By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – For somebody who didn’t attend the Bristol Eastern football game on Friday, Sept. 18, the final outcome was very misleading.
On the surface, Farmington’s 38-20 defeat of the Lancers in a CCC Interdivisional contest from Bristol Eastern high school looks like a blowout by the visitors.
That certainly wasn’t the case as the Lancers, who once led 12-3 in the contest, lost the advantage but closed the sizable deficit to 24-20 with 8:39 left to go in the contest.
But two damning touchdowns by the Indians sealed the Lancers’ fate as Farmington won for the first time this season (1-1).
Turnovers led to the Lancers (0-2) demise and each and every time Eastern scooped up some desperately needed momentum, mistakes and miscues led to doom and demise.
“We’re not the kind of team that can overcome our own miscues,” said Eastern coach Paul Philippon. “So we’re struggling to get better and I think we’ve improved. The kids worked hard all week. I was thrilled with their effort. Again, it’s a broken record but what do you do? You just work as a staff, the kids are working, and we’re just going to try to find a way to keep getting better.”
“But we have to make sure there’s one opponent when we show up. We can’t be beating ourselves too.”
Farmington mixed in play action to gain several yards of offense and when Eastern was about to put the clamps on the Indians’ defense, the visitors found a way to score or collect a huge first down to keep the ultimate advantage.
On the ground front, Brian Buono made 13 big carries for 102 yards and nabbed two touchdowns while QB Zac Conrad was efficient, going 11-for-22 for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Kicker Sean Dunleavy had three catches for 52 yards and a score while kicking a 32 yard field goal and simply booted the ball all over the field.
But Eastern didn’t stand still on offense either and ran the ball well throughout the game.
Darieyn Tate made 13 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown, Edgar Hernandez added 63 yards on just seven carries, tough Zach Thompson had seven carries for 33 yards, and QB Alex Hunter made five rushes for 49 yards.
Big contributions also came from Josh Sampson (11 carries, 45 yards, two touchdowns) and Josh DiMattia (4-21) simply put his head down for 17 big second half yards that helped open things up on the ground a bit.
In all, Eastern rushed for 276 total yards as everyone had a hand in the offense.
“Again, there was some improvement,” said Philippon. “And I’m sure we’ll see good things on film that we’re improved from last week and we’re going to see some things that weren’t quite as improved as they should be. You know, they’re kids so all we want them to do is to show up and work hard and they are doing that. We just have to keep going.”
“I do feel like we’re moving it in the right direction.”
Eastern’s defense wasn’t perfect but over the first three periods, the defense certain more than held its own.
Hernandez made an interception, DiMattia and Joey Colangelo made tackles for losses as did Ben Ferraro.
And when Eastern made its run to cut it to a four point game, and this is a credit to Farmington, the visiting squad answered right back to steal all the momentum.
Off the kickoff from Hunter, Farmington’s Alexis Walker made 47 yard kickoff return – from the Indians’ own 16 yard line – and following a few quick rushes, Mike Popolizio made a two yard TD run and on the extra point, the Eastern deficit grew back to 31-20 with 6:22 left to go in the game.
The Lancers could never get back in the fray as an Eastern fumble gave the ball back to the Indians and when Buono made a 23 yard dash into the goal with 1:17 remaining in the game, it was a 38-20 contest and Farmington zipped up a big victory.
But Eastern gave it one heck of an effort and came out of the gate with two first-half scores to seize ultimate control of the showdown.
Eastern opened the game with the ball and Tate made a two yard run run into the end zone as Eastern led 6-0 with 7:46 gone in the first period.
The Lancers’ defense held off Farmington on the ensuing drive, not allowing a touchdown. But Dunleavy drained a 32 yard field goal to chop the deficit to 6-3 with 3:34 left to go in the frame.
In the second quarter, Eastern used a slick half-back option as Hernandez threw a 28 yard strike to Tate to get into the red zone. Sampson finished it off with a one yard scamper up the gut to make it a 12-3 contest with 10:52 left in the first half in Eastern’s favor.
But it was all Farmington to end the period as the squad eventually scored 21 straight points to seize control of the game.
On an interception by Prince Philip, Dunleavy took in a 32 yard pass from Conrad to chop the deficit to 12-10 with 4:31 remaining in the half.
The Lancers couldn’t generate any additional points. But Farmington did – getting a 19 yard run by Buono into the end zone – and on a Dunleavy extra point, the visitors led 17-12 with 1:21 to go in the half.
Then Farmington, who won the coin toss and deferred to Eastern to open the game, started the third period with the ball. Kevin Dunst made a seven yard dash up and in the goal for a touchdown and with 9:35 remaining in the third, the Indians edge reached 24-12.
But Eastern generated a little luck of its own, as Hernandez picked off a pass by Conrad, and the Lancers quickly marched the ball all the way to Farmington’s two-yard line.
But a fumble gave the ball right back to the Indians with 2:58 left in the third and a scoring opportunity came and went.
However, the Eastern defense held again, forced a punt and then – to open the fourth and final frame – saw Sampson score his second touchdown of the game and with 8:39 left to go, it was anybody’s game.
However, the Lancers ran out of luck, another miscue foiled the home squad and in the end, Farmington scored two more times to ramp up a 38-20 win.
But despite the final outcome, Eastern showed vast improvements from opening week and are looking forward to the challenge against Wethersfield.
“They definitely played the whole game,” said Philippon of his squad. “I think they believe in what we’re doing. It’s just the kids work really hard and you’re trying to stress the importance of putting the group ahead of your own selfish needs and they’re starting to do that. You just kind of want them to come out on the right side of the scoreboard so they realize it’s the right way to do things.”
“But again, it is what it is and we’re just going to get back to work.”
PHOTOS by TAMMI NAUDUS