BRISTOL - On Thursday afternoon, the Bristol Central athletics program saw more individuals from its senior class announce their decisions to continue their playing careers at the collegiate level.
Isaiah Miller, Mike Guzman and Gabe Updegraff represented the Rams football program, coached by Jeff Papazian, and Alex Bernier represented the boys basketball program, coached by Tim Barrette.
“Our class has left a lasting effect on the athletics program here in all sports,” Miller said. “I feel like our class really resembles what it means to be an athlete both on and off the field. It definitely is the effect we wanted to have.”
For the three football players, each will be playing at different Division III schools in the fall - Miller at Wesleyan University, Guzman at Springfield College and Updegraff at Western New England University.
“They’ve earned the opportunities,” Papazian said. “Those were three of the hardest workers that I’ve coached. They are the class that really set the foundation here. They turned the corner and created a real positive culture that we’re going to continue to rely on.”
Miller missed this past season with an injury, but was a presence on the sidelines as a team leader. With the injury his college choices were more limited, but he plans on being a lawyer in the future and will be studying pre-law at the university.
“Isaiah is probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached,” Papazian said. “He’s hardnosed and kind of a throwback football player who really kind of grew into that throughout the years. He’s somebody I think is going to go on to do really good things after he leaves here and I’m not talking about just on the field.”
Updegraff, the center of the team, was a big reason behind the team’s success as a mainstay on the line his sophomore through senior seasons.
With Miller out injured and Dathan Hickey taking over at quarterback, Updegraff kept his group strong despite the 2-3 start to the season. The Rams didn’t lose another game all year.
He will be studying sports management as his major at the university.
“Gabe got thrown in the fire as an offensive lineman as a sophomore, which isn’t the easiest thing to do,” Papazian said. “But he had a really solid career and, like I said, you don’t really notice the center unless you’re really looking at him or know what you’re looking for out there.”
Guzman, the team’s leading tackler, is built for football. He has the ability to play on the line or at linebacker with his athleticism. He’s unsure of where he’ll be playing for Springfield next season, but the Pride are getting a player that was a key factor in leaving Bristol Central in a position to succeed.
In college Guzman plans to study physical therapy or physical education.
“Our work ethic has motivated the younger kids to work harder and follow our footsteps,” Guzman said. “I think they’ve got what it takes to fill in our shoes next year if they keep working hard.”
The senior class will largely be remembered by the mindset they brought to the program, and closing out the season on a five-game win streak after knowing they were eliminated from the postseason embodies that.
“Since freshman year we’ve always been a resilient group,” Miller said. “We haven’t been rattled by adversity or scared of the big moment. So I think starting out 2-3 and finishing 7-3 summarizes who we are as a team and as a group.”
It was a stellar season for the Rams’ boys basketball program and Bernier proved to be a solid big man with a good jump shot.
He missed some games throughout the season, but when he was on the floor he undoubtedly had an impact.
Bernier will be attending Manhattanville College and plans on studying business management.
“I’m really excited that I’ve been given the opportunity to play at the collegiate level,” Bernier said. “Basketball is such a big thing for me and I’m going to make the most out of my opportunity.”
He’s eager to get back on the court in a game situation after the Rams were eliminated by Wilton in the Division II state tournament.
“It left a chip on my shoulder for sure,” Bernier said. “I know what that feeling is like now and I don’t want that feeling again.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or