By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – There’s going to come a time this season when everything clicks for the Bristol Eastern football team.
Unfortunately, the Lancers just have to learn from nights like Friday, Sept. 14 as Middletown rolled up a 41-7 decision in a Central Connecticut Conference interdivisional tilt from Alumni Field on the campus of Bristol Eastern.
The Lancers, who played relatively well on the defensive end, had to absorb the big play from the Blue Dragons (2-0) via 269 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
And when the likes of Jonta’e Dempsey-Brown and Xzavier Reyes broke a couple tackles, the points piled up quickly in favor of Middletown.
“They’re really good players that made big plays tonight,” said Eastern coach Anthony Julius. “I felt, really aside from five plays – and I know the score doesn’t show it – the defense played pretty well. We got big-plays because that’s what good teams do.”
Eastern forced a couple turnovers on downs and a missed field goal but between Reyes (10 carries, 128 yards, two touchdowns), Tyreece Lumpkin (3-40, two touchdowns), Dempsey-Brown (4-39, TD), and Kalil Shabazz (3-38, TD), those athletes made ground gains all over the field.
“They have a couple players, [Jonta’e Dempsey-Brown and Xzavier Reyes] who are very dynamic,” said Julius. “And [Tyreece Lumpkin] too. He’s a smaller kid in stature but he’s slippery. He makes plays. It hurt us. The big play hurt us tonight.”
There were some hidden gems all over the field for Eastern and Carson Sassu was one of them.
He broke up several passes that would have gone for first-down receptions and even made three receptions on the offensive end.
Sassu is an invaluable two-way player and that kind of effort was needed without the services of Jade Laprise and Elijah Gagliardo on both sides of the ball.
“There’s no secret. We’re banged up and guys are having to step up,” said Julius. “Carson’s thrown in there and he did a nice job. We had a lot of guys step up and do some good things. Between Carson, and Josh McConnell, and Tyler Gleifert and Gavin Jarvis in the secondary…we had a lot of guys do some different things tonight.”
“They’re kind of getting scrambled around out there but they’re doing the best they can and we’re just going to continue to try to coach them up and get them to where they need to be.”
Eastern QB Justin Marshall made a slick 13-of-16 connections though most were of the short gain variety.
But those quick passes gave Middletown fits as Marshall found Bryce Curtin for a career best eight receptions for 49 yards.
Dylan Garcia showed a little grit as he pumped in eight carries for 55 yards and a touchdown while Trinidad Gonzalez made his first rushes on the field since his sophomore campaign.
Matt D’Amato made some gains in the offensive schemes as well while Gonzalez, Edgar Santiago, and Curtin were solid defensively.
Middletown failed to score on its first drive of the contest as Santiago and Curtin made a fourth down save but the Lancers were unable to score.
Middletown then zipped up a touchdown off Eastern’s punt.
Lumpkin went untouched through a sea of defenders as his 38 yard run with 5:30 to go in the first period made it 7-0.
On its next drive, the Blue Dragons needed just two carries to score as Reyes’ 64 yard TD dash as he sprinted out left and zipped down the BE sideline – propelling Middletown to a 14-0 lead with 2:40 remaining in the first.
And then off an interception of Marshall, Dempsey-Brown turned a long 4-and-21 setback into a 30 yard score as he grabbed the ball and plowed down the Eastern sideline with 0:03 to go as the Lancers went into the second tilt trailing 21-0.
Both teams absorbed turnovers on the ensuing drives but off another Eastern three-and-out, the punt was muffed and off the fumble, the Blue Dragons were set up on Eastern’s five yard line – looking to score.
Reyes made that a reality as his 1 yard plunge with 3:14 left before the half made it 28-0.
“We had a special team’s mistake and gave Middletown the ball inside the five yard line,” said Julius. “When you’re facing a team of this caliber, to give up that short of a field is a definitely a disadvantage for us.”
“It’s a disadvantage against any team.”
The Blue Dragons received the ball to start the second half and to conclude its 11 play scoring drive, Lumpkin flipped in a four yard gallop and with 7:45 remaining in the third period, it was 34-0.
Another BE turnover led to a missed field goal for Middletown but off one final score, speedy Kalil Shabazz sprinted into the goal off a 26 yard blitz as the Blue Dragons wrangled up a 41-0 edge with 2:45 to play in the third.
“When you play in big games like this against teams with a lot of talent and a lot of athletes, you have to play field position,” said Julius. “You have to be able to control the ball. We did that at times tonight but couldn’t flip the field enough on them to kind of make them drive the length of the field.”
But even with running time throughout the final period, Garcia made his last rush count as he sprinted 23 yards in for the squad’s only score of the game, making it 41-7 with 1:25 to go.
“Overall, I was proud of the effort for the night,” said Julius.