BRISTOL - The schedule hasnâ€™t gotten any easier for the Bristol Central football team.
Still trying to recover from a very difficult loss at Maloney last week, the Rams travel to Middletown tonight to take on the undefeated and 12th-ranked Blue Dragons with their slim playoff hopes on the line.
Central is 2-2 after dropping a 35-7 decision to Maloney where the Spartans outplayed them in nearly every phase of the game.
â€śMaloney played a lot better than us,â€ť Rams head coach Jeff Papazian said. â€śWe didnâ€™t come ready to play last week and we paid for it.â€ť
â€śBut we have to put that behind us now. Hopefully we learned from our mistakes of last week -both the physical and mental kind. We are a much better team than we showed last week, but this week is another huge challenge for us.â€ť
The Blue Dragons are 4-0 on the season and posted shutouts in two of their wins, including a 41-0 thumping of Farmington last week.
Middletown as also outscored its opponents 143-28 in those four games and the Rams will have their hands full on both sides of the ball as they try to stop a potent offense while figuring out ways to put some points on the board against an aggressive defense.
â€śWe have looked at them on film and the first thing that stands out is their speed and athleticism,â€ť Papazian said. â€śThey have 11 guys flying around on every play. They are fast and physical and we need to be ready for whatever they throw at us.â€ť
One of the players that Papazian believes will have a significant impact on the game is kicker Mike Aresco.
â€śThey have an all state kicker who is a huge weapon for them,â€ť Papazian said. â€śYou know he is going to put it in the end zone on every kick and you can plan on starting at the 20 on every single drive. We know we are going to have to go 80 yards every time we touch the ball. Having a kid like that is a big advantage. You donâ€™t see many kickers like that in high school.â€ť
Quarterback Stone Belzo is also a game changer for the Dragons.
â€śBelzo plays quarterback and defensive back and is one of the better players in the area,â€ť Papazian said. â€śHe makes things go on offense and heâ€™s always around the ball on defense.â€ť
The Rams fell behind early last week and struggled as they tried to rally from a big deficit. Quarterback Dathan Hickey was sacked eight times and the Rams will be looking for a more consistent performance from the front line tonight. Central also struggled offensively as they became a one dimensional team and a key tonight will be to get Darrell Payton back into the mix as a running back.
This will be the tenth meeting all-time between the two schools with Middletown leading the series 6-3, including winning the last five meetings, the last of which was a 47-8 victory in 2014.
â€śThey are a very talented team,â€ť Papazian said. â€śThey are big and strong up front and will be a very big challenge for us. But I donâ€™t think we are as bad as we showed last week.â€ť
Weâ€™ve worked hard in practice and weâ€™re going to try to get back to some of those things that made us successful over the first three weeks.â€ť