Even when it was the offense in Saturday’s 26-21 win over then-national No. 1 ranked Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, it was the defense. Trinity’s come-from-behind victory against high school football’s top team was orchestrated, similar to much of the program’s success in the last 16 years, first on the defensive side of the ball.
But what is unique is that the plays that keyed the Trojans’ most recent conquest came from young and unheralded players, players looking to fill a void on a defense that started the season with only two returning starters from last year’s 12-2 campaign.
“We’re young on both sides of the ball really,” coach Chris Jensen said. “The guys we’re looking to have play on this level, they just haven’t played a lot.”
It’s the first quarter, the Trojans are down 7-0 with the De La Salle offense driving, biting off chunks of Newsom Stadium at an average of 8.34 yards at a time on the ground. Enter sophomore safety Cameron Jones, a newcomer who stepped into a starting role and read De La Salle quarterback Anthony Sweeney’s eyes when he dropped back to pass, flew to the spot and picked off a pass to prevent further damage.
That play set up a Trinity drive ending in running back Ja’Ron Wilson’s 33-yard rushing score with 49 seconds left in the opening quarter that made the score 7-6.
Now it’s the second quarter, De La Salle has gone up 14-6 and is handling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. To make matters worse, the Spartans just recovered a fumble that ended a Trinity drive showing real promise. Who’s going to bail the Trojans out this time? How about Samuel Leota, a junior defensive end, and a reserve at that.
After a teammate jarred the ball loose from Sweeney’s grip, Leota scooped it up off the turf and started rumbling toward the end zone. He shed a would-be tackler, picked up a block and brought some swagger back the the Trinity sideline with his 45-yard return touchdown. It came at a point when the offense was still looking for ways around (or through) a tough De La Salle defense packed with NCAA Div. 1 talent.
Instead of going into halftime down 21-6, Leota’s play gave Trinity a new lease on life and a manageable 14-12 halftime deficit. The heck with defense keeping Trinity in the game; Leota turned good defense into the best offense, one that scores touchdowns.
It’s the third quarter, and the offense has woken up, but not before Jones made his second big defensive play. His fumble recovery inside the five yard line set up the drive that Trinity quarterback Tyler Natee finished off with a weaving 44-yard touchdown run. The Trojans went up 19-14 and never handed the lead back.
Jensen said the beautiful thing about having a non-district schedule as difficult as Trinity’s is that it wouldn’t take long to figure out where his team stood.
“We’ll probably have a good idea around 10 p.m. on Saturday where we are with some of our more inexperienced guys,” he said.
If the play of Jones and Leota against De La Salle is any indicator, the Trojans are in a pretty good place.
Trinity gets its first game at Pennington Field on Friday when Rockwall comes to town for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The Yellowjackets averaged 53 points per game last season but fell at home in their 2015 season opener to Denton Ryan, 31-14.
“[Rockwall is] probably counting on us being a little flat after all the hoopla surrounding our first game,” Jensen said. “But they will not be taken lightly, because they deserve a lot of respect. They can do it all on offense, and they can do it in a hurry.”
Matthew Martinez, 817-390-7760