By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The 61st edition of the Battle for the Bell came and went this past week as both Bristol Central and Bristol Eastern battled it out from Muzzy Field.
The Rams were looking for its fifth straight Thanksgiving Day win and its 36th overall while a victory for the Lancers would begin a new streak for the boys from King Street.
This rivalry always adds an interesting footnote to the growing history book between the schools and the challenge in 2019 was no exception.
And, as always, history always seems to repeat itself no matter which school brings home that old brass bell.
Here’s a quick look at the previous 60 games with a couple highlights on each:
Battle of the Bell – A Quick History: Central leads the series, 35-23-2
1959 — Bristol Central, 14-0 – Rams’ co-captain Jim Nocera scored both touchdowns to lead Central to victory.
1960 — Bristol Central, 20-0 – Central out-gained Eastern on the ground, 182 to 55, as the Rams shutout the Lancers.
1961 — Bristol Central, 20-0 – The Rams zipped up 251 rushing yards as Central, once again, blanked Eastern by the same score from the previous season.
1962 — Tie, 6-6 – Played a couple days after Thanksgiving, Eastern led 6-0 (Dave Emonds nabbed a 17 yard touchdown pass from Joe Galiette to give the Lancers an early lead) going into the final minute of play but Central’s Bill Kelley made a three yard rush into the end zone to knot it up at 6-6, forcing Thanksgiving’s first ever draw and the Lancers first non-loss.
1963 — Bristol Eastern, 16-0 – At last, the Lancers beats the Rams. Gordon Sargent took the opening kickoff for 79 yards and a touchdown to quickly put the game out of reach. Co-captain Mike Morin, a future Eastern assistant football coach, aided the team to victory.
1964 — Bristol Eastern, 21-0 – Playing in only three games that year, Jon Petke made two touchdown jaunts of 75 and 80 yards as the Lancers defeated Central on Thanksgiving for the second straight year. It was Eastern’s only victory of the campaign.
1965 — Bristol Eastern, 14-0 – The season series between the schools was knotted up at 3-3-1 as a result of the shutout victory. Terry Della Vecchia (10-yard run) and Keith Ronalter (11-yard run) each rushed in touchdowns for Eastern. It was the Lancers’ first ever winning season (5-4).
1966 — Bristol Eastern, 20-13 – In a rare feat in Thanksgiving Day play, Eastern took the series lead away from Central. It was all “done” by Mark Dunn (three touchdowns rushes of 76, 7 and 11 yards) as the Lancers won it by a touchdown.
1967 — Bristol Central, 8-0 – Central turned away Eastern behind Walt Kozikowski’s six-yard chuck to Hal Herold with 59 seconds remaining in the contest as the Rams won it by eight points. Central defeated Eastern for the first time since 1961.
1968 — Bristol Eastern, 20-13 – Eastern won the first of three consecutive Thanksgiving Day games as Kevin Byrnes scored the go-ahead points on a 19 yard touchdown run to propel the Lancers to victory.
1969 — Bristol Eastern, 27-6 – The Lancers totaled 350 total yards of offense, 227 of it from the air, as Eastern QB Dennis Schermerhorn threw a Thanksgiving day record three touchdowns (two to Al Johnston of 16 and five yards) in the 21-point romp.
1970 — Bristol Eastern, 32-22 – Against Central, Schermerhorn made 16 completions over 28 attempts for 308 total yards and another three touchdowns for the Thanksgiving Day win. Overall, Eastern zipped up nearly 480 yards of total offense.
1971 — Bristol Central, 34-0 – Central took back the series as just under 10 turnovers by the Lancers doomed the squad. The Rams’ Paul Castolene zipped in four rushing touchdowns (45, 7, 1, 4 yards) in the winning effort during another delayed battle between the schools.
1972 — Bristol Central, 16-12 – The Rams scooped up over 400 yards in total offense and the Lancers allowed Central two quick scores to ice the contest. Central’s 7-2 overall record that year was then the best single season record in program history.
1973 — Bristol Eastern, 7-0 – Frank Sanders zipped in the only score of the day, an 84-yard touchdown kickoff return, as Eastern came away with the shutout victory.
1974 — Bristol Eastern, 7-6 – The Rams tallied over 250 yards in offense while Eastern barely had 100; but in the end, Dan Jenkins caught a punt, handed it off to Francis Richardson and his 55 yard touchdown dash was the ultimate difference in the game, leading the Lancers to the Colonial Conference championship in an amazing one-point triumph.
1975 — Bristol Central, 19-0 – Central, putting together a remarkable stretch of Thanksgiving success, won the first of 10 straight games against Eastern. In this one, Brian Godbout rushed in two touchdowns (Nine and 2-yard touchdown rushes) to propel Central to its first Colonial Conference Championship ever and a shutout victory over Eastern.
1976 — Bristol Central, 20-6 – Central’s Jeff Thomas ran one in for a two-yard touchdown while also punching in a 30-yard TD interception for a score as the Rams won once again. Garry Pearson scored on a two-yard rush for Eastern (he’d later transfer to Bristol Central) in the fourth quarter of play.
1977 — Bristol Central, 24-21 – Gaining its third consecutive Colonial Conference championship, the Rams took the Turkey Day game as QB Joe DeFillippi scored the winning touchdown for Central. His one yard score opened the final period of play to unsure Central’s victory.
1978 — Bristol Central, 22-6 – Pearson scored all three of Central’s touchdowns (17, 12 and five yard ) in the Thanksgiving Day game, taking advantage of eight Eastern turnovers. After attending both public high schools in Bristol, Pearson tallied over 2,000 rushing yards on the season and more than 5,000 for his career.
1979 — Bristol Central, 8-6 – Billy Parks’ one yard TD jaunt along with a two-point conversion on a Karl Hall offering to Dean Varano with 3:04 remaining in the contest propelled the Rams to another hard-fought victory. The Lancers gave up just 42 points all season long, the second-best defense in the state that year (in terms of points allowed per game).
1980 — Bristol Central, 12-0 – Once again, Parks was involved in the scoring and made a 10-yard TD rush while Vin Jennetta picked off a pass by Eastern’s fill-in QB Mike Tucker (9-of-20, 143 yards) for a 48-yard touchdown as Central won it again. The Lancers’ 8-2 record was the best in school history to that point but the program knocked out of playoff contention in the losing effort.
1981 — Bristol Central, 13-8 – Eastern, again, is knocked out of the playoff picture as Parks made touchdown rushes of five and 55 yards to propel Central to the victory. The Lancers would have played Newtown in the state tournament with a Thanksgiving Day win, losing instead by just five points.
1982 — Bristol Central, 18-13 – Eastern netted the first points in the game (Brian Rooney scored off a 57-yard run), scooped up more than 400 total yards of offense but lost by five in the end. Gregg Vontell made scoring runs of 87, 80 and 24 yards, gaining 235 yards on 20 carries. Central won its eighth consecutive T-Day game over the Lancers.
1983 — Bristol Central, 6-0 – Once again, the Rams defeat the Lancers by a touchdown. Central quarterback Mike Carlson scored 6:48 into the contest on a one-yard sprint into the goal. It was the final Colonial Conference showdown between the schools as both teams joined up with the Central Connecticut Conference the following year.
1984 — Bristol Central, 33-8 – Gerry Ouellette paced the Rams with 189 yards on 18 carries and Central soundly defeated Eastern once again. Overall, all the rushers for the Rams combined for 338 total yards.
1985 — Bristol Eastern, 14-8 – “Yes, We Can” was the phrase Eastern cried as Mike Minella hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Julio Maisonet, leading to a six-point victory. The Lancers’ 14-0 cushion in the second half held and it was Eastern’s first win over Central since 1974. The contest was postponed and eventually played at night because of the weather.
1986 — Bristol Central, 31-0 – Central quarterback Steve Lowe collected 79 yards on 15 carries for two touchdowns in the winning effort by the Rams.
1987 — Bristol Central, 22-0 – On the cusp of a Class MM berth, Central blanked Eastern as Kiernan Thurston run 30 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns to propel the Rams to the Class MM championship game. Central lost that title game to Middletown, 27-0.
1988 — Bristol Eastern, 14-12 – The Class MM champs slipped past Central by two. On a Central fumble, Eastern’s Craig Ciquera netted a two-yard rushing touchdown to put the Lancers up for good (14-8) with 7:00 left in the first half. And then in the Class MM title showdown, Eastern defeated South Windsor 22-19 for the programs only state championship.
1989 — Bristol Central, 20-13 – In a game that truly should have been dubbed “Thanksgiving Bogus Bowl,” Central’s Ken Fort burst free for 168 yards on 20 carries as the Rams won the contest in controversial fashion, 20-13. In the school’s student handbooks, two different eligibility requirements forced critical Eastern players (three in all) to sit out the showdown while Fort from Central – who might have been ineligible per Eastern’s student handbook – was still allowed to play. During the following week, meetings were held but the game decision was not overturned. The situation prompted several students to walkout at Eastern high school in protest days after the game.
1990 — Bristol Central, 34-14 – Central’s defense limited to Eastern to only 24 yards on the ground during the 20-point victory. In fact, the Rams held the Lancers to only 148 total yards on the day.
1991 — Bristol Central, 20-14 – The Lancers, going a credible 4-6-1 on the campaign, dropped a hard fought six-point game as Central’s Dave Moore scooped up 82 yards off 17 carries but the Rams had to hold on for dear life to pick up the victory. Eastern QB Jude Hinrichs was sacked a half dozen times in the game but battled on to the end.
1992 — Bristol Central, 24-0 – Winless Eastern was no match for Central as Micah Zabel nabbed 246 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns. In all, the Rams totaled 375 yards of offense.
1993 — Bristol Central, 18-0 – The Rams, again, took the T-Day game as Gregg Lynt, Dana Thurston and John Gagliardi combined for over 200 yards on 49 carries to lead Central to victory.
1994 — Bristol Eastern, 22-6 – For the first time since 1988, Eastern defeated Central as Rich Musumano made 18 carries for 141 yards to lead the Lancers. Central’s John Gagliardi (26 carries, 202 yards) sparked the offense for the Rams.
1995 — Bristol Central, 12-0 – Central’s Doug Boelter netted both touchdowns in the game for the Rams (76 yards on 17 carries). Freshman Reinaldo Soto scooped in an interception for Eastern, a sign for things to come for the Eastern program.
1996 — Bristol Eastern, 29-14 – With Soto in the fold, he smashed Central for 184 yards on 32 carries while adding three touchdowns in the winning effort as Eastern earned a share of the CCC South Championship.
1997 — Bristol Eastern, 33-7 – It was more Soto, along with QB Pat Brookman, as the duo rushed for a combined 30 times for 215 yards in another Eastern romp.
1998 — Bristol Eastern, 35-7 – This time, Brookman made ‘only’ seven carries for 139 yards and a touchdown while Soto went for 20-137 in a third straight Lancers’ blowout on Thanksgiving. Eastern’s Ryan Forcier added nearly 100 yards on six tough carries.
1999 — Bristol Central, 28-6 – Central wins the next seven Thanksgiving Day games and in this one, speedster Timmy Washington rang up 41 carries for 165 yards and three TD’s to lead the winners. He nearly rushed for 2,000 yards on the season.
2000 — Bristol Central, 39-0 – Five touchdowns and 353 rushing yards by Washington against Eastern as Central wins it easily. Next…
2001 — Bristol Central, 36-12 – Washington notches four touchdowns – going for 242 yards on 22 rushes – as the Rams win once again. However, Central missed out on a playoff berth but came away with a share of the CCC South Championship.
2002 — Bristol Central, 38-0 – Eastern doesn’t generate a point over the next three Thanksgiving Day games – as D.J. Hernandez and Breyone Evans combine for 256 yards on 36 carries over another blowout victory.
2003 — Bristol Central, 20-0 – D.J. Hernandez was back at it as he rushed for 142 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns in another shutout victory by the Rams.
2004 — Bristol Central, 20-0 – Central QB Cory Brown (10 passes, 107 yards) found Sean Ware (4 catches, 78 yards) for several big connections while Steve Ziogas took in 126 yards on 18 carries for a third straight shutout over the Lancers.
2005 — Bristol Central, 20-7 – On a very cold evening, Aaron Hernandez played his finest Thanksgiving game as he made seven catches for 112 yards and a touchdown as Central won it again.
2006 — Tie, 14-14 – On a messy day with wind, rain and snow – and Central needing a victory to get into the playoffs – Eastern held Aaron Hernandez in check as the teams drew a 14-14 tie and left the Rams hanging at 8-1-1 on the year, out of the state tournament picture. The teams shared the bell and it was the first time since 1998 the Lancers enjoyed their Turkey Day effort.
2007 — Bristol Eastern, 42-14 – David Casanova racked up just under 200 total yards of offense as Eastern finished the regular season at 10-0 and easily picked off the Rams. Eastern earned a Class M semifinal berth, losing to Berlin 35-28. The squad was only the second public team in Bristol history to finish its regular season undefeated.
2008 — Bristol Eastern, 34-28 – With Central threatening, Tyrell Holmes makes a huge late game pickoff as the Lancers hung on to win the contest by six.
2009 — Bristol Eastern, 46-13 – Notching a series best 46 points against the Rams, Eastern easily downed Central as Mat Yopp zipped out 10-of-12 passes for 176 yards while Ray Ortiz had a career day (six catches, 127 yards) to lead the Lancers.
2010 — Bristol Eastern, 35-0 – Dylan Ouellette rushed for 208 yards – on 18 carries – and a touchdown as the Lancers posted a rare shutout against the Rams.
2011 — Bristol Eastern, 21-14 – The Lancers led 21-0 and had to hang on to dear life as Eastern took a seven-point decision for its fifth straight victory over the Rams.
2012 — Bristol Eastern 17-6 – Eastern won for the sixth consecutive time over Central and in this one, a 49-yard pass from quarterback Tommy Curtin to Sean Aiudi in the third period gave the Lancers some breathing room during the winning effort.
2013 – Bristol Eastern 21-18 – Gerry Ouellette snared 211 yards on 26 carries as Eastern was a winner over Central for the seventh time in a row, holding on to win it by three points. The 211 yards by Ouellette was the sixth best Thanksgiving Day performance in school history. Central back Tyler Burrow worked hard as he scooped in 125 yards on 21 carries.
2014 – Bristol Eastern, 20-18 – Eastern won by two points, capturing a school record eighth straight victory over Central in a very close battle.
2015 – Bristol Central, 12-4 – The Rams finally got in the win column – withstanding a series record two safeties by the Lancers – to nab an eight-point win. Noah Cruz ran for 122 yards on 19 carries to help secure Central’s first Thanksgiving victory since 2005.
2016 – Bristol Central 30-12 – It was two in a row for Central as Eastern was held to negative yardage totals in the 18-point defeat. Luis Medina rushed for 233 yards while QB Isaiah Miller added 102 for the Rams.
2017 – Bristol Central 33-27 – Dathan Hickey went wild for four touchdowns and 333 yards as Central won it by six. It was tied 21-21 before two huge 75 yard TD rushes by Hickey put the Rams up for good.
2018 – Bristol Central 24-19 – Justus Fitzpatrick scored the game-winning points, a one yard touchdown with 7:17 to play, as Central came from behind to beat Eastern by five. Fitzpatrick had a day with 171 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. He also went 5-of-6 in Central’s passing schemes for 65 yards. The Rams out-gained the Lancers, 318-231.