By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The only thing the 2015 football squad from Bristol Central missed out on this season was the playoffs.
Other than that, the year was a complete success by the Rams.
The Rams finished the campaign at 7-3 – repeating their record of 2014 – and were 3-2 in CCC Division II-West play.
With that finish, Central went 14-6 over the last two seasons and it’s a credit to the outgoing senior class who helped shape the program and turned things around after several tough seasons before.
“They’ve been great,” said Central coach Jeff Papazian of his season class. “They’ve been coachable from day one and that’s the biggest thing you can ask out of kids, to have them buy in, to accept criticism, to accept coaching and do what the coaches asked them to do. They’ve done that for two years now and the results have been great on the field.”
Central started 2015 at 3-3 before a 4-0 spurt saw the squad match its outstanding ledger from one short year ago.
And the team did it with defense.
After giving up an unsightly 53 points at Maloney on Oct. 23, the Rams only allowed 29 points the rest of the way – good for an average of just 7.3 points-per-game.
On the season, Central yielded only 18.6 points a contest and the total wasn’t so shabby either.
While the Rams, averaged 25.0 points-per-game offensively on the year, the Rams were limited to just 16.5 ppg over the final four contests but thanks to that 7.3 points allowed average, it hardly mattered.
Give credit to that defensive line and with the likes of Tyler Boi and Kris Nizielski enforcing the rules and smashing opponents, the Rams were in good hands from practice one this year.
Against the Lancers on Thanksgiving, that defensive line did not allow an offensive score to sneak into the end zone.
“They were outstanding,” said Papazian of his team’s line and defensive effort against Bristol Eastern. “We thought going in if we could play more physical than Eastern up front, we’d have a pretty good chance to control the game. It was not a secret that they wanted to establish the run. Our defensive line and our linebackers were going to be the key to the game. I thought they came through extremely well.”
“Tyler Boi, [Tommy] Nelligan had some big plays in there. Deion [Francis] has been there all year for us, [Josh] Moxam as well and our two linebackers as well, [Michael] Guzman and Cruz makes a big difference having him [Cruz] back in there.”
The defensive approach allowed opponents just 4.4 points-per-fourth quarter against Central all season long and all those players had a hand in that.
Cruz, an outstanding two-way player, got the job done on both sides of the ball and on numerous fronts.
At quarterback, he completed 37-of-72 passes for 614 yards and three touchdowns while when rushing with the ball, Cruz was just as slick.
He snared 753 yards on 101 rushes – good for 14 touchdowns – and was the perfect complement to back Luis Medina.
Medina took in 1,264 yards on 202 carries for 14 touchdowns and set-up several scoring opportunities and was elusive once given a little room to operate in.
Isaiah Miller (55 carries, 311 yards, 4 TD’) was an excellent third option on offense and was an immediate replacement when Cruz was hobbled for most of the second half of the season at QB (10-of-13, 157 yards, TD).
And, again, that’s a credit to an outstanding offensive line.
On the reception front, Tyshaun Rodriguez made 17 catches for 329 yards and two touchdowns, Medina chipped in with 10 receptions for 102 yards while Conner Staubley cashed in eight balls for nearly 100 yards and a score.
Miller also was an important part of the receiving corps, snaring six catches for 111 yards.
It all added up to another successful campaign and another consecutive winning season by Central.
Next season’s schedule for the Rams won’t look much different from 2015 but Central will be forced to compete in five road games, up from the total of ‘three’ (come on, that Bristol Eastern ‘home’ Thanksgiving Day game was not a home game for the Lancers) from last season.
It will all begin on Sept. 9, 2016 as Central travels to Windsor as games on Friday will dominate the schedule.
The Rams then play against South Windsor (Sept. 16) and Platt (Sept. 23) before finishing the final day of the month on the road at Wethersfield.
On Oct. 7, Central will probably end up playing Bulkeley from its own high school field (the situation at Dillion Stadium is truly a nightmare) while the squad will enjoy the bye week on Oct. 14.
From there, it’s contests against Maloney (Oct. 21) and Edwin O. Smith (Oct. 28) before two games on the road open the month of November for the Rams.
Central’s gets to square off at Newington (Nov. 4) and East Hartford (Nov. 11) before the annual Thanksgiving clash with the Lancers.
But that’s next year and that might as well seem a million miles away.
However, the time is now as the Bristol Central program is ecstatic to be ringing the brass bell and displaying it at the high school after defeating crosstown rival Bristol Eastern for the first time since 2006.
Thanksgiving Day – Players of the Game, 2015
BE offense: Josh Simpson
BE defense: Zac Thompson
BC offense: Noah Cruz
BC defense: Tyler Boi
Battle of the Bell Records – Since Bristol Central last won on turkey day:
2006 — Tie, 14-14
2007 — Bristol Eastern, 42-14
2008 — Bristol Eastern, 34-28
2009 — Bristol Eastern, 46-13
2010 — Bristol Eastern, 35-0
2011 — Bristol Eastern, 21-14
2012 — Bristol Eastern, 17-6
2013 – Bristol Eastern, 21-18
2014 – Bristol Eastern, 20-18
2015 – Bristol Central, 12-4*
Bristol Central now leads the all-time series 32-23-2 in 57 battles since the teams started playing each other in 1959
New Records Established in the Battle for the Bell:
*Most safeties in a game – 2, Bristol Eastern
*Noah Cruz put up 123 yards on 19 carries – 34th most all-time in BC/BE Thanksgiving Day history
Senior Participants on Thanksgiving –
Bristol Central Football Players:
No. 1 Deznel Davis No. 55 Deion Francis
No. 7 J.J. Quiles No. 56 Josh Moxam – Captain
No. 8 Noah Cruz – Captain No. 67 Kevin Hanning
No. 11 Tyshaun Rodriguez No. 72 Kris Nizielski – Captain
No. 25 Jorge Hernandez No. 82 Tyler Boi
No. 26 Shane Oxton No. 89 Brad Burney
No. 52 Kesean Milward
Bristol Central Cheerleaders:
Captain Olivia Apergis Chole Gannon
Captain Paige Daly Amber Ouellette
Bristol Eastern Football Players:
No. 6 Alex ‘Bama’ Hunter No. 8 Donte Collins
No. 64 Reese McGowan No. 56 Ronte Cooper
No. 76 Anthony Circosta No. 45 Josh DiMattia
No. 55 Luis Rivera No. 49 Garrett McCarthy
No. 44 Josh Sampson No. 2 Danny Portal
No. 40 Riley Mason No. 72 Josh O’Keefe – Captain
No. 46 Joey Colangelo No. 27 Zac Thompson – Captain
No. 5 Darieyn Tate – Captain
Bristol Eastern Cheerleaders:
Captain Tori Consalvo Justin Caez
Captain Taylor Violette Morgan Martin
Captain Haleigh Costello Jillian Donaghy
Katrina DeSena Victoria Medeiros
Natalie Zaloba Marielys Rivera
Miss Forestville: Allison Owsianko
Miss Forestville, Outstanding Teen: Allison Duffy
Miss Forestville, Petite: Lucy Pons
Miss Bristol: Christina Judd
Miss Bristol, Outstanding Teen: Taylor Plourd
Miss Bristol, Pre-Teen: Haley Derwin