By MICHAEL LETENDRE
The Bristol Eastern football squad is a year older in 2012 and that experience should factor into a very good season.
While depth may be an issue, opponents are going to have to deal with Eastern’s strong offensive and defensive line and that is going to spell some serious trouble for Division II opponents.
Here’s a look at Eastern’s up-coming campaign:
Head Coach: Mike Archangelo (17-14 overall in three seasons for the Lancers).
2011 Record: 3-7 overall (1-4 in Division II-West play, did not qualify for the state tournament).
Strength: Experienced line; returning players.?
Weakness: Depth; Inexperience at skill positions.
Key Losses: Eli Rodriguez (TB/S); Mitch Wheelock (WR/CB; Tyler Bush (TB/LB); Alec Lamar (WR/LB); Ryan Gotowala (FB/LB); Brett Ackerley (C); Mike Cassin (G); Kyle Marquis (G); DeJeahn Brown (G/E); Jahmil Effend (TB); Gabe Kuracz (FB/LB); Ethan Cinotti (FB); Jake Pare (WR); James Clark (WR/CB); Luke Provenzano (E); Kendall Rivera (CB).
Players to watch in 2012: Aaron Harris (sr., Captain, G/T); Sean Aiudi (jr., T); Kyle Porter (jr., G/T); Dreu Tucker (sr., C/T); Richard Szymczk (sr., T); Lorenzo Brown (sr., QB); Tommy Curtin (so., QB); Alex Hunter (fr., QB); Nick Crowley (sr., Captain, TB/LB); Gabe Kurasz (sr., Captain, TB/LB); Juan Gonzalez (sr., WR/CB); Kenny Smith (jr., WR/E); Harrison Sacharko (sr., TE/E); Rafi Hamzy (jr., LB); Jahmar Effend (jr., LB); Alex Macias (so., CB); Gerry Ouellette (so., S); Jozef Hermann (so., S); Steven Goodrich (so., LB); Michael Belton (jr., S); Ramiro Sanchez (so., S); Sal Papparello (so., DT); Roderick Green (jr).
Analysis: The Bristol Eastern football program had a bit of a down year in 2011 after making the state tournament in two of the previous four campaigns.
But a new year means another chance for the Lancers to strut their stuff and put the demons of last season in the past.
“We’re looking to have a good, solid season this year,” said head coach Mike Archangelo. “I think our anchor is our line this year. We have pretty good size, we have some kids with experience back, which we lacked last year. Our biggest key to the season which we lacked was experience.”
That lack of experience seemed to haunt the Lancers last season and gaffes, goofs and turnovers that squad made turned close contests and possible victories into blowouts and tough losses.
Sometimes, just taking care of the ball takes care of other key aspects of the game and Eastern vows to be better in 2012.
Correcting those miscues early in the year will be a good indicator of just how far this team can go.
But with that year of seasoning, expect the Lancers to turn the ball over less and make bigger gains on the field and Eastern certainly has the hands on the gridiron to make it happen.
“We have a good group of seniors leading the way this year with Gabe Kurasz, Nick Crowley, and Aaron Harris who are our three captains,” said Archangelo. “We’re looking to springboard off those guys.”
Crowley did a little bit of everything for Eastern last season, making three receptions while rushing 26 times for 173 yards (6.7 per carry) and adding two touchdowns.
Same goes for Kurasz who sputtered for 170 yards off 33 carries and led Eastern with a nearly 100 yard running effort in the Lancers 23-13 win over Edwin O. Smith high school back on Oct. 8 when running back Eli Rodriguez was on the shelf nursing an injury.
It’s going to be up to the duo to engage Eastern’s ground assault on a consistent basis.
Adding in defensive components like Harris also will be an important ingredient as Eastern’s line should be able to do a little damage this season on both sides of the ball.
“Our line is doing a great job up front,” said Archangelo. “I think our line is going to surprise some teams.”
One of the problems Eastern had last season came at quarterback as the squad eventually used six different players at the position, usually with mixed results.
Lorenzo Brown was the starter in 2011 but an injury took him out of the mix.
Jake Pare and even Juan Gonzalez were used at the position during various times before Archangelo went to Alec LaMar and he stabilized the position.
But LaMar graduated and now it will be up to a trio of players to take up a very demanding position.
Brown will be back in that mix while sophomore Tommy Curtin and freshmen Alex Hunter also could take snaps this year as well.
“We’d love to be able to say we have one quarterback but I think this year, we’re even more fortunate because we have three kids who I think are capable of running the offense for us,” said Archangelo. “We’re going to put them out there, they’re all going to have their own series, and we’re hoping that we’re not going to find one person to do the job. We’re hoping to find three people to do the job.”
Gonzalez is another player Archangelo will be counting on at both wide receiver and cornerback and the senior has some pure athletic talent to back up his play.
He was a Division II-West All Conference pick as his defense in the backfield was critical last season.
Gonzalez made three tackles for losses while picking off two passes and was one of Eastern’s leaders in tackles for 2011.
The offensive line should be anchored by the likes of seniors Harris, Dreu Tucker while junior Kyle Porter – who’s big enough to block out the sun – will run over anything in his path.
Don’t be surprised to see Porter factor into Eastern’s ground game as he made four carries for the Lancers last year
Eastern also brought back assistant coach Tim Barrette, who will be the Lancers offensive coordinator.
Barrette, a former member and captain of the Eastern football team, brings a wealth of knowledge and is a welcome addition to the Lancers’ coaching staff.
Once again, sorting out those mistakes will be critical for the Lancers again as the squad – like in 2011 – won’t have a big margin for error.
Those mistakes popped their ugly heads during the second half of the 2011 season as the Lancers – hanging in at 2-3 after Week 5 – fell hard and dropped four straight games.
And the 19-0 loss at Maloney and the 14-6 failure at Wethersfield could have easily gone the other way with a little care of the pigskin.
“Our complete focus from day one has been taking care of the little things,” said Archangelo . “It started at the end of last season in the weight room. We need to take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.”
“Big things like taking care of the ball and foolish penalties last year were stuff that you see on a very inexperienced team so I’m hoping that our experience this year is going to help us in that aspect.”
Eastern is thin in some key areas and any major injury to a line player will prove costly.
The schedule remains the same for Eastern but the places just change for 2012.
“Windsor remains a very athletic team,” said Archangelo. “Northwest Catholic will be solid. Farmington returned a lot of kids so Farmington should be solid as well.”
In this year’s homecoming game – once again played from its home turf at Bristol Eastern on Friday, Sept. 19 – Eastern looks to gain a little revenge in a clash against Middletown, a team that rocked BE for 68 points last season in a rain-soaked affair.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver. com.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE