There were few lessons to be learned by the Bristol Central Rams in Thursday nightâ€™s blowout win over East Catholic. The game was a mismatch from the start, with an East Catholic team that has struggled all season long having no answer for Centralâ€™s Dathan Hickey, who has grown stronger and more dominant on the field with each game.
Offensively there was little variety in the Central attack. They just gave the ball to Hickey and he did the rest. And when Hickey left the game, Frankie Jenkins and Bernard Pollard followed in his footsteps, running straight ahead through an undermanned East Catholic defense.
Defensively, the Rams did what they needed to do to stop an anemic East Catholic attack. The Eaglesâ€™ tight double wing offense stymied the defense for a series, but the Rams quickly figured it out and shut down the attack, although they were burned once again on a long pass.
The Rams were plagued by big plays in the early part of the season, but had not been victimized in the last few games until East Catholic quarterback Harrison Eklund found a wide open Payton Stinson whose juggling catch and run led to an 82 yard touchdown in the third quarter.
If they take any lessons from Thursdayâ€™s win, it is that they will need to fix the pass defense before they face off on Thanksgiving against Bristol Easternâ€™s Justin Marshall, who has the ability to burn the defense with the big play pass. The Rams cannot afford to allow the Lancersâ€™ receivers to get as open as Stinson was on the touchdown pass.
While the game was still in contention, the defense did a great job of containing the East Catholic attack. The Rams forced three turnovers including a fumble on a kickoff and Hickeyâ€™s big interception and return for a score that pretty much sealed the win before the first quarter was over.
Central also had another big game from the special teams. For the third game in a row special teams play led to a touchdown and a momentum swing.
Thursdayâ€™s came after the Eagles had marched to a touchdown on their first drive to take a quick early lead. Hickeyâ€™s 78 yard kickoff return quickly erased that lead and turned the momentum to the Central side.
â€śSpecial teams had another big play,â€ť Central coach Jeff Papazian said after the game. â€śThey had a little momentum going there but Dathanâ€™s return took a lot of the wind out of their sails. Thatâ€™s three weeks in a row weâ€™ve had a big momentum changer from the special teams.â€ť
Hickey scored six touchdowns in Thursdayâ€™s game, five of them in the first quarter. He now has 26 touchdowns on the season, good for fourth place all time at Bristol Central. Hickey rushed for 102 yards, scoring on four of the five plays in which he carried the ball, bringing his season total to 1,069 yards.
The Eagles were able to limit Hickeyâ€™s rushing totals by choosing not to punt and handing the ball over to him in short field situations for most of the night. The Rams started only one drive on their own side of the midfield line and that led to a 52-yard drive engineered by Frankie Jenkins and backup quarterback Nick Ruffino late in the first half.
The 61 points scored by Central were the third highest in school history. The school record is 67 scored against St, Paul in 1984. Central scored 66 against Crosby in 1970.
East Catholicâ€™s David Lundy was the gameâ€™s leading rusher. Lundy scored on a 30 yard run early in the game and had a 25 yard run in the second half. He finished the night with 105 yards on nine carries. The Eagles actually outgained the Rams overall in the game with 257 total yards to 221 for Central, but a good chunk of those yards came on the 82-yard pass completion and much of the rest came on the 77-yard drive that East Catholic put together to end the game after falling behind 61-12.
Among the positive takeaways for Central in the game was the performance of the younger players. Ruffino directed the offense under center for most of the final three quarters and rushed for 26 yards and two touchdowns. Jenkins had a strong game at running back with 47 yards and a touchdown and sophomore Bernard Pollard had a big night with a long return of a fumble recovery and a big 46 yard run to set up a score.
On the defensive side, Jalen Boxley, Josh Carrasquillo and Orlando Baldwin had big games on the interior line and sophomore Galen Hickey had a number of tackles in the secondary.
â€śWe had some young kids in there tonight,â€ť Papazian said, â€śand they went out there and did what they needed to do. We played a pretty clean game and took care of business. Now itâ€™s on to Thanksgivingâ€ť
Central closes out the season as the visitor against Bristol Eastern at Muzzy Field on Thanksgiving morning. The Rams remain in the hunt for the CCC Division II-West title but will need to win and get some help on Thanksgiving to repeat as divisional champions. Central trails unbeaten Maloney by a game in the divisional standings and needs a repeat of last season with a another upset victory by Platt over the Spartans to claim a share of the title.