By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern football team put together a near brilliant second half of defense to snare a late lead in its CCC Division II Interdivisional tilt against South Windsor on Friday, Oct. 30 in Bristol.
With a late charge into the goal, the Lancers’ Josh Sampson ran in a one yard touchdown and with 5:05 remaining in the showdown, Eastern tied the affair up at 19-19.
And seconds later, quarterback Darieyn Tate ran up the gut for a two-point conversion as the Lancers snared an improbable 21-19 edge – their first lead in the game.
Eastern’s defense put the clamps down on South Windsor’s ensuing drive, going three and out, and the home team had the ball and a two-point lead in hand with 2:37 to play.
But the Lancers turned the ball over at midfield on a fourth-and-short situation as the Bobcats took over and went into their two minute drill mode.
It took just two plays for South Windsor to notch the game winning TD when quarterback Connor Kapisak (13-of-20, 177 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) found Ben Custer up the middle – and all alone – for a 44 yard reception for six points and with 1:51 remaining, the Bobcats nabbed a 25-21 tilt, taking the lead back from the Lancers.
But Eastern took one more crack at it and with Alex “Bama” Hunter, inserted at QB, the Lancers moved the ball downfield with zest.
The locals brought the ball at the way down to the South Windsor 39 yard line but as time was running short, a holding penalty pushed the ball back all the way to the Eastern 41.
And when Hunter was finally dropped on the final play of the game, the visitors rolled up a tough 25-21 win from the campus of Bristol Eastern.
“It’s really hard to have much to say after a game like that,” said Eastern coach Paul Philippon. “We continue to not put our best on the field so as coaches, certainly a lot of it is up to us to get our kids to do what we teach them to do all week and to motivate them and to get them disciplined and all on the right page.”
“We don’t always appear to play that way.”
The Lancers fell to 1-6 in the losing effort while the Bobcats improved to 3-4, winning their last three games in a row.
Eastern’s defense allowed 19 first half points before coming alive in the third and fourth quarters – keeping South Windsor off the scoreboard over the first 22-plus minutes of the stanza before the Custer game-winning reception made it academic.
Defensively, Josh O’Keefe was a standout for Eastern – picking off a pass from Kapisak – while Hunter did the same late in the game.
Sampson, Zac Thompson, O’Keefe, Jared Procko, Ronte Cooper, and Ariza Kolloverja all made critical stops along the way for the Lancers.
Offensively, Edgar Hernandez (18 carries, 91 yards) grabbed most of his yardage in the second half of play while Hunter (5-44) made gains over the final two periods as well.
“I don’t question their effort,” said Philippon of his squad. “They play hard but we make a lot of mistakes and we knew that South Windsor was going to be a very good team, a well coached team, a tough team.”
Eastern didn’t score on its opening drive but South Windsor cashed in on a 15 play, 67 yard scoring drive when Matt Kelly dashed in for a two yard run to make it a 7-0 game with 2:58 to play in the first stanza.
In the second period, South Windsor notched a score early in the fray when Julian Ibes made a three yard plunge into the end zone – aided by a Michael Foley 45 yard reception to get to the squad to Eastern three – as the Bobcats were in front 13-0 with 11:04 left before the half.
“[South Windsor] kind of chunk you and chuck you and that’s what they did,” said Philippon of the South Windsor offense. “They picked up chucks and they made plays. They definitely earned it.”
But Hunter struck right back on the ensuing drive, sprinting up the middle of the field for an 85 kickoff return and on Eastern’s first successful extra points of the campaign by Sampson, the Lancers were trailing by just a 13-7 push with 10:50 remaining before intermission.
The Bobcats responded right away when Connor Dunn took in a 21 pass from Kapisak for a touchdown and the Bobcats were on top 19-7 with 8:13 to go in the half.
Eastern couldn’t draw any closer to close the second period but South Windsor couldn’t extend the advantage either, a credit to the Lancers’ defense.
Two turnovers foiled the Eastern but the O’Keefe pickoff balanced the gaffes by the home team and at the halftime break, the Lancers trailed by 12 but were still in, trailing 19-7.
In the third period, the Eastern defense forced a quick South Windsor turnover and answered with a seven yard touchdown run by Hernandez and with 6:26 to go, the Lancers was down by just a 19-13 tilt.
The squads then exchanged punts and when Hunter made his 16 yard interception with 9:48 to go, Eastern set up its final scoring drive of the night.
And when Sampson made his one yard dash into the goal and Tate put the icing on the cake with his conversion, the Lancers edged in front 21-19 with 5:05 showing on the clock.
But that fateful go-ahead touchdown from Custer ended the scoring and propelled the Bobcats to a 25-21 victory for their third straight win.
“There were some alignment adjustments that coach (Sal) Cintorino went over with the defense,” said Philippon at halftime. “Most of the time, there were drives where they certainly chucked us but we help teams, that’s the problem. We respect teams and we know teams come out and they win a given play and maybe a play and a play and a play in a series. But there where times they don’t even have to win it. We have too many self inflicted wounds both on defense, offense and special teams.”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver. com.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE