By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The diversity of the Bristol Eastern football team’s offense was on full display against Farmington on Friday, Oct. 6.
And that contest also saw a little defense, too.
Eastern took advantage of six turnovers, scored all its points in the first half of play, and held on late as the squad turned away Farmington 19-12 in a Central Connecticut Conference West Division II crossover game from Alumni Field in Bristol.
It was the Lancers’ second win in a row (2-3) and the first time the squad snared back-to-back victories since November 2014.
The offense flowed well as Eastern put three backs in the backfield and simply unleashed Steven Hopkins, Tyler Mason, and Matt D’Amato – all earning career rushing yardage totals.
Ariza Kolloverja did his part as did quarterback Justin Marshall who again directed traffic and unleashed a pass or two when needed.
Eastern’s ground assault led to over 200 yards in offense and that was more than enough to keep the chains moving throughout the showdown.
“The first half is exactly how we wanted the game to go,” said Eastern coach Anthony Julius. “We came out firing on offense, we pounded the ball, we played mistake free on offense and were able to force turnovers on defense which was nice, creating big plays.”
“You have to credit our guys defensively. Not having Trinidad [Gonzalez] tonight, they stepped up in the first half in a big way.”
Hopkins (11 carries, 64 yards), D’Amato (10-54), and Mason (6-39) led the offensive charge and the Lancers went back to Kolloverja (10-37) to help sustain a drive when needed.
“We saw some things we thought would give us an advantage on film,” said Julius. “We’ve got a lot of guys that carry the rock on this team and they proved that. The offensive line has played really well for two games now. I’d like them to play better in the second half but we’ll get there.”
Then, there was the defensive component as well.
Eastern made three pickoffs in the game and snared two fumble recoveries. Add another loss of downs by the Indians and that six-pack of miscues led to doom and demise.
“We definitely, in the first half, capitalized on [Farmington’s] turnovers. We turned them all into points,” said Julius.
But Farmington gave it a whirl and late in the game, trailing by just seven points, the squad got into Eastern territory, drove to the red zone and was camped out on the Lancers’ six yard line with downs in hand and time to spare.
However, one final fumble gave control of the ball back to the Lancers with just over two minutes showing on the clock.
Farmington quarterback Zac Conrad proved to be a menace – especially late in the showdown – connecting on 17-of-25 passes for nearly 247 yards and two touchdowns.
Two receivers also snatched 100-plus receiving yards as Dante Colagiovanni (10-104) and Jack Beisel (4-108) kept late games drives going, turning missed Eastern tackles into gains via yards after the catch.
But when the showdown was on the line, and Eastern needing stops, the home squad was up to the task.
Farmington’s first series of the game was interrupted by an interception from Kolloverja and three plays later, D’Amato ran in his first scholastic touchdown – a two yard plunge – and with 8:24 left in the first, Eastern led 7-0.
Then, the Eastern QB went to work, defensively, intercepting a ball of his own and started up the offensive from the Eastern 33 yard line.
Eight plays later, Marshall hooked up with Kolloverja for a 27 yard touchdown reception – seeing Kolloverja fight off two defenders and fall to the ground while snaring in the ball for six points – and with 3:15 left in the first stanza, it was already a 13-0 contest.
Ben Ferraro then help force a fumble recovery to cut down another Farmington drive and going into the second period, with the Indians still trailing by 13, another gaffe set up the final Eastern touchdown of the evening.
The Lancers’ defense caused another Farmington turnover, this time in the red zone, as the Lancers chewed up the clock on a huge 12-play, 87-yard scoring drive.
D’Amato and Hopkins made several rushes to get into scoring position and then Mason made the carry of the game – steamrolling his way 11 yards into the goal, punching the ball in with one final burst, as his first TD of the season made it a 19-0 game with 41.1 seconds to go before the half.
“Every time you touch the ball, obviously, you wantto score,” said Julius. “For us, we’ve had success moving the ball against almost everybody we’ve played. We just haven’t been able to cash in. Tonight, to be able to finish those early drives with touchdowns were huge.
But Farmington showed some resolve in the second half and off a 10 play, 65 yard drive, Conrad found Colagiovanni for a 12 yard touchdown strike and with 4:56 to go in the third, the visitors were on the board but still trailed 19-6.
Eastern punted on its next drive but crafty Jaden Laprise made a pickoff of Conrad.
However, after another three-and-out, the Lancers had to kick the ball away again.
Three plays later, Conrad found Colagiovanni again – this time for a 24 yard hook up – and with 10:46 left to play in the game, Farmington was in the flow – trailing just 19-12.
Eastern’s next drive stalled out on the Farmington 36 and off one final punt, the Indians went for broke.
The Lancers missed several tackles that could have limited Farmington’s yardage on its final drive of the game and six plays in, the Indians were operating in the red zone before Eastern forced one more turnover.
“We had a couple blown assignments in the secondary as far as coverage responsibility goes but, you know, the kids are out there playing and when we needed them to make a big play at the end of the game, they made a big play,” said Julius. “They forced a turnover, we got the ball back, [and] we were able to get the first downs to win the game.”
With just 2:09 showing on the clock, Conrad fumbled the ball and once the pile of players was cleared, Marshall came out of the pack with the ball and the home team dodged a huge bullet.
Two first downs later, the game was over as Eastern claimed a huge seven-point win to go into the bye week on a high note – winning two straight games.
“We’re still a work in progress,” said Julius. “But their progress has been the key to success and I think us being able to play a little ball control and being sound on defense is really giving us the opportunity to win games.”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.