There’s a new quarterback and a new running back, but the guys up front who will be making the holes for them are a veteran crew that should give the Bristol Central Rams the opportunity to put up some pretty good offensive numbers this season.
“I think our offensive line is going to be a very big strength for us this season,” coach Jeff Papazian said after watching his team go through their final scrimmage last weekend. “We have three guys who have started there since their sophomore year, and they’ve been pretty solid and let us put up some pretty good numbers the last two years, so we expect that to continue.”
The line is anchored by Mike Guzman, Alex Lape and center Gabe Updegraff who will be taking the field as starters for the third straight year when the Rams take the field at Hartford Public on Saturday. They are three of the five captains, along with Isaiah Miller and Dathan Hickey, who will lead the Rams this season.
“Sometimes when you throw young kids into the fire like we did with these three guys when they were sophomores you take a really big risk,” Papazian said. “But they’ve played really well from day one and given us a solid performance in every game. We’re looking forward to big things from them as players and as leaders this season.”
Joining the two seniors on the line are two additional players with plenty of varsity experience. Adam Ewart is a junior who stepped into a starting role midway through last season and Devon Dawson is a transfer who has two years of varsity experience.
“If anybody has worked harder than Adam Ewart did during this offseason I don’t know who it is,” Papazian said. “He busted his tail all summer to get ready. He dropped a few pounds and is in really good shape as we start the season. We’re looking for big things from him.”
“Bringing in Devon has really solidified things for us,” Papazian added. “He is an experienced varsity player who will really help us.”
A year ago, the Rams were able to put up more than 2,600 yards in total offense behind their offensive line and Central is looking for even bigger numbers this year. The Rams graduated Luis Medina, who rushed for 1,031 yards last season, but have a similar small but speedy back in junior Darrell Payton who will take over the running back role.
Hickey is Central’s new quarterback. He rushed for just over 200 yards as an occasional backup running back in 2016 but gives the Rams a new dimension with his speed and athletic ability at the QB position that should allow him to take advantage of the protection he will get from his veteran line.
“With the guys we have up front, we expect there to be a lot room for them to run back there this season,” Papazian said.
In addition to the five veterans who will be starting on the line, Papazian is also encouraged by the performances of the players behind those starters.
“We have a group of starters that has played very well for a long time,” he said, “but even the guys behind them are older and stronger. Jalen Boxley and John Duncan are seniors, Austin Collins and Erik Youman are juniors, and Tyler Dyer is a sophomore who give us some very solid backups. I am very happy with what we’ve seen from the offensive linemen and I am confident this will be an area of strength for us this season.”