A school as rich in tradition and success as Trinity Catholic has too many great moments to count. That being said, we take a look at some of the most memorable moments of the Crusaders.
STAMFORD CATHOLIC GOES OUT ON TOP
The year before it became Trinity Catholic, the baseball team added one last banner under the name Stamford Catholic.
Having won FCIACs in 1990, the Crusaders made a run to the CIAC Class S championship the following year under coach Mickey Lione.
Catholic won its semifinal 4-3 over Housatonic before beating St. Thomas Aquinas in the final 1-0 at Muzzy Field in Bristol.
The team reached the final in 1989 and the semifinals in 1990, before winning it all in 91.
“To win it senior year after being so close the two years before was a good way to leave Catholic High,” said Greg Smyth, who was an All-State selection in 1991. “It was a touching time at Muzzy Field. Coach Lione was crying and emotional. We had never seen him like that.”
Morgan Curran was also named All-State in 1991.
A few months earlier, Lione led the hockey team to its first state title with a 3-1 win over Cheshire in Division II, giving the legendary coach the last two championships won by Stamford Catholic.
TRINITY CATHOLIC 31, NEW CANAAN 28
John Benalcazar kicked a 21-yard field goal in overtime on Sept. 25, 2012, lifting the Crusaders to a dramatic 31-28 upset win over FCIAC and state football juggernaut New Canaan, a team that had won four state titles in a run of six straight championship game appearances.
It was one of the last great games on the grass at Alumni Field and Trinity’s last win over New Canaan, which held a 28-9 all-time record over the Crusaders on the football field.
“This was the best football game, and I’m not taking anything away from the 1993 state championship team, a better game than when we won the FCIAC championship, and my ’84-85 teammates would agree,” Trinity Catholic coach Pete Stokes said after the game. “Our defense won the game. We knew we had to throw some screwballs in there to try and do something.”
Stokes knew, as 28 years earlier he was the winning quarterback when the Crusaders last beat the Rams.
Shaquan Howsie finished the game with 139 yards on 22 carries and two touchdown runs.
In the 2000s, the tiny gymnasium on Newfield Avenue was the hub of the state basketball world.
From 2000-09, the girls team under Tom Kriz won four FCIAC championships, appeared in four state championship games and won three CIAC Class S state titles..
The boys team, coached by Mike Walsh, won the FCIAC title five times, appearing in eight finals during that run. The Crusaders took home three state crowns, appearing in the state finals seven times.
“Those teams fed off each other,” Kriz said. “The boys would cheer on the girls and the girls would cheer on the boys. The kids on both teams really cared about each other. It was a great atmosphere to be involved with during that time. We had a lot of good players for both teams.”
It was a magical time for athletics at Stamford Catholic in 1969 and 1970.
The baseball team won the 1969 and 1970 FCIAC baseball championships and the boys basketball team took home the 1969-70 FCIAC crown.
“All we did was win in every sport,” said Jim Moriarty, captain of the basketball team and member of both baseball teams. “Everyone played at least two sports and most people played three. Whatever season it was, that’s what you played. It was difficult to make the teams back then and there was a lot of value in that. We had kids who were very good on our Babe Ruth team get cut from the team at Stamford Catholic.”
Joining Moriarty on the baseball and basketball teams were Victor Carlucci, who played football, basketball and was All-FCIAC in baseball, and Bobby Robustelli, who played basketball and was two-time All-FCIAC in baseball, later becoming athletic director at Trinity Catholic.
Moriarty became the boys basketball coach and athletic director of Stamford High.
Art DeFilippis, who would be drafted by the Washington Senators in the second round of the 1970 amateur draft, was a three-time All-State and All-FCIAC selection, and Tom Vitti was named All-FCIAC in 1969 for the Crusaders.
LAST ON GRASS
There were few fields in the FCIAC with a home-field advantage as great as Alumni Field.
Especially when it rained.
The old grass — and a lot of dirt — field was the last natural grass surface for football in the FCIAC, and when that dirt turned to mud, the Crusaders knew they had an edge.
“There was nothing like that grass field. We lost something when we got rid of that,” former Trinity football coach and player Donny Panapada said. “I will never forget playing and coaching games there. Playing in the mud was a big advantage for us. Teams would get off the bus and see that mud and they were already beat. I have so many great memories of that field. Games and practices.”
On Halloween 2015, the Crusaders beat rival Westhill 56-28 in the last game hosted on Alumni Field.
After the game, the players, with the last grass stains ever accumulated on pants and jerseys, walked arm in arm toward the alumni, who were waiting in the opposite end zone.
Tears were shed, hugs were held a little longer and sections of the turf were pulled up as keepsakes.
It was the home for everyone who wore the green and gold from 1959 to 2015, and for many, it is the lasting image they will remember from the school.
The gym at the school was active in the fall, as well.
Stamford Catholic won CIAC Class S volleyball championships in 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1988.
Coached by Connecticut Volleyball Hall of Famer Al Malizia, the team went 23-0 in 1985, also winning the FCIAC Championship and appearing in the 1983 and 1984 league championship games.
In his 22-year career, Malizia’s teams made 16 consecutive FCIAC playoff appearances and 17 consecutive CIAC state tournament appearances (advancing to four finals), and he compiled a .640 career win percentage with 274 wins and 154 losses. He had just five losing seasons at Stamford Catholic.
Among the players to receive multiple All-FCIAC honors to play for Maizia were Kris Lynch, Mary Amicucci and Justine Metz.
THE BEST ON ICE
The 1991 Stamford Catholic ice hockey team won the CIAC Division II Championship but in 1998, the Crusaders took home the Division I crown, placing them on top of the state hockey world for the only time in school history.
As a No. 5 seed, Trinity beat Notre Dame-Fairfield 7-1 in the semifinals, and New Canaan 3-1 in the final held at the New Haven Coliseum, behind 24 saves by goalie Mike Romei.
New Canaan had defeated the Crusaders twice during the regular season.
The Crusaders were FCIAC runners-up in 1996, 1998 and 1999, losing to the Rams each time.
Jamie Bruno, who had more than 200 points in his high school career, was named All-State and All-FCIAC in the championship season.
Bruno scored the first goal on the 1998 state final.
Romei and Fred Orsaia joined Bruno in being named to the All-FCIAC team in 1998.
In 1988, the Stamford Catholic girls cross country team brought home the CIAC Class SS championship.
Heather Cummings placed second overall and Shannon Sheehan came in 14th, helping lead the Crusaders to their first championship in cross country.
The team would go on to win cross country state titles in 1989, 1991 and 1995.
THE FIRST TITLE
Just eight years after the formation of the program, the 1966 Stamford Catholic football team was ready for the big stage.
In front of a crowd exceeding 11,000 at Boyle Stadium, Stamford Catholic beat rival Rippowam, and its star player Bobby Valentine, 32-6 in the first FCIAC Championship game ever held.
The team was coached by Bob Horan, who began as an assistant in 1960, taking over as head coach in 1964.
A young Mickey Lione Jr. was an assistant coach on the team.
Catholic was quarterbacked by Rick Robustelli, the eldest child of NFL Hall of Famer Andy Robustelli.
“I remember coming down to the game in yellow school buses and seeing not only the crowd in Boyle Stadium but fans on the rooftops of the apartments next to the stadium. It was a special feeling,” Robustelli said. “Rippowam had very good players and one great player (Valentine). We didn’t have any star players but we had 10 to 14 very good players. I have the fondest memories of my teammates and the love we had for each other in that 11-0 season.”
Robustelli and John Theis were both named to the New Haven Register All-State team, while Frank Woodtke joined the duo as All-FCIAC selections.
The game remains one of the most talked-about events in Stamford sports history.
Stamford Catholic would go on to beat Notre Dame-Fairfield on Thanksgiving and were voted by the state football writers as state champions for 1966, though no playoffs were held.
THE LAST TITLE
The last state championship won by Trinity was fittingly with Mike Walsh coaching on the sidelines.
However, this time Walsh was coaching the 2018-19 girls team after taking over midseason when the original coach left.
Iyanna Lops carried the Crusaders with 26 points, nine rebounds and six blocks, winning the Class S title 52-45 over top-seeded Canton.
Walsh retired as the boys coach in 2018 with 633 wins, fourth most in state history.
In his time as head boys basketball coach, Trinity teams under Walsh won seven CIAC state championships and six FCIAC titles as the Crusaders reached the state final 13 times and the FCIAC championship game 11 times, beginning with Walsh’s first FCIAC title in 1993.
Trinity’s last boys championship was the Class S title in 2017.
The girls title was one last moment in the sun for Walsh and all of Trinity Catholic.
Thomas Costigan, a 2015 Trinity graduate, recently signed to play football professionally for the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL, though because of the coronavirus, he has yet to play a game.
Costigan follows a lineage of players going from Alumni Field to professional football.
After playing in college at Maryland, Bo Hickey was drafted twice in 1967. Hickey was taken in the 14th round by both the St. Louis Cardinals (NFL) and Denver Broncos (AFL). Hickey played one season with the Broncos.
Dick Swatland won a national championship as an offensive guard at Notre Dame before being taken in the eighth round by the New Orleans Saints (NFL) and Houston Oilers (AFL) in 1968. He played one season with the Oilers.
In college, Dan Sileo attended Maryland, Cincinnati and Miami where he played on the 1987 national championship team. Sileo was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third round of the 1987 supplemental draft, essentially being drafted with the 59th overall pick of the 1988 NFL draft. Sileo played in 10 games for the Buccaneers, followed by stints in the World League and Arena League.
Dave Puzzuoli played at Pittsburgh before being selected in the sixth round by the Cleveland Browns in the 1987 draft. He had 15 sacks over a five-year career on the defensive line.
Tony Brown, who played in college at Pittsburgh with Hall of Famer Dan Marino, played several games with the Buffalo Bills during the 1987 season.
Rick Robustelli, who quarterbacked the 1966 FCIAC championship team, played at UConn before signing a free-agent contract with the San Diego Chargers.
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