There is a new look to the Bristol Central offense this season and the key word is balance.
With four different players carrying the ball for significant yardage, the Rams showed a multifaceted attack that could be a problem for many opposing defenses in the weeks ahead, after a solid 34-0 opening day win over Hartford Public.
While the Owls do not have the football pedigree that Central’s next three opponents will have, the attack Friday night started to answer a lot of the questions the Rams had after graduating a good chunk of their offense.
Justus Fitzpatrick had a solid debut at quarterback, running some of the same quarterback keeper plays that have been a mainstay of the Central offense for many years. He rushed seven times for 77 yards and two touchdowns and connected on one long pass, a 64-yard scoring strike to Jose Navedo.
But the Rams showed plenty of versatility on the attack, with running back Darrell Payton bulling his way for a team-high 86 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 13 carries and two players having good success on sweep plays from their wide out sets.
Freshman Victor Rosa made a statement in his debut, with 64 yards on four carries, and Navedo came around the end four times for 61 yards.
“Offensively, our skills guys were able to move the ball around pretty well,” coach Jeff Papazian said. “That’s the best balance we’ve had in the five years I’ve been here. We have four guys that are a threat from anywhere on the field and that’s a lot for other defenses to deal with.”
“We had three guys who have been there before in Justus, Darrell and Jose,” Papazian added. “You expect they’re going to be there. But Victor Rosa gives us another element altogether. He’s a freshman, but plays a lot older than he is. He was out there on both sides of the ball tonight and had a real solid game.”
The Rams jumped out to a 21-0 lead after one quarter and led 28-0 at the half before coasting to the win.
Backup running backs Orlando Baldwin and Shawn Rodriguez carried the offense for most of the second half, as Central racked up 397 total yards in the game.
Defensively, the Rams were solid from the start. The Owls punted the first four times they had the ball and turned it over on a fumble on the final play of the half.
Hartford Public had its best drive to open the second half, but eventually stalled on downs and never threatened again. Navedo and Devin Love had interceptions late in the game to preserve the shutout.
“Defensively I thought we played really well,” Papazian said. “Anytime you pitch a shutout you’ve got to be happy. Their coaches made some good adjustments coming out in the second half and it took us a while to find our rhythm. We needed a drive to settle down. I thought Jakob Salinas, Isak Gonzalez and Ryan Rodriguez all played really well on defense.”
The big player in the game for the Rams was Navedo, who was a standout on both sides of the ball. Navedo rushed for 61 yards, caught a pass for 64 yards and a touchdown, had an interception on defense and added a punt return of 57 yards in the first half.
“Jose’s come such a long way,” Papazian said. “He played some as a sophomore and he had his moments. But now as a senior he is a legitimate two-way player. He rarely comes off the field.”
Overall, Papazian was very happy with a game that was a solid opening step.
“I’m proud of the kids,” he said after the game. “I’m really proud of the effort. They played really hard all night and when you can get kids to do that, you know you’ve got a chance to be in the game. At the end of the half and in the second half the Hartford Public two way players were visibly gassed, but our kids were ready to keep going.”
“We know things are going to get more difficult as we go on,” Papazian added, “but I’ll take the effort tonight anytime.”