By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Sept. 19, 2014 always will be remembered as the night the Bristol Eastern football team played its first home game from campus under permanent lights.
The night also will be remembered for the outstanding effort by the locals to draw win No. 1 of the campaign.
And a little additional history was also made as well within the Eastern coaching ranks with the win.
After going five consecutive quarters without notching a point to open the season, the Lancers exploded for 33 over its final three stanzas of play and belted Hartford Public 33-20 in a CCC Interdivisional game in Bristol.
With the victory, Bristol Eastern head coach Mike Archangelo won his 32nd career game and moved into second place in program history in all-time victories. He only needs 85 more win to topple the program record holder, Dave Mills.
Eastern moved to 1-1 with the victorious effort while Hartford Public fell to 1-1.
The winning tally saw Eastern excel on both sides of the ball to take the game from the Owls.
Eastern running back Gerry Ouellette was outstanding and certainly played through injury and adversity throughout the showdown.
He made 25 tough rushes for 140 total yards and simply competed to the final horn.
The line did an outstanding job blocking for the back and when space opened up, Ouellette made Public pay with several hard runs.
“Number one, credit the line up front,” said Eastern coach Mike Archangelo. “We made a couple changes. We put some kids in there and Gerry Ouellette just ran his tail off tonight. He had two, three guys on him at all times. He was grinding for yards after yards. Credit goes to Ouellette.”
However, it was his work on special teams that made all the difference in the game.
Ouellette simply amazed by returning two Public kickoffs for touchdowns – both coming off hard 82 yard jaunts – to turn the ultimate tide of the contest.
“He was sick tonight, he played his tail off, and our linemen just kept their feet running,” said Archangelo. “They gave us some stuff, we made some adjustments and for a young line, they picked up those adjustments really well.”
“I’m happy they we were able to do that.”
The Owls showed its speed and agility as Ty Rodriguez posted 137 yards of total offense that included 12 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown reception of 44 yards.
Public was competitive throughout the event but it was Eastern’s defense that made all the difference in the game.
Steven Goodrich, Joey Hermann, Allen Arbuckle, Cyrus Tyler, and Ouellette seemed to be everywhere on defense as was Ramiro Sanchez who picked off a pass by Public quarterback Shamar Richards – just as the ball had literally left his hands off a botched throw – and sprinted down field 23 yards for a touchdown.
Alex Macias also picked off a pass as Richards, after making two of his first four passes, was harassed and hounded by the Eastern defense and ended the game by missing 18 of his final 20 throws.
“Even in the first half, I think our defense played pretty well,” said Archangelo. “There were a few mistakes there with young guys at positions who hadn’t played those positions before. With injuries, we were short in a couple positions so we had to put some kids in positions that they’re not used to playing.”
Also for Eastern, Tyler made 11 tough rushes for 43 yards and a touchdown, junior Derrick Ervin helped run the ball late and racked up 17 yards on five carries while QB Tommy Curtin directed the ship and added 38 rushing yards on eight runs of his own.
And when the Eastern offense sputtered a bit, there was kicker extraordinary Jeremy Meccariello placing the ball in all the right spots off puns and kickoffs to stuff the Owls’ drives right off the bat.
“Our punter put us in perfect position all the time with his punts,” said Archangelo of Meccariello. “You couldn’t ask much more out of a kid.”
Both teams went scoreless over the first 12 minutes of play but in the second frame, Rodriguez ran a little havoc on Eastern.
Off a broken snap from Eastern’s 23 yard-line, Rodriguez went back to retrieve the ball, sprinted towards the Public sidelines, eluded a few tackles, and punched home a wild touchdown gallop to put the visitors on the board first, 7-0, just 42 seconds into the second frame.
But on the Owl’s ensuing kickoff drive, Ouellette made a quick catch, darted through the middle, avoided a couple grabs, and made an incredible sprint of 82 yards for a score as the game was tied at 7-7 with 11:05 remaining before the half.
“They (the special teams) did a great job crossing and getting Ouellette some room up the middle there,” said Archangelo of the play.
It was the first score of the season for the Lancers and things quickly began to open up from that point of the game.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys out there and I said tonight’s the night to go out there, just go relax a little bit and go out there and have some fun,” said Archangelo. “When (Public) scored first, I saw us tighten up a little bit, and I was glad to kind of see our more experienced players pick the kids up and be the leaders I know they can be.”
“They got their kids going, they were able to punch one in, and it changed the complexity of the game.”
Not long after the Ouellette score, Rodriguez zipped in a 46-yard touchdown, again just blowing through Eastern defenders, as Public regained the edge at 14-7 with 10:10 showing on the clock.
Eastern found pay dirt off its next drive as a 10-yard reception by Hermann and several mad dashes by Ouellette led to a four yard TD jaunt by Tyler and off the Meccariello kick, the score was deadlocked at 14-14 with 7:20 left before the half.
Twelve seconds later, Sanchez made his swipe of Richards and with 7:08 remaining in the second, Eastern led for good at 20-14.
Public wouldn’t score again in the fray until early in the fourth tilt.
In the third frame, Eastern added a little insurance off a blazing run by Tyler as his 17-yard sprint led to a score and a 27-14 push with 2:42 left in the quarter.
In the fourth period, the game became chippy and penalties were starting to pile up for both teams.
But even as Rodriguez hauled in a 44 yard pass from Richards for a touchdown with 9:51 left in the game – making it a 27-21 affair – Ouellette went right back to work on special teams and was looking for another ball to run back.
Strangely, the Owls complied.
Again, Ouellette took the ball at the Eastern 18 yard line, going another 82 yards for a blazing score, and with 9:36 remaining, the insurance touchdown made it a 33-20 game.
Public and Richards simply ran out of gas as the QB missed all of his late connections as the Lancers walked off the field from its own campus with a huge 33-20 win.
“I looked at the scoreboard, we scored 33 points, and really made a lot of mistakes,” said Archangelo. “If we can clean up those mistakes, I think we could do a little bit more on offense and defensively, we’re going to keep getting better.”
PHOTOS by TAMMI NAUDUS