Football: Newington’s versatility holds back Eastern

By MICHAEL LETENDRE

SPORTS WRITER

 

BRISTOL – The Newington football team is a versatile bunch on both sides of the ball and against Bristol Eastern on Friday, Sept. 20, the Indians proved that very point.

Newington quarterback Nick Pestrichello threw for over 200 yards while John Amaning complied nearly 130 yards on the ground, propelling the Indians to a 42-7 victory from Alumni Field in Bristol.

Pestrichello (15-of-18, 228, three TDs) quickly found his receivers who were able to beat out the Eastern secondary and Amaning (12 carries, 127 yards, TD) turned missed tackles into additional offense to lead the onslaught for the visitors.

Newington moved to 2-0 over the winning effort.

But when Eastern (0-2) was able to set the table and slow the game down, the Lancers took Newington’s first string offense out of the game and put together a couple long drives which kept the scoring down over the second half of play.

And those long, churned out drives saw the Lancers move the ball quite effectively as Eastern’s run game provided some positive results.

“The game was a little out of hand but at times, we controlled the line of scrimmage and did some good things,” said Eastern coach Anthony Julius.

Dylan Garcia made his 2019 debut against Newington, helping Eastern pick up some first downs over his 15 carry, 55 yard effort while Alex Marshall (15-55) had another solid effort on both sides of the ball.

Marshall also compiled two sacks to pace the Lancers’ defensive efforts.

Eastern QB Bryce Curtin (7-29) was under fire the entire evening but was able to make eight connections for 68 yards and did well in the run game despite the pressure from Newington’s excellent defensive line.

Newington put 21 points on the scoreboard over the first 10 minutes or so of the game as the offense seemingly had a step on Eastern’s young defense, turning those plays into huge drives and scoring bursts.

Credit belonged to those Indian receivers as the group made some outstanding catches in traffic, even when the Eastern defense was on the marks and in opponent’s faces.

“It was a lot of lack of execution on a lot of parts,” said Julius. “And, unfortunately, when you play a team that has ability and has skill, it seems that when you’re going good, the breaks kind of go your way and for Newington, it was kind of going good for them.”

Newington opened the first period with a 13-play, 65-yard scoring drive in which Shakir Smith ran in a three yard touchdown score to give the squad a 7-0 edge with 8:21 left to go in the first period.

The teams exchanged fumble recoveries with Eastern’s Edgar Santiago scooping in a ball midway through the first period but off a three-and-out by the Lancers, the Indians needed just one play to score again.

This time, Pestrichello nailed Gunnar Johnson for a 41-yard TD strike as the receiver found open field, won the footrace and Newington grabbed a 14-0 push with 4:24 left.

Eastern again couldn’t generate anything on the ensuing drive but when Newington got the ball back, Amaning blazed up a 76-run touchdown rush, eluding a couple tackles along the way as he sprinted upfield to eventually score and with 1:35 to play in the first quarter, the Indians led 21-0.

“They had a couple of really nice plays that kind of took the wind out of us a little bit,” said Julius of Newington. “Unfortunately, it got away from us a little early there.”

In the second period, a double pass then produced another touchdown for Newington as Pestrichello eventually found Keenan Esau for a 38-yard touchdown strike and the Eastern deficit grew to 28-0 with 11:39 remaining before the half.

“He’s real good,” said Julius of Pestrichello. “We knew that going in. We knew we’d have our hands full. We tried to get pressure on him. At times, we did. Other times, he made some really good throws. He hung in there in the pocket and made a couple really nice throws. You tip your cap to that kid. He played a really good football game.”

Newington’s defense was continuing to excel and when the Indians got the ball back midway through the second frame, Pestrichello was at it again.

Marching down the field, the signal caller lofted Esau a six-yard touchdown reception and with 7:53 to play before the half, it was all Newington at 35-0.

That’s when Eastern put together a brilliant 17-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that was punctuated off a Curtin nine yard scramble to the right side of the end zone – barreling through a Newington defender at the goal line in the process – as Eastern chopped the deficit to 35-7 with 27 seconds remaining in the second tilt.

And while Eastern turned the ball over on its opening series of the third period, another 17-play drive saw the Lancers’ rushers make positive gains – keeping the ball away from the Newington – as the offensive line and Santiago at fullback helped Garcia and Marshall find holes and seams in the defense.

“Dylan and Alex really ran the ball well at times,” said Julius of his backs. “They go forward; they get yards after contact. They’re not just going down on the first hit. When we don’t execute up front, they kind of help make our guys look a little better. Bryce had a couple really nice tough runs, too.”

Early in the fourth frame, Newington’s Jordan Alexander made a one-yard jaunt up the gut to stake his squad to a 42-7 lead with 10:33 remaining.

Late in the game, the Eastern defense forced a punt and while the Lancers’ final drive was halted on the Newington 15-yard line, the 42-7 setback saw several Eastern positives as the squad moved into Week 3 of the scholastic season.

“We definitely had some things to build upon but we’ve got to get better and that’s the name of the game,” said Julius. “We’ve got to get better. We have to be better from top to bottom and until that happens, we’re going to keep putting ourselves in positions where we’re going to have to fight from behind. And that’s not where we want to be.”