By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When the Rocky Hill football team paid a visit to Muzzy Field on Halloween eve, the squad from Bristol Central knew exactly what to expect from the Terriers on the offensive side of the ball.
The Rams expected a track meet out of the visitors and that’s exactly what they got.
But in the end, Central’s defense held the fort as the Rams put together an impressive 32-27 CCC Interdivisional win to move to 5-2 on the campaign.
That victory will ensure the Rams at least a .500 finish for the first time since the 2006 season.
The game was all about defense against the run and while Hill had over 275 yards of offense on the ground (330 yards in total), the Rams made key stops in the early in the first and in the third period as one additional Terriers score would have turned possibly turned the ultimate tide of the game.
However, the defense refused to let that happen.
“That’s the important thing, we got the stops when we needed to,” said Central coach Jeff Papazian. “You know what they’re (Rocky Hill’s) going to run but with all due respect to Rocky Hill, they’re good at what they run. They run that all day, every day, all year. It’s a pain to get prepared for to put that offense in with your young kids in a week. But credit our defense.”
“When push came to shove, they kept fighting and fighting and when guys that got stuck down, got guys eating dirt all night, they were sacrificing themselves for the good of the team.”
Tyshaun Rodriguez, Adam Flores, Tommy Nelligan and Tyler Boi all made tackles for losses in the showdown.
Dave Sevigny had 23 carries, 140 yards for a touchdown for the Terriers while teammate Grant
Nieves scored three touchdowns and wrapped up 18 carries for 126 yards for the Terriers (4-4).
Quarterback Matthew Molloy missed six of nine passes but his three connections went for 49 yards including a 15 yard TD strike to Nieves.
Offensively for Central, Conaway (28-130, two touchdowns) and Cruz (6-for-13, 146 yards, 3 TD’s, 8 carries, 46 yards) put together an impressive one-two punch.
Drew Lee was the benefactor of four of those Cruz passes and made Hill pay with 124 yards in offense while scooping in two touchdowns while Connor Staubley added a score on two catches for 23 yards – with his 15 yard catch going for six points.
But with his 41 yard touchdown jaunt – propelling the Rams to an imposing 32-14 edge with 10:23 left in the contest – Conaway scooped up his 1,000 yard for the season.
For the year, Conaway has 1,042 yards and can pile up so more with three games remaining to play to add to those imposing totals.
But also credit that outstanding line and that superior blocking to make all those yards come to pass.
And whether it was Damon Mimms, Flores, Krysztof Nizielski, Jack Thomasen, Nelligan or Zach Jacobs, they all did their part in the during the big effort.
Those same mates had to cover positions all over the field as more than a few players were hurt but the team rose to the occasion and got the job done.
“It was gutsy across the board,” said Papazian about Central’s entire effort on the evening. “I could rattle off a number of guys that were incredible gutsy and just pushed through. We’ve got some nagging injuries and a times, it looks like we’re running an infirmary at times. But we pushed through.”
Conaway battled through injury as did Cruz at QB.
Staubley was also hurt but the Rams were focused at the task at hand.
“We just kept on fighting,” said Papazian.
Central took the initial advantage nearly off the bat and made two straight scores to zip up a double-figure lead.
At the 9:02 mark of the first quarter, Cruz found Staubley for that 15 yard connection as Central led 6-0.
And off the Central kickoff, which was booted by Rocky Hill, Kadeem Richards made a critical recovery and the Rams went right back to work offensively.
Four plays led to a Lee touchdown as he was easily ahead of the pack, juggled the ball a bit, and drew in the ball – leading to a 27 yard touchdown reception – as the Rams went in front 12-0, which was the same score to end the stanza.
But the misdirection by the Terriers paid off in the second quarter as the visitors went into halftime with the lead.
First, Sevigny made a 21 yard dash up the middle for a touchdown and off a fumble recovery, Hill was back at it again and scored with 6:41 remaining in the half.
This time, a 12 yard drive was capped off with a one yard sprint into the goal by Nieves and with 1:08 remaining in the second half, the Terriers went ahead in the contest by a 14-12 tally.
And even off a late interception on Cruz by Sevigny, the Rams were right in the thick of things and trailed by just two points.
But to start the third tilt, the Terriers quickly went three-and-out and Central went right to work.
On the third play of the ensuing drive, Cruz found Lee for a short connection and it was off to the races.
Lee ran all the way into the end zone, making the throw an amazing 82 yard pass, as the Rams picked up two points – courtesy of a two point run-in by Cruz – and the Rams’ edge reached 20-14.
The home team never trailed from that point on with 8:51 remaining in the third period.
“We made a couple adjustments on both sides of the ball,” said Papazian. “We tried to put ourselves in a little bit better situation especially defensively. The kids adapted on the fly and were able to execute what we wanted after halftime.”
“That was a big difference in the second half.”
Rocky Hill fumbled off the ensuing drive as J.J. Quiles made a fumble recovery and Conaway scored on a 20 yard scamper up the gut and quickly, Central led 26-14 with 4:56 left in the third.
In the final period, the Terriers couldn’t stop Conaway from surpassing the 1,000-yard mark.
To open the fourth, Jaavon Gordon intercepted a pass by Molloy and quickly, Conaway scampered 41 yards into the end zone. With 10:23 to go, Central held an imposing 32-14 cushion.
But Central would need just about all those points as Hill made a mad dash for the lead late.
Nieves ran one for an 11-yard run touchdown and later, he caught one for a 15-yard connection and with 2:54 remaining in the game, Hill was hanging in there and down just 32-27.
But the Rams ran out the clock impressively, not allowing Hill to get the ball back again as the Rams won it by five.
And while Central moved to an impressive 5-2 victory in the winning effort, the bottom line means the Rams will finish at least .500 with a couple winnable games coming down the pike.
“It’s a huge win for us, a huge win for our program,” said Papazian. “And it’s the result of a lot of hard work from a lot guys (starting) in February, March, and April in the weight room, just grinding through it and working hard to get better.”
“We’re going to take them one at a time, enjoy this tonight, and go on to Maloney.”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.
PHOTOS by TAMMI NAUDUS