By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The Bristol Eastern football program has gotten to the pay window a couple of times this season.
But with a victory over Bristol Central on Thanksgiving in the annual Battle for the Bell, the Lancers will be able to enjoy its biggest payday of the year.
This squad has ability on both sides of the ball and if Eastern can put together a full 48 minutes of outstanding play, victory number three is within reach.
Here’s a look at the Bristol Eastern football program, ready for a Thanksgiving Day celebration over Bristol Central:
Bristol Eastern – Home Team
Head Coach: Anthony Julius (Fourth Thanksgiving as Eastern head coach; 0-3 against Bristol Central)
Date and Time of the annual event: Thanksgiving morning (Nov. 23), 10:30 am, from Muzzy Field in Bristol
Eastern 2019 Record: 2-7 overall
Last Year: Eastern lost to Central 24-19 in a close event.
The Series: The Lancers trail in the all-time series 35-23-2.
Series Fact: In three out of the last four contests between the squads, the games ended as one possession affairs. The Lancers have dropped the last four showdowns against the Rams by a combined 37 points.
Players to Watch: Bryce Curtin (sr., QB); Treyvon Daniel (jr., RB/WR/DB); Alex Marshall (so., RB/LB); Edgar Santiago, jr.. (sr., FB/TE/LB); Logan Meyer (jr., FB/TE/LB); Elijah Gagliardo (sr., WR/DB – injured); Logan Schenck (jr., WR/DL); Cameron Cruz (jr., WR/DB); Ryan Fradette (jr., WR/LB – injured); Jake Dauphinee (sr., LT/DL); Dylan Brown (jr., G); Tre’von Singleton (jr., WR/DB); Justin Correa (jr., DB/RB); Nathan Shorette (so., WR/DB); Bobby Mosback (jr., LB); Tyler Gleifert (sr., WR/DB); Kellen Joseph (jr., defense), Jack Bachand (jr., K).
Why Eastern could win…This team has some offensive firepower and if the Lancers can find a crease or two in the Rams’ tough defense, those weapons from King Street can move the ball.
Senior quarterback Bryce Curtin (71-for-174, 705 yards, four TDs) averages about 10 yards a pass but has shown a willingness, and ability, to find targets all over the field.
And if Curtin is allowed to hang in the pocket and extra count or two, he’ll make some big connections.
Curtin’s favorite target has been wide receiver Treyvon Daniel (44 catches, 496 yards, two touchdowns) and the speedster has ability to heat up in a hurry.
Logan Schenck (14-139-2) has also been a solid contributor in the offense schemes as well.
Eastern’s running game has been a strength — at times — and when the likes of super sophomore Alex Marshall (180 carries, 820 yards, seven TDs) has been given the room to run, the Lancers move the ball with zest.
Curtin and Daniel have also been known to run the ball a time or two but if Eastern wants to stay with Central on Thanksgiving, it’s going to be off the some tough gains of Marshall on the ground.
Edgar Santiago helps to open up holes on that line along with several other two way players.
Defensively, Santiago leads the squads in tackles while Marshall also finds the man with the ball.
Tyler Gleifert, Cameron Cruz, Robert Mosback, Logan Meyer, Schenck, and Jake Dauphinee have all dropped opposing ball carriers this year as Eastern has 13 sacks and 26 tackles-for-losses on the year.
And don’t underestimate the kicking exploits of junior Jack Bachand who has only missed two extra-points all season long.
Eastern won’t make excuses for the season but the program has obviously been hurt without the service of senior receiver Elijah Gagliardo (two catches, 22 yards), lost during week one via a knee injury.
Ryan Fradette (two catches, 30 yards) was also injured early in the campaign and those athletes are missed on both sides of the ball.
At one point, the program was down to about 30 healthy bodies and that meant several inexperienced players were earning varsity reps — baptism by fire — which led to several growing pains.
The X-Factor…Kellen Joseph.
He has found rushers and quarterbacks before they’ve gotten out of the backfield on several occasions and leads the Lancers in tackles for losses.
Joseph is a tough package at 6 feet and 215 pounds and has been credited for 2.5 sacks and seven tackles-for-losses.
This guy is a presence on the line and if you ignore the linebacker, he’s going to make a big play and tackle Central behind the line of scrimmage.
Which leads into…
Bristol Eastern can NOT…miss on those first tackles.
There’s nothing more frustrating than to watch Joseph, Jake Dauphinee, and Santiago make those tackles-for-losses, and then the defense gives up a big play on the next down.
Since the Lancers have consistently been in the right place, at the right time, those breakdowns on defense have allowed those top rushers of the Central Connecticut Conference some huge gains this year.
If the likes of Victor Rosa, Shawn Rodriguez, and Galen Hickey are allowed to run wild for Central, it’s going to be a long game.
Eastern has shown the ability to stop opposing offenses but allowing Central 31 points — what Lancers’ opponents are averaging per game against Eastern – won’t lead to a Thanksgiving Day victory.
Julius’s Take on Thanksgiving: “We have to find a way to get this thing executed and firing on all cylinders like we know we’re capable of doing. Unfortunately, we just haven’t been able to play a perfect game on both sides of the ball yet — in the last few weeks anyways. It’s been our focus over [the final] week-and-a-half.”
And the winner is…Man, Bristol Eastern truly can pull an upset off here.
This is going to be a good game between the squads and a must see event before sitting down for Thanksgiving turkey.
Last season, Central spoiled the “McTurkey” meal for Julius and hopefully, with a victory over the Rams, the coach can get to the pay window, collect his money so he could “supersize” that McTurkey order.