BRISTOL - Many area high school football observers were a bit shocked when they looked at the Week 1 scoreboard and saw Maloney 26, Windsor 20. Windsor, a top-10 team in most preseason polls, has rarely been on the losing side in recent years and last Friday's result was an eye opener for them.
So when Bristol Central travels to take on the Warriors tonight in Windsor, it will be a slightly different scenario than in recent years. Windsor will be a team on a mission with something to prove after last week's loss and the Rams will need to be at their best against a very talented squad.
"Obviously we've watched the film and we've seen that Windsor made some uncharacteristic mistakes last week," Bristol Central head coach Jeff Papazian said. "But Maloney's an awful good team. Knowing what they had back, last week was not a total shock to us. It was two really good teams going at each other and Maloney managed to get them in the end."
The Warriors, as always, will be an athletic team with the potential to break a game open quickly. That has been the pattern in the games against Central the past few years. Last season, the Rams trailed by just one at the half, but the Warriors put up two quick scores in the third quarter to put the game out of reach in a 29-19 win.
"We've got to play really composed and smart," Papazian said. "[Windsor coach Rob Fleet's] teams don't want to grind it out. They want to hit you with the big shot and it's easy for a game to get out of control real quick if you let some of those big plays happen."
"We know that they've worked hard all week to correct some of the things that hurt them last week," he added. "They have a lot of good athletes in the skill positions and they have some big, physical guys up front. They are an extremely well coached team that can hurt you in a lot of ways."
The Rams showed a balanced and disciplined attack in last week's win over Hartford Public, but they will be taking a big step up in competition when they take on the Warriors.
One of the keys for Central will be sophomore linebacker and tackle Jakob Salinas, who had an outstanding game in the win over the Owls. Salinas and his fellow linemen will have their hands full against a talented Windsor front but Papazian is counting on his young defensive leader to come through.
"Salinas does a lot of things out there that often go unnoticed," Papazian said. "He's a young player, but he is really football smart. He just knows the game and he makes things happen."
The Rams will also need to continue to move the ball with consistency. Four different players rushed for more than 50 yards in last week's win and that kind of effort again tonight should help the Rams stay in the game.
"We had a lot of people touch the ball last week," Papazian said. "It was truly an all around team effort. The guys that carried the ball got most of the ink, but the whole team contributed to the win. The offensive line was solid but they need to keep getting better. We had good things happen last week, but we also have a lot to work on."
Central has not beaten Windsor since Aaron Hernandez led them to a 1-point win with nearly 200 receiving yards and two long touchdowns in 2006. The Warriors have won nine straight meetings since then, mostly by lopsided scores. Tonight will be the first time in many years the Rams will come into the meeting with a better record than Windsor.
"This is a big test for us," said Papazian. "We've had a solid week of practice and we're ready to compete."