Bristol Central came away from Friday nightâ€™s tough 29-19 loss to state power Windsor with a mixed bag of experiences to take into preparations for this weekâ€™s divisional opener against Wethersfield.
There were plenty of positives for the Rams to take from the battle with one of the stateâ€™s top-10 teams.
But there was also a lot that needs to be fixed going forward if Central wants to be able to compete with some of the other big name teams remaining on the schedule.
The Rams proved for a good part of the game that they could play defense against what is regarded as a pretty high-powered offense. But there were some breakdowns in crucial situations that led to the game tumbling out of control as the first half wound down and the third period began.
The Rams also showed that they have the athletes who can make the offense go against a pretty good defense. But it was clear by the end of the game that Central needs to be a more multidimensional offensive unit and better able to respond in pressure situations.
The Rams shut down the Windsor running game for most of the contest. The Warriors were unable to generate much of an attack as they stuck mainly to the ground game over the first 20 minutes and were forced into punts on each of their first three series.
But when Windsor took to the air after Central scored the gameâ€™s first touchdown, the momentum of the game turned.
Windsor quarterback Julian Jackson had a stellar game, completing 20 of 28 passes for 244 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He completed all eight of his passes in the second half and nine of 13 over the final four minutes of the opening half.
A couple of big pass completions on the last-minute drive that propelled the Warriors into the lead as the first half ended exposed some problems that the Rams will need to work on.
â€śWe had some breakdowns at the end of the half that kind of hurt,â€ť coach Jeff Papazian said after the game.
The Rams fell behind 29-13 in the third period and made a valiant comeback bid, but fell short as the passing game failed to click.
Dathan Hickey had another big day running the ball and Darrell Payton had a couple of big plays to keep drives alive as the Rams scored a fourth quarter touchdown and were driving toward another until an interception at the goal line ended the threat in the closing seconds of the contest.
Hickey rushed for 145 yards on 28 carries, his second straight 100-yard rushing game. Payton added 45 yards on nine carries.
But the Rams completed only two of 16 passes and were intercepted twice. The Windsor defenders were able to hang with Centralâ€™s receivers for most of the game, but overthrown and dropped passes far outnumbered the plays where the defense stepped up to break up a potential completion.
The Rams clearly will need to work on improving the aerial game as the season moves on. Forced to put the ball in the air when they were down three scores, the Rams were not able to respond.
Hickeyâ€™s scrambling allowed them to salvage some of the plays, but a pass game that coach Papazian called a work in progress in the preseason remains in that state two games into the season.
â€śWe hung with them,â€ť Papazian said, â€śbut at the end of the day the goal was not to hang with them. We are not where we wanted to be at this point.â€ť
The Rams have a week to prepare for Friday nightâ€™s home battle with Wethersfield.
The Eagles have been among the top teams in the division in recent years and despite opening with two losses, will gave the Rams plenty to handle when they come to town.
Central can take some good positives from its battle with Windsor into this weekâ€™s practice, but the Rams also know after Fridayâ€™s performance that they have plenty to work on to get ready for divisional play.