By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Sometimes, week one of the scholastic football season isn’t the prettiest of times for its participants.
But every team goes through those types of growing pains but if you’re the Bristol Central football squad, you find a way to rise above.
And against a tough Bulkeley aggression, the Rams easily cobbled together enough on both sides of the ball to defeat the Hartford club, 29-0, in an interdivisional game from Muzzy Field in Bristol on Friday, Sept. 14.
While the game was filled with miscues, gaffes, and penalties, Central’s defense was sharp from start to finish as the shutout win was Rams’ biggest opening night victory since the team defeated Bulkeley 33-0 to start the 2009 campaign.
Central’s Drew Lee picked up an interception and scooped in a Bulkeley fumble, James Glowa and Christian Hildebrand each sacked Bulldogs’ quarterback James Hudson, Kevin Boi broke up a pass and Andrew Martin picked up an interception as the Rams’ defense held the fort from the get-go.
At halftime, Bulkeley had negative four yards to its collective name and didn’t add much over the second half of play.
“We saw (Bulkeley) on film and I think defensively shutting them out was important for us,” said Central coach Sal Cintorino. “They had some kids on film that could run pretty good (and) had speed. The quarterback, we really liked him (along with) the tailback…I think we shut that part of their run game down. And defensively, we did a good job in the secondary.”
“With it still being early in the season, to be able to shutout out (Bulkeley) was a big plus for us.”
And when Central’s offense was able to operate on the field, it did what it had to do to capture the momentum right from the start.
Speedster Tyler Burrow made Bulkeley pay for missed tackles as the running sensation simply carved up the Bulldogs’ defense.
Burrow made 22 carries for an outstanding 184 yards and scored three touchdowns.
When the Bulldogs missed the first tackle on Burrow, he managed to pick up several additional yards and his numbers quickly added up.
D’Andre Conaway also came in and moved the ball, snaring 44 yards off of seven big carries.
“I thought Burrow had a really good game,” said Cintorino. “He made some great plays and D’Andre (Conaway) came in and did a great job at tailback.”
Central QB Andrew Laviero connected on three passes for only 26 total yards. But he did a commendable job directing traffic and led the charge offensively.
“Andrew did what I expected him to do,”said Cintorino of his QB. “(He) controlled the game, made some nice plays, controlled the run attack and threw a couple nice receptions.”
Bulkeley turned the ball over via fumble off only its fourth play of the game and two Central moves later, newcomer Keon Walton scampered into the end zone for a 11-yard touchdown jaunt as Central led 7-0 just 1:53 into things.
Both teams exchanged turnovers and off a 4-and-24 situation from its own 10-yard-line, Bulkeley was forced to punt.
But off a bad snap by the Bulldogs, the ball zipped out of the back of the end zone and the play resulted in a safety and two points as Central led 9-0 with 5:49 left in the first period.
Off the ensuing kickoff, St. Denis made a solid return into Bulkeley territory and after three consecutive runs by Burrow, the junior punched in another six points off a seven yard sprint into the end zone, giving the Rams a big 15-0 edge with 4:52 left in the first.
But the game slowed considerably from there as injuries and a number of penalties hurt both squads and each missed out on potential scoring opportunities.
Off Bulkeley’s first punt of the second quarter, Central went right back to work offensively.
On the Bulldogs’ 33 yard-line, Burrow made a mad dash for the end zone as Bulkeley once again missed several key tackles.
Off those failed tackles, Burrow sprinted left down into the goal as his 33-yard stretch put up six more points on the board that gave Central an imposing 22-0 lead with 9:31 left to play in the half.
Bulkeley tried to get something going late but a key interception by Lee kept the Bulldogs off the board and trailing by 22 at the half.
Both teams couldn’t get anything going early in the third period. But Central put together one last drive late in the tilt to shore up its tremendous edge.
On Bulkeley’s 31 yard-line and Central facing a 4-and-3 situation, Burrow went right back to work.
A 12-yard jaunt gave the Rams a big first down and two plays later, Burrow sprinted left again and off a 15 yard jaunt, Central was riding high at 29-0 with 10 seconds left to play in the third period.
The Bulldogs never got any points on the board and that’s a credit to Central’s defensive line that included Marty McNiff, Gino Rafaniello, James Glowa, and freshmen Josh Moxom.
Credit also belongs to Jarrett Michaels and Walton, who simply would not allow Bulkeley to get anything going offensively.
“Marty did a great job up front,” said Cintorino of McNiff. “And so did Gino Rafaniello. Both of those guys did a great job. The kid in the middle is a freshman, Josh Moxon, and Glowa, we moved him from linebacker to down and those four guys all night long played hard. And you take that and complement the two linebackers. Kevin Boi did a great job tonight and so did Christian Hildebrand.”
“The outside backer, Michaels, made some big plays tonight and so did the guys in the secondary.”
While it wasn’t a picture perfect effort, the game was a good building block for the Rams to the start off the regular season.
“We’ve got work to do,” said Cintorino. “We can’t have those penalties. We were in the end zone a couple times and they (both) got called back. One I was okay with (when) we were kind of helping the player along there (into the end zone) .”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE