By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When the Bristol Central football squad showed balance between its offensive and defensive lines, South Windsor was in for a long night on Saturday, Sept. 19.
The Rams slammed the door shut on the game early and that effort led to Central’s impressive 33-8 victory in a CCC Division II Interdivisional contest from Muzzy Field in Bristol.
Central (1-1) earned its first victory of the season while South Windsor fell to 0-2 on the campaign.
Defense was Central’s calling card in the game and the squad rode that theme into the ground.
South Windsor was limited to only 78 totals yards of offense in the first half and had zero points to show for their efforts.
“Any time you can hold any team to eight points, you’ve done a pretty good job,” said Central coach Jeff Papazian. “It always starts up front for us so it’s our defensive line and our linebackers. We really stress all week that the defensive line does their job, keeping [the opponents] offensive line off our linebackers, let our linebackers run around and make plays. For the most part, we were able to do that tonight.”
On the other side of the ball, Central’s offense was flowing and behind some solid blocking by the offensive line, the Rams scooped up 177 yards in total offense and generated three first half touchdowns from that outstanding play.
That offensive line deserves the credit and once Noah Cruz and Luis Medina broke through those holes and seams, the duo made some mad dashes all over the field to generate first down plays and scoring drives.
“It’s no secret. The game of football is played up front,” said Papazian. “If you win the game up front, you have a pretty good chance to win the game. So those guys [on the offensive line] played well all night. We want them to be physical, we want them to be disciplined and play smart as well. South Windsor likes to move their defensive line around a little bit. They’ll twist on you, they’ll do some different things. Our guys did a pretty good job up front.”
Overall, Central generated nearly 400 yards of total offense.
Cruz was a beast per his usual, racking up 248 total yards of offense individually.
He zipped up 126 yards on 10 bone crushing runs, scoring three times, while he connected on seven passes for 122 yards.
Medina also chewed up yards on the ground, making 12 carries for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Isaiah Miller (4 carries, 21 yards) and J.J. Quiles (3-13) also made gains on the ground while Miller made two catches for 55 yards.
Medina had a grab for 32 yards; Ty Rodriguez had two receptions for 24 yards; while Connor Staubley and Brad Burney each made a catch for the Rams.
Medina started it all off on Central’s second rush of the game as he scampered in 51 yards for a quick score, posting the Rams to a 7-0 edge just 52 seconds into things.
South Windsor came up dry on its first opportunity of the game but off several offsetting penalties, Quiles received the ball, ran about 10 yards before fumbling the ball, turning the ball over to the Bobcats.
But several tackles for losses by Central’s Krzysztof Nizielski, Cruz and Michael Guzman saw South Windsor stopped in its tracks at the Central 25 yard line – giving the ball back to the Rams.
And that defense held until the end of the period as Central maintained its 7-0 edge after one period of play.
South Windsor had the ball to begin play in the second quarter but turned it over on downs exactly one minute into things.
Penalties ate into Central’s next drive – a theme for the evening – and within that series, six of nine plays were flagged down by infractions that resulted in negative yardage.
But that didn’t hinder the Rams as slick receptions by Medina and Rodriguez from Cruz kept the chains moving and quickly, Central was knocking at South Windsor’s eight yard line.
Cruz then powered in the ball off a tough drive to the right side of the goal for a score and Central’s cushion was increased to 14-0 with 5:38 left to go before the half.
The Bobcats were again stopped by the Central defense and the Rams looked to score one more time with 2:31 left in the second period.
Cruz connected with Miller on a huge 41 yard reception. To punctuate the drive, the QB left his mark again.
This time, he powered passed several South Windsor defenders for a 10 yard walk in the end zone and off the Steve Adams extra point (3-of-5), Central’s lead reached 21-0.
On the ensuing Adams kickoff, Shane Oxton made a strip of the ball, gaining possession of it and ran it down to the South Windsor 21 yard line with nine seconds left – giving Central two more cracks at another six points.
But a late catch by Burney at the three yard line, coupled with a roughing the passer penalty, put the ball all the way down on the Bobcats one.
However, Central was tagged with an illegal swift, Adams just missed a 23 yard field goal. When halftime finally commenced, the Rams were still in charge and leading by a 21-0 tally.
The teams were penalized a total of 122 yards in the first half as South Windsor accounted for 62 of that number and each squad receiving nine flags apiece.
It didn’t get much better in the second half as overall, a combined 30 flags were thrown in the game on the two squads.
“Moving forward, we need to have a little bit better focus,” said Papazian of the penalties. “A lot of them were just totally uncalled for, just stupid – for lack of a better term – penalties that we certainly need to clean up as we go forward.”
“We won’t be as lucky getting out of some of these games going forward as we were able to do tonight with that many penalties.”
And off the first snap for South Windsor in the third quarter, Deion Francis made a tackle for a loss and Tyler Boi blocked a pass by QB Connor Kapisak and the tone of the game – defense – was set again.
But on the next play, Kapisak found Ben Custer for a 55 yard touchdown bomb, Julian Ibes ran one in for two. With 9:54 left to go in the third, the Bobcats were in it, but still trailing by a 21-8 push.
Flags burned Central on two straight runs – one by Cruz into the end zone – on the following series but the Rams worked their way down to the goal on rushes by Medina and Dathan Hickey.
However, Central turned the ball over with 3:05 left to go in the third but South Windsor was stopped again and at the end of three completed quarters, the Rams continued to lead by that 21-8 tally.
Cruz then opened the fourth by just running over South Windsor’s Justin Dusik on his way to a 23 yard power dash into the end zone and with 10:07 left to play, Central’s lead grew to 27-8.
South Windsor then turned the ball over on downs again, this time on its own 44 yard line, giving Central a short field to work with.
And Medina, after more penalties, eventually scored on an eight yard jaunt into the goal and with 1:31 left to play, Central’s 33-8 lead was the final score of the game.
It was victory number one in what Papazian hopes will be many more for the Rams this coming season.
“A win’s a win [and] we’ll take it any time,” said Papazian. “But we’ve got a whole bunch of work to do going forward.”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE