Bristol Centralâ€™s win over Capital Prep on Friday night was a balanced effort by the entire team.
Offensively, the Rams dominated the line of scrimmage and rolled up big yards on the ground. Defensively, the team gave up some yardage through the air, but forced three turnovers that turned out to be key in the victory.
â€śDefensively we made some huge stops when we needed them most,â€ť coach Jeff Papazian said, â€śand offensively, I think our line wore them down. They seemed pretty tired by the third quarter.â€ť
The Rams needed to make another late defensive stand to hang on for the win. They got a sack from Isak Gonzalez and a big tackle for loss by Frankie Jenkins and Gonzalez on Capital Prepâ€™s final drive to move them out of scoring range.
Capital Prep fumbled the ball away twice in the second half. Jenkins came up with the ball at the Central 42 early in the third quarter to set up a touchdown.
Midway through the final period, Jose Navedo pounced on a fumble as the Longhorns were driving and the Rams followed that with a long drive to cut away a big chunk of clock, before losing the ball on an interception off a tipped pass by John Edwards.
That set the stage for the last-minute defensive drama.
Offensively the Rams had a very big night, with two backs going over the 100-yard rushing mark and quarterback Dathan Hickey accounting for 147 yards in total offense.
Justus Fitzpatrick, usually the teamâ€™s primary receiver, took on an expanded role as a running back and responded by rushing for 128 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
Fitzpatrick also had a big interception in the end zone late in the second quarter to allow the Rams to go into the break trailing by just one point.
Darrell Payton rushed for 137 yards on 16 carries and was also a key player on defense with a number of big tackles.
â€śI thought Darrell played great all night,â€ť Papazian said. â€śHe ran his tail off, but he also made some big blocks and had great tackles on defense.â€ť
Hickey rushed for 85 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries.
He had a very strong fourth quarter after a slow start. The Yale-bound quarterback completed only four of 10 passes for 62 yards and was intercepted twice; but he had several big completions at the most opportune times.
Those included a 40-yard toss to Nigel West, who made a great leaping catch at the 2-yard line to set up a second quarter touchdown, and a key 13-yard completion to Ryan Rodriguez, whose juggling catch gave the Rams a big third down conversion to keep momentum on their side.
Papazian felt that his teamâ€™s strong showing out of the opening kickoff was key to the game. The Rams opened with a 65-yard drive that set the tone for the game and led to an early touchdown.
â€śI think we frustrated them just enough early for us to have a chance to still be in it late,â€ť he said. â€śI think our defensive line eventually wore them down and it showed in the fourth quarter.â€ť
Capital Prep dropped to 3-4 overall and 2-2 against CIAC member schools with the loss.
The Rams improved their overall mark to 4-3 and have won two in a row for the first time this season.
They will look to add to that streak as they return to CCC Division II West action at Platt on Friday. The Rams and Panthers are currently tied for second place in the division.