STAMFORD — Anthony Lombardi has a message for the Trinity Catholic football team’s opponents: “Don’t sleep on us this year.”
Which begs the question: Who is Anthony Lombardi?
The rest of the FCIAC is about to find out.
While there have been the familiar storylines with most of the top teams this preseason, Lombardi, the Crusaders’ new quarterback, has flown under the radar.
He is fine with that, though his status will likely soon change.
“I don’t really care,” Lombardi said. “I don’t really want all the attention.”
Lombardi arrived at Trinity in early August after transferring from Mahopac, N.Y., a program that traditionally relies heavily on the running game.
“I felt like I needed a change and heard that Trinity last year, it had a tough season, but I heard they had good talent and wanted to check it out.”
Lombardi, a junior who is 6-3 and 195 pounds, decided after the 7 on 7 season that he wanted a new start. He said he looked at several schools before deciding on Trinity.
Lombardi has worked in the past with Alex Drayson, who came over from Staples this year to become the Crusaders’ offensive coordinator, though Lombardi said that was not the major reason for his decision.
Lombardi will provide the Crusaders, who went 0-11 a year ago, with a dynamic seldom seen at the school.
Donny Panapada, a former player at the school who was a long-time assistant at Greenwich before taking over as coach at Trinity last year, said the Crusaders may not have had a quarterback with Lombardi’s skill sets since Rick Robustelli.
Robustelli played nearly 50 years ago, when he led what was then known as Stamford Catholic to a win in the FCIAC championship over Rippowam and Bobby Valentine in one of the most famous games in league history.
“I’ve never had a quarterback like Anthony, even in my years at Greenwich,” Panapada said. “I haven’t seen too many kids like him. Our skill kids, when they are healthy, are as good as anybody’s.”
During a round-robin scrimmage at New Canaan two weeks ago, Lombardi threw a 40-yard touchdown pass on the day’s first play, hitting a receiver in stride.
The new-look Crusaders will be on display for the first time Saturday afternoon at home against Sheehan.
“We’re going to try and take advantage of what the defense give us,” Panapada said. “I like to run the ball, but if we can get some big plays out of the passing game it will loosen up the run. We’ll take that.”
Lombardi is going to have a number of weapons, including receivers Randy Polonia and Sam Ruzzi, tight end Thomas Costigan and running back Courtlyn Victrum, who will miss Saturday’s game with a foot injury.
“We’ve always had good athletes,” Panapada said. “Now we are going to be able to get them the ball in space.”
Uncertain is the Crusaders’ offensive line and lack of depth, a problem in the past as many top players were forced to play on both sides of the ball and got worn down against teams with larger rosters.
While Lombardi throws a nice long ball with a good touch, you will not get much out of him off the field. He is soft-spoken and prone to brief answers.
“We have a lot of great players on this team,” Lombardi said. “I think we will be alright.”
Lombardi has started to get hyped inside Stamford but not outside the city. That suits him just fine.
“I don’t really know what people are saying,” he said. “I don’t have Twitter because I don’t want to get into all the bad stuff that it can get into, so I don’t hear anything. I don’t really want all the attention.”
That is fine right now. But if he lives up to expectations, Lombardi soon may not be able to dodge it.
“We want to create a buzz,” Panapada said. “At any level of football, it starts with the quarterback. For us to bring in someone with his ability is a big deal for us.”