Dathan Hickey rushed for 206 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Bristol Central Rams to a 43-26 win over Platt Friday night at Falcon Field.
The Rams took control of the offensive line of scrimmage early top open big holes for Hickey and Darrell Payton who had 149 rushing yards before being ejected after a third quarter brawl that resulted in four players being removed from the game.
The Rams also had a big 84 yard punt return by Hickey that helped turn the momentum in the second quarter and a 99 yard return of an interception by Justus Fitzpatrick that ended a late Platt bid to rally and sealed the victory for the Rams.
Central moved to 5-3 overall with its third straight victory and improved its CCC Division II-West mark to 3-1 with only the Thanksgiving game remaining. The Rams remain a game behind unbeaten Maloney who clinched at least a tie for division the title with a win over Newington Friday night.
The Rams and Panthers battled each other in a back and forth battle through the early going until Central seized control of the with Hickey’s big punt return that sent them into the locker room with an 18-7 halftime edge.
“For the second week in a row the special teams came up big,” said coach Jeff Papazian. “Last week we had the blocked punt. This week the punt return was a huge momentum shifter for us.”
Central scored first in the contest after the teams exchanged punts on their first possession. Starting at their own 13 after a huge wind aided 53 yard punt by Platt’s Lorenzo Sanson, the Rams put together a seven-play ground march that featured back-to-back runs of 23 and 31 yards by Payton and was capped by Hickey’s 17 yard scoring run. That drive helped the Rams to establish control of the line of scrimmage and they continued to dominate the Platt front for most of the rest of the game.
Platt countered midway through the second period when quarterback Aurelio Marinelli began to find some open targets and E.J. Dudley found a little running room to march the Panthers 65 yards in 11 plays. Marinelli passed 13 yards to Elijah Felton for the score and Joey Salara kicked the extra point to give Platt its only lead of the night.
Hickey countered quickly for the Rams with a 33 yard run for a score with 3:46 remaining and after he Central defense came up big to stop the Panthers at midfield, Hickey responded by returning the punt 84 yards for the score.
The Rams recovered a fumble to open the second half and quickly build the lead to 25-7 when Payton took it in on a 32 yard run and Damar Hamilton kicked the extra point.
Marinelli’s 14 yard pass to Tremayne Carter brought the Panthers back to 25-14, but another long drive by the Rams ended in an eight yard run by Hickey and a 31-14 lead after three quarters.
as the third quarter was winding down tempers began to flare and a brief brawl erupted as the final period began resulting in four player ejections including Central’s Alex Lape and Ryan Rodriguez who were dismissed for leaving the bench and running onto the field. One play later Central’s Calvin Neal was ejected for taunting.
Once the dust had settled, Hickey again led his team to a score, going 44 yards after the taunting penalty to give Central a 37-14 lead.
Platt suddenly found some life after the touchdown, marching quickly to a score on a 13 yard pass from Marinelli to Carter, then stopping the Rams on a three and out and quickly marching back to the Central 10 where they threatened until Fitzpatrick stepped in front of a Marinelli pass at the one yard line, found an open seam down the sideline and outraced the defense for a school record 99 yard interception return.
The Panthers scored again in the closing minute as reserve running back Zavian Arroyo carried on all four plays of a 55-yard drive.
Papazian was generally pleased with the win although disappointed in the ejections. “I thought we played really hard for four quarters,” he said. “We mixed it up pretty well on offense. Darrell and Dathan both ran the ball really well from the start. I thought the offensive line did a really good job up front. And defensively we gave up a few yards, but once again we didn’t give up the big one.”
Hickey led the offense with 206 yards on 21 carries. He attempted only one pass and did not complete it. Payton carried 11 times for 149 yards and a touchdown.
The defense forced two turnovers. Fitzpatrick had the interceptions and Frankie Jenkins recovered a fumble for the second week in a row. The defense also had three quarterback sacks and five tackles for loss.
The Rams will return home for their final home game of the season on Thursday night against East Catholic.