By MICHAEL LETENDRE
What to expect from Central
A football team that’s flying under the radar is a dangerous team and Bristol Central is a squad that’s looking for a big upset come Thanksgiving.
The Rams’ coaching staff knows exactly what Eastern brings to the table and getting a victory over the Lancers, which is certainly possible, will be a near monumental task.
“It’s the biggest challenge of the year,” said Central coach Sal Cintorino.
Here’s what Central is looking at on the Turkey Day challenge:
Head Coach: Sal Cintorino (still looking for his first Thanksgiving Day victory as Central’s head coach).
Date and Time of the event: The squads will duel at 10:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Last Year: Central dropped a 17-6 decision to the Lancers
The Series: The Rams lead the all-time series 31-21-2 but haven’t won the event since a 20-7 win back on Thanksgiving 2005.
Series Fact: From 1975 to 1993, Central went 17-2 against the Lancers, a stretch that included all but one Colonial Conference game into 10 CCC South showdowns.
Players to watch: Jarrett Michaels (sr, QB); Tyler Burrow (sr, TB); Nate Hamm (sr, RB/DB); Ashon Anderson (jr, QB), Kevin Boi (sr, TE/LB); Tyler Whitten (sr, TE); Keon Walton (sr, SE); Drew Lee (jr, WR/DB); Cody McQuarrie (sr, C); Christian Hildebrand (sr, LB); Austin Rollins (sr, OL/DL); Bobby Jaccques (sr, OL/DL); Jacob Hall (jr, OL/DL); Josh Moxam (so, OL/DL); D’Andre Conaway (jr, FB);
Why Bristol Central will win: Isn’t Bristol Central for a little reversal of fortune on Thanksgiving?
It would seem to be in order (don’t tell anyone from Bristol Eastern that) and the Rams might have just enough firepower to pull off a win.
There’s certainly plenty of motivating factors for Central in this one.
Finally tasting victory on Turkey Day is a reward all of its own but isn’t Eastern on the cusp of a state tournament berth?
Off an 8-2 campaign, Central hopes to slow down Eastern just enough to ruin the day and knock the Lancers out of playoff contention.
However, that’s easier said than done.
“Eastern’s a great team,” said Cintorino. “They certainly proved that this year.”
In 2006, the Lancers spoiled the Rams’ postseason aspirations and maybe it’s time for a little payback.
An Eastern loss certainly knocks the squad out of the state tournament picture.
And off consecutive victories against Maloney (46-22) and Fermi (46-7), Central has built itself a little momentum for the challenge.
“This certainly gives us a chance to build off our last two games as we get ready for Thanksgiving,” said Cintorino off the victory against Fermi.
It’s payback time and Central has some warriors that will keep the Lancers’ defense hands full.
And that includes a warrior at running back by the name of Tyler Burrow.
Burrow is a certifiable bulldog and don’t let his 5-foot-6, 155 pound frame fool you.
He’s one of the leaders on this team and coming into the game, he’s already gone over the 1,000-yard mark for the season (1,173 yards, 181 carries, 13 TDs) and will bust through a wall to get his team another first down.
Burrow also leads the squad in receptions as he’s made 11 catches for 202 yards (18.4 yards-per-catch) and a touchdown.
The offense runs through the speedster and if Eastern has trouble with the senior back, the Lancers are in for a long game.
Other backs that should contribute on Thanksgiving includes senior Keon Walton (33 carries, 223 yards – 6.8 yards-per-carry – 5 touchdowns), D’Andre Conaway (22 carries, 108 yards, 2 TDs), Nate Hamm (32 rushes, 126 yards) and don’t forget Barry McPhail, who racked up six carries for 141 yards and two touchdowns against Fermi (22 carries, 202 yards, 2 TD’s) last week.
On the throwing end of things, QB Jarrett Michaels is a tough kid who doesn’t throw the ball a ton but a couple of tosses to the likes of Burrow and Walton could be a thorn in Eastern’s side.
Michaels has nailed 40-of-91 passes for 612 yards and that yardage is the most thrown by any QB for the public schools in Bristol.
He has thrown four touchdowns and his targets this season have included Taylor Whitten (2 catches, 45 yards), Conaway (5-55, 1 TD), and Jaavon Gordon (5-102).
Central will have to mix it up more than a little bit to keep Eastern on its toes.
“It will certainly be a battle for us,” said Cintorino.
X-Factor: I said it last season and I’ll say it again, Keon Walton could be that X-factor in this whole thing for the Rams.
A transfer from Bristol Eastern two seasons ago, the speedy Walton can mix it up on both sides of the ball.
He’s caught nine passes for 155 yards and one touchdown and has the ability to cause all sorts of havoc on the defensive end of things.
Walton is a bit of a game changer and a big interception could change the complexion of the showdown.
If this game goes down to a final possession in the fourth stanza, Walton could be the player to watch.
Bristol Central cannot…let Eastern plow up and down the field at will on the offensive end.
If Central’s defense isn’t up to the task, this could be a long game for the Rams.
And Eastern certainly likes to put points up on the board.
In eight victories, the Lancers average over 35 points-a-game and if Central wants to turn this game into a score-a-thon, forget about it.
This game has to stay in the high teens or low 20s – scoring-wise – if the Rams are looking for the upset tilt.
If Eastern scores 30 or more points, this could get ugly in a hurry.
Special teams also will have to watch out for kickoff returners by Eastern’s Alex Hunter and Roderick Green who both love contact and will make gains whether there is space available on the field or not.
So don’t count out the likes of Josh Ganavage, Harry Patten, Kolbe DiNeno, and Julian Galindez on the special teams’ front.
Lastly…Defense has to rule the day for the Rams and it will be up to the Whitten’s and Christian and Caleb Hildebrand to come up big.
Bob Jacques, Drew Lee, Jacob Hall, Austin Rollins, Hamm, Walton, Conaway, Gordon, and Josh Moxam have to step up in this one, defensively, as well.
Most of those guys make up part of the offensive line as well so to beat Eastern, it will have to be a total team effort.
But however you slice it, Central has its work cut out for itself against the Lancers.
“It’s going to be a battle and that’s why that call it the ‘Battle for the Bell’,” said Cintorino.
And the winner is…From a Bristol Central standpoint, Eastern wins it 48-12…it could be much closer than that but the Lancers are a scoring juggernaut that might be to much to contend with.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver. com.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE