By MICHAEL LETENDRE
WINDSOR – The Bristol Eastern football team has shown glimpses of what the squad could be over the entire campaign.
But the Lancers have not shown those abilities over the full slate of a 48 minute game this season and in its most recent battle against one of the top squads in all of Connecticut in the form of Windsor, the locals gave the Warriors more than a little heartburn over the first half of action on Friday night, Oct. 9.
However, the Warriors are a top-ranked squad for a reason – with weapons all over the field and on both sides of the ball – and the squad sank Eastern 48-6 in a CCC Division II Interdivisional tilt from O’Brien Field in Windsor.
It was the third straight week the Lancers (0-5) had to battle an undefeated opponent as Windsor (5-0) finally opened up the game towards the end of the second period after having to shake the pesky Lancers.
And part of that problem for the Warriors was the rushing of Eastern’s Edgar Ortiz-Hernandez who showed absolutely no fear, crashed into the Windsor defensive line 25 times, slithered his ways through holes and seams the offensive line generated and came away with 91 yards in a big performance.
He was big on first down, also made a huge 19 yard reception from Darieyn Tate (5-of-6, 35 yards, TD) and just kept at it until the final horn sounded.
“I don’t know what he weighs but most of its heart,” said Eastern coach Paul Philippon. “He cares a lot and he works really hard. We’ve asked him to play a lot of different roles and tonight was a night where he had to carry the ball. He did a good job.”
Josh Sampson didn’t gain a ton of yards on the ground in the game but had to battle two, three and four at a clip, giving it his all as well while Tate showed plenty in his first full varsity game at quarterback.
Credit also belongs to Riley Mason who, playing in his first game of the campaign, caught a 10 yard touchdown as the Lancers made a game of it early.
Danny Portal also made gains on the receiving front as Tate made several connections to keep the Windsor defense honest.
The Eastern defense also played well to open the contest, allowing just seven points of the first 17 minutes of the game against a very high scoring Windsor machine.
And the Warriors had to sweat early on in things.
In fact, with Eastern down 7-0, the Lancers – forcing a turnover on its own 34 yard line – made its move to tie up the game late in the first period.
But, even as the Windsor defense held, Eastern was forced to punt and came away with a first down play.
When the punting attempt broke down, punter Mike Barrett scampered with the ball for 11 yards and quickly, Eastern’s drive continued.
But at the beginning of the second period, Eastern was facing a fourth and goal situation, stuck in the red zone on the Windsor 10-yard line.
Tate showed some poise in the pocket and when he found Riley for a 10-yard TD connection with 10:21 left to go in the second frame, it was a 7-6 contest and the game was afoot.
Windsor did respond as Bennie Fulse (15 carries, 100 yards) made a two yard run into the end zone for a touchdown as the home team went ahead by a 14-6 push with 6:57 left in the half.
A controversial ensuing drive by Eastern saw the squad turn the ball over on downs at its own 35 yard line, though a Windsor player slammed his helmet on the ground – which should have resulted in a 15 yard penalty and an automatic first down for the Lancers.
But the officials would not make the call and the Warriors had the ball and a fresh set of downs on a short field.
Windsor scored twice before the end of the half as Tyler Coyle nabbed a 10 pass from Grant for a score and when Grant made a yard rush into the end zone – and Isaiah Huff ran in a two-point conversion – with 14.6 seconds left in the half, the Warriors took control of the contest and surged in front with 28-6 lead.
“They’re a great team,” said Philippon of Windsor. “They’re talented, they’re athletic, they’re well coached. They play as a team. They do a lot of things that, I think, go unnoticed. They block really well, they stay on their blocks, they’re sound tacklers.”
“Their record is what it is for a reason.”
Eastern received the ball to open the third period, but Windsor recovered its own kickoff and again, played on a short field.
From there, Coyle nabbed a nine yard pass, again from Grant, and with 10:36 remaining in the frame, Windsor’s edge reached 35-6.
Eastern was forced to punt on the ensuing drive and Grant found Isaiah Huff for a 36 TD reception and at the 8:25 mark of the third, the Warriors were in front 41-6.
The Lancers then fumbled the ball to Windsor on its next drive and to close out the scoring; Fulse made a 10 yard plunge into the goal and with 3:41 showing on the third period clock, it was a 48-6 game and the home team was firmly in control.
But Eastern never quit, continued to compete, and even as Windsor had several first stringers still in the game, and the Lancers defense held the fort until the end, bowing out by a 48-6 score.
However, the Lancers showed improvements from the previous weeks loss at Maloney, made some changes that paid off at some skill positions and will continue to improve as the Lancers go into the bye week – with Newington on the docket next Friday from Bristol Eastern High School.
“We’re desperately trying to find some answers,” said Philippon. “You know, every game is a big game for us and we’re just trying to access what gives us the best chance to win. Sometimes, that means guys are filling different roles and doing different things. Mikey Barrett did a great job punting tonight. You know, if we can take pieces of what we did tonight against one of the top teams, it was encouraging.”
“But the game’s not measured in pieces. We’ve got to put together a [whole] game.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE