By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – A little while after the Thanksgiving Day football game, when the players from Bristol Central were still ringing the bell via its six-point win over Bristol Eastern, the squad’s coach, Jeff Papazian, was taking it all in from the muddy infield at Muzzy Field.
And there were probably about a million emotions running through his mind at that time, realizing that its was the final time he’d be able to coach his outstanding senior class.
That senior crew has been with Papazian since day one and he truly wanted to win this game for that crew.
It was mission accomplished for the fourth year head coach, scooping up a 33-27 victory over Bristol Eastern – the third straight win over the Lancers on Thanksgiving – and, for several varsity players on the team, the third consecutive triumph against its cross rivals as active participants on the field at the T-Day game.
“I just wanted so badly to send these guys out the right way, this senior class,” said Papazian. “They deserved it and that doesn’t always matter in this game. The better team doesn’t always win, the more deserving team doesn’t always win so I’m just so happy that we were able to send these guys out the right way.”
That senior crew helped to put the pieces together a four-year stretch of 27 victories, a great total for any scholastic squad.
This year’s team equaled Papazian’s top season mark of 7-3 (4-1 in CCC Division II-West play) and, while the record was impressive, another touchdown here, another fumble recovery there, and the Rams might have been state tournament participants.
However, a seven-win campaign was nothing to sneeze at considering exactly who the Rams ended up losing to.
“Our three losses are going to be to Middletown, Windsor, and Maloney,” said Papazian. “You can throw together the records of those three teams and it’s 28-2.”
And the campaign could have been lost as Central struggled over its first five games, though it was against the best the Central Connecticut Conference had to offer.
True, it was a rough 2-3 start and that final loss of the campaign, against undefeated Middletown on September 29, could have kept the program in a free-fall of sorts.
But that wasn’t in the DNA of the senior class at Bristol Central.
Led by senior Dathan Hickey, the speedster had one heck of a finish to the 2017 campaign off an impressive five-game winning burst – punctuated by the win over Eastern.
And while the program won it on the field, the squad also won it in the classroom as well.
Papazian was extremely proud that sixty-four of his players made the Honor Roll for the first quarter.
That’s the ultimate one-two punch for the program, striving to be the best both on the field and in the classroom.
But it was leadership by example and the underclassmen followed the teachings of the senior crew.
And in the end, those seniors were able to ring the bell, keeping it at the high school on the hill for at least one more year.
“I was proud of my guys, proud of the way they played,” said Papazian. “It’s going to be weird not seeing a lot of these guys out here next year.”
NOTES…It was the final game for Central senior players Josh Boxley, Zack Bunker, Josh Carrasquillo, Devon Dawson, John Duncan, Adam Ewart, Damar Hamilton, Nigel West, captains Mike Guzman, Dathan Hickey, Alex Lape, Isaiah Miller, and Gabe Updegraff along with football managers Kyle Santos and Brandon Bianca.