By MICHAEL LETENDRE
FARMINGTON – The Bristol Eastern football team almost ruined Farmington’s homecoming on Saturday, Sept. 29 as the Lancers plastered 32 first half points on the scoreboard.
But, after the Lancers boosted more than 250 yards in offense over the first 24 minutes of play, the Indians were able to foil the visitors on several drives the rest of the way, outscoring Eastern 16-2 to end the game, and rolled up a 40-32 win from Farmington High School.
The Indians moved to 2-2 on the season while Eastern fell to 0-4 on the campaign, the Lancers’ offense woke up in a big way.
“We did a lot of good things. We played a really good first half offensively,” said Eastern coach Anthony Julius. “We didn’t quite execute the same way in the second half.”
But over that first half, starting quarterback Bryce Curtin (11-for-32, 197 yards, four TD’s) made several huge connections – passing five balls to Jaden Laprise for 125 yards and three touchdowns as the Lancers led by 12 at the half.
“Bryce played well,” said Julius of his QB. “When your number’s called, you have to step up and play…we were happy with what we saw there.”
Penalties absolutely killed Eastern on the afternoon – which turned the game into a three-hour tour of Farmington’s all-weather turf field as 17 flags, easily leading to over 100 yards lost and pushed the Lancers back on several occasions.
“We were really hamstrung by a lot of pre-snap penalties today,” said Julius. “It felt like we have 200 yards of penalties today and I think that’s the difference in the game.”
Defensively for Eastern, Trinidad Gonzalez had an interception, a sack, a tackle for a loss – as well as his first career rushing touchdown – while Matt D’Amato and Edgar Santiago made tackles for losses.
And the action was immediate in the Central Connecticut Conference Interdivisional clash.
Farmington scored on its first drive of the game as Jacob Conrad (16-for-33, 283 yards, 3 TD’s) made a four yard touchdown run with 8:43 left in the first period to secure a 6-0 edge.
Then, the Lancers scored three times in a row via quite an air show by the crafty Curtin.
First, Curtin found Laprise for a 53 yard TD strike as the receiver simply beat his man and the QB threw it right over the defender’s head – making it 6-6.
Eastern then made a fumble recovery, leading to another Curtin-Laprise connection – of the 40 yard variety this time around – as the visitors led 13-6.
A big sack by Santiago led to a Farmington punt and on the ensuing series, Curtin chucked a 34 yard TD reception to Elijah Gagliardo and with 4:40 remaining in the first, Eastern’s edge grew to 20-6.
But to end the scoring in a wild first period of play, Conrad zipped a 13 yard pass to Aidan Sposato for a score and the quarter ended with the Lancers on top by six points.
In the second tilt, a poor Eastern spot on a 4-and-short situation allowed the Indians to get the ball back and in its first series of the frame, Angel Velez made a six yard jaunt into the end zone and with 10:37 left in the half, it was all knotted up at 20-20.
But the Eastern defense held into the half as the Lancers scored twice more in the stanza.
A Farmington turnover eventually led to one final TD pass from Curtin to Laprise for 23 yards and off another miscue and giveback, Eastern decided to burn some clock and scored once again.
Seven rushes and a quick pass saw Eastern easily move the ball down the field and Gonzalez finished the drive off with a two yard touchdown sprint into the goal and with 1:24 left in the second, it was a 32-20 game as Eastern was in control.
In the third quarter, penalties, missed connections, and turnovers foiled each and every Eastern drive.
Farmington scored once in the third as Conrad found Michael Gregory for a 58 yard TD reception and quickly, it was a 32-26 game with 2:25 left in the period.
With Eastern still in the lead, the teams traded punts to begin the fourth before Conrad zipped an 86 yard reception to Gregory and off a Conrad extra point with 6:16 to play, Farmington re-took the lead at 33-32.
Eastern turned ball over with 4:36 remaining in the game and from there, Farmington was running with the football, trying to burn out the clock with a one-point lead in hand.
But with 1:47 to play, Julius let Velez score on a 29 run – as the defense was purposely held up – because down only eight at 40-32, it was the only chance for Eastern to get the ball back, attempt to tie things up and possibly force overtime.
“I think some of our guys were upset thinking that we were maybe telling them that we were quitting them to let [Farmington] score,” said Julius. “That wasn’t the play at all. We were under two minutes left, we had one timeout left, and we couldn’t stop the clock. Luckily, they took the bait.”
However, Curtin threw an interception off the score but the ball was at Farmington’s one-yard line with 1:31 to play.
And the Indians’ QB never made it out of the end zone on Farmington’s first snap, tackled by D’Amato and Santiago and off the safety, Eastern chopped the deficit to 40-34.
With 1:14 showing on the clock, Farmington had to kick the ball off to the Lancers via a free kick.
Eastern had two great balls thrown to Laprise and Gagliardo in the end zone but that reception never came to pass as Farmington held on to win, 40-34.
“We were down [just] eight and we actually had two opportunities to take the lead,” said Julius. “We actually had some balls in the end zone we just couldn’t quite complete. In the end, they did everything we asked them to do and we fell short.”
PHOTOS by JANELLE MORELLI