BRISTOL – Maybe the term that best describes the season the Bristol Eastern football has gone through in 2012 is “wacky.”
The Lancers squad has seen an unprecedented number of injuries to its ranks this year and every time Eastern looked to be turning the proverbial corner, another hurt player seems to deplete an already thin bench.
But that doesn’t matter now: it’s time to prepare for Thanksgiving.
The Lancers have shown a fighting spirit over the season and Eastern would love nothing better than to finish the year on a high note and get to .500 by hanging a loss on Bristol Central.
Here’s what to expect on what should be a very busy Thanksgiving Day game:
Head Coach: Mike Archangelo (Undefeated in Thanksgiving Day play).
Date and time of the game: The teams will clash at 10:30 a.m.from historic Muzzy Field on Thanksgiving Day.
Last Year: Eastern won for the fifth time in a row, defeating Bristol Central 21-14. The Lancers have not lost on Thanksgiving since 2004.
The Roster: Aaron Harris (sr., Captain, G/T); Sean Aiudi (jr., T); Kyle Porter (jr., G/T); Dreu Tucker (sr., C/T); Richard Szymczyk (sr., T); 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); Jahmar Effend (jr., LB); Alex Macias (so., CB); Gerry Ouellette (so., S); Jozef Hermann (so., S); Jeremy Meccariello (so., PK); Michael Belton (jr., WR); Roderick Green (jr., RB/OL/DL); Kyle Baker (jr., LB); Steve Goodrich (so., LB);
W hy Eastern will win:Eastern will make stops on defense. Plus, the Lancers have shown an ability to bounce back from big losses and off the Northwest Catholic and Wethersfield setbacks, Central looks ripe for the pickings.
X-Factor: Health. Just like Bristol Central, the winner of this game will all depend on who’s on the field. It’s only going to take one additional player to show up to practice with a broken thumb or a burst appendix (or whatever) to really slow down the Lancers.
Bristol Central can NOT…fall asleep on Eastern’s defense. The Lancers have some weapons on “D” and the Central line better close those seams and gaps to protect QB Andrew Laviero.
Outlook: Just as the big game has come around for Bristol Eastern, the injury picture has become even more clouded.
Or has it?
It depends what happens between game nine and Thanksgiving in terms of returning players or reacquiring injuries..
Just take the quarterback position for example.
Going into Thanksgiving, the squad is down to its third QB but at that slot, freshmen Alex Hunter has shown poise beyond his years.
He’s had to and in two starts this season, Hunter has shown ability to not only move the ball in the air but do it with some accuracy.
Hunter has connected on 19 of his 42 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns in two games worth of starts.
He’s still learning the game but he has a veteran core of receivers he can chuck it to that will aid the young chucker.
Kenny Smith has been a pleasant surprise in 2012 and has made 18 catches for 350 yards and three touchdowns.
If he beats you down the field, forget it.
Defensive standout Juan Gonzalez (nine catches, 125 yards, two touchdowns) has been a force all over the field and he’s certainly be a bright spot for the Lancers.
He’s the leader on the team in kickoff return yardage, is one of the team’s top tacklers and has two interception returns for touchdowns.
Michael Belton has made some plays for the Lancers (five catches, 97 yards) while snatching two interceptions and scoring one touchdown.
In Eastern’s ground game, the Lancers have more than a couple options at its disposal.
Injured Nick Crowley (121 carries, 537 yards, 11 TD’s) has been the featured back but an injury has kept him limited in the running schemes.
If Crowley can’t fully go offensively, he’ll still be a huge factor in the defensive aspect of the day.
If he’s 100-percent healthy, Crowley will match Central running back Tyler Burrow tit-for-tat.
Of course, Hunter (64 carries, 145 yards) also will move the ball while a number of backs will have a chance in the ground game.
Gerry Ouellette, Harrison Sacharko, and the emerging Roderick Green – who can do a little of everything for the Lancers – will also take some snaps.
That trio will also be important factors on the defensive end of things.
And it’s on defense that Eastern can cause some serious problems for Central.
At one time, injuries claimed Sean Aiudi and Jozef Hermann. But they have returned and the duo can cause some havoc on the field as can Kyle Baker.
Aaron Harris also will help out on defense as will Rich Szymczyk.
Eastern’s defense is nearly identical to Central’s as the squad gives up around 24 points-per-game but must stand pat in the third period.
That’s where opponents have beaten up on the Lancers, outscoring Eastern by nearly a touchdown on average.
A healthy defense keeps that third period within reach and it would be a huge deal breaker for Eastern.
But it’s those injuries that could keep the Lancers from putting its “A” team on the field.
“Health is huge,” said Eastern coach Mike Archangelo. “We played from the first quarter of the first game without key starters. We’re hoping to have everybody back full strength for Thanksgiving and I think we’ll be a different team.”
Gabe Kurasz was basically lost after Week 1 but if could make any kind of appearance on Thanksgiving, it would be a huge boost.
Same goes for line “enforcer” Kyle Porter as the junior got knocked out of the Northwest Catholic game and did not play against Wethersfield.
While Eastern hasn’t been able to hang a loss on any of the elite teams if has played this season, the Lancers have smashed all the rest of the competition pretty easily.
But outside of Week 1, the Lancers have been rarely healthy and if Eastern wants to scoop up this one, all hands must be on deck.
Bottom Line: Defense will win this game and that’s where the war must be won.
Both squads have been plagued by injuries this year but not like Bristol Eastern.
A healthy return to the gridiron for the Lancers will really go far in Eastern reaching the .500 barrier.
And the winner is…Bristol Eastern takes its unprecedented sixth Thanksgiving Day game in a row, defeating Bristol Central by a 28-20 final.