By MICHAEL LETENDRE
Don’t sleep on the Bristol Central football team in 2012.
Since coming under the direction of veteran coach Sal Cintorino, the team has improved each and every season.
Now, the team is looking to crack the .500 mark for the first time under Cintorino.
Here’s the deal when it comes to Bristol Central’s 2012 season:
Head Coach: Sal Cintorino (8-22 overall in three seasons).
2011 record: 4-6 overall (went 0-5 in CCC South play; 4-1 in non-conference affairs).
Strength: Returning players
Key Losses: Mike Benities (WR/DB); Timmy White (Tailback); Ian Rinaldi (WR); Adiel Cortes (tackle); Jerry Albino (TE/DE); Kyle Kolakoski (TE); Darrence Delgado (FB/HB); Deverick Weston (OL); Dylan Stanco (LB/CB; attending WCSU); Matt White (WR/DB); Greg Dunlop (jr., DE; moved to Plainville).
Players to watch in 2011: Andrew Laviero (sr., QB); Marty McNiff (sr., OL/DL); Cy McIntosh (sr., G); James Glowa (sr., G); Jake Martel (sr., DB/CB); Ronny St. Denis (sr., FB/SS); Tyler Burrow (jr., TB); Andrew Martin (sr., OL/DL); Keon Walton (jr., WR); Gino Rafenello (sr., DL); Christian Hildebrand (jr., LB); James Glowa (sr., OL/LB), Kevin Boi (jr., OL/LB); Austin Rollins (jr., NG); Bobby Jaccques (jr., OL/DL), Jarrett Michaels (jr., TE/OL); Tyler Whitten (TE); Glenn Pierce (sr., left tackle).
Analysis: Since head coach Sal Cintorino has taken the reins of the Bristol Central football program, the Rams have taken small steps forward every year.
It might have taken some time to get to four wins – which was Central’s 2011 total – but things are heading in the right direction and now this senior class has experienced what Cintorino expects every year since the group were freshmen.
That learning curve has diminished and the players have a quickly grasped the concepts and schemes the coaching staff expects to see out on the field.
And a .500 season is certainly obtainable for this group.
“That’s our plan,” said Central coach Sal Cintorino about a .500 record. “We’re looking forward to that. It’s certainly been a work in progress and we feel we’re getting a little bit better every year. That’s certainly our goal for the upcoming year.”
“The kids have been definitely working hard at it and I think we have a nice nucleus of kids coming back.”
This should be a big season for senior quarterback Andrew Laviero, who had an excellent season for Central in 2011.
For the year, he connected on 68-of-138 passes for 1,092 yards and six touchdowns.
One year previous, he was 64-of-157 for 789 yards and six touchdowns.
His growth from sophomore to junior year was impressive and now as a senior, it’s his team to lead once again.
The three year starter has some weapons to throw to this season and Laviero will find the answers.
It’s exactly what Cintorino expects from his experienced QB to keep the offense moving.
“Laviero being a three year starter is beneficial to us,” said Cintorino. “I think we’re certainly setting ourselves up to have a successful season.”
In Central’s ground game, junior Tyler Burrow returns as the lead rusher and in 2011, the running back was a near perfect complement to back Timmy White.
Burrow rushed 57 times for over 300 yards and four touchdowns in 2011 (5.3 yards-per-carry) and will be a force to reckon with in the Rams’ ground schemes.
“Tyler Burrow is certainly somebody we have given the opportunity behind Matt White (last season) to kind of grow and mature into the position,” said Cintorino. “Right now, from the spring into the fall, he’s just blossomed as our go-to guy in the backfield.”
“He’s going to certainly going to get a lot of touches.”
Laviero may also have to scramble on the ground to capture additional yardage this season and a number of new receivers will have to step up in order for Central to be winners in 2012.
Defensively, Central returns several key pieces to the line and backfield that will include seniors Marty McNiff (offensive/defensive linemen; 20 tackles in 2011), Jake Martel (defensive back) and Ronnie St. Denis (14 tackles).
“Marty is going to be one of our strong down linemen that can dominate and we’re excited about that,” said Cintorino. “He’s done a really good job and, again, he’s a guy in three years that’s continued to grow and mature both on offense and defense. But defensively, he loves to play there more than offensive.”
“When he does play there, he plays with a passion.”
Martel was one of Central’s leaders in tackles during 2011 and will once again be part of the defensive backfield that keeps those chains from moving for the opposition.
“Jake Martel’s been on the football field and has a ton of experience,” said Cintorino. “Coming into his senior year, he’s going to one of the leaders in our defensive secondary. He’s kind of a lockdown guy. He certainly can play man, play zone, and do everything we ask him to do.”
“He understands the game very well and we are excited to have him as one of our leaders in the secondary.”
St. Denis will play fullback for the Rams as well and senior Andrew Martin will also be counted on defensively.
“We have Andrew Martin whose returning and played for us some,” said Cintorino. “St. Denis has been a two-year starter and will be our strong safety.”
Senior Gino Rafenello, who’s been an outstanding wrestler for Central, has once again come out for football and will take his place on the defensive line.
“He’s done a great job and already earned himself a starting position,” said Cintorino of Rafenello.
Junior Christian Hildebrand has stepped up at the inside linebacker position while junior Kevin Boi and senior James Glowa will also shore up the line.
“We’re pretty solid at that linebacker position,” said Cintorino.
Depth may be a bit of an issue as a number of players will be having double duty but most of the teams of the CCC have those types of crossover players as well.
Bristol Eastern transfer Keon Walton might be a big X-factor for the Central in both the air and ground schemes but should once again excel defensively.
Walton has some real athletic ability and if the junior can put it all together, he could give the Rams a real lift this season.
“Walton is starting in the secondary for us,” said Cintorino. “We’re pretty solid and defense is what we’re going to need to be able to play is we’re going to be able to have a successful season and put the program where we want it to be.”
Other players that will rotate into the defense are junior Austin Rollins (nose guard) and junior Bobby Jaccques.
Senior Cy McIntosh, coming off a knee injury from last year, is nearly healthy and once he’s ready, expect to see him on both sides of the ball.
Junior Jarrett Michaels also will factor into the tight end position while Tyler Whitten will play at the end spot.
“I think offensively and defensively, all those guys bring a lot to the table for us,” said Cintorino. “A lot of them have playing experience already.”
Central’s interdivisional schedule has been very good to the squad over the last few years and the Rams (who went 4-1 out of Division-II West play in 2011) will have that same slate of games to play.
Bulkeley, Fermi, Wethersfield, and Edwin O. Smith all lost to Central in 2011 and those four squads will be back for another go against the Rams in 2012.
“The schedule is pretty much the same it was last year,” said Cintorino. “There’s going to be some games that are going to be extremely difficult but we just have to take them one game at a time.”
There’s a ton of confidence in the program and Central will look to break the .500 barrier and perhaps beyond.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE