at corner, with Mileeq (Green) at safety with Nolan Shay. Owen Solano is another safety, and he is our punt and kick returner as well. Kevin Flewelling, Jake Ligouri, Justin Delaney and Dante Valentino can also play corner/safety.”

Trumbull will scrimmage Bunnell, Ridgefield and Masuk before opening its season with Bridgeport Central.

2019 Schedule

Sept. 13 — BRIDGEPORT CENTRAL*, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 — GREENWICH**, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27 — TRINITY/WRIGHT TECH**, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4 — DARIEN**, 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 — at Danbury** (Brookfield HS), 6 p.m.

Oct. 25 — NORWALK**, 6 p.m.

Nov. 1 — at Ludlowe**, 6 p.m.

Nov. 8 — at New Canaan**, 7 p.m.

Nov. 16 — at Westhill**, 1 p.m.

Nov. 28 — at St. Joseph*, 10:30 a.m.

Home games in CAPS

*Conference game

**Division game