Through its first three games of the season, the Bristol Central football team had more than its share of missteps as it stumbled to a 1-2 record. But Friday afternoon all of that turned around as the Rams stunned Windsor with a 34-6 win at home.
A change in attitude played a big role in that victory.
“Give the kids credit,” said coach Jeff Papazian. “They decided that enough was enough and they came out and played as hard as they could for four quarters. They did a great job of really sticking together. You could see them on the sideline picking each other up and encouraging each other.”
It was a much more positive vibe than the Rams had seen in the early games and the positivity paid off with a big win. Gone were the mistakes, frustrations and recriminations that had been rampant on the BC sideline through the early going, replaced by a supportive group working together toward a common goal.
The challenge now for the Rams will be to carry that vibe through the rest of the season, beginning at home this weekend against another very strong opponent in Wethersfield.
While the offense rolled to 339 yards and five touchdowns, it was the defense that really picked it up for the Rams in the win. After being burned by big-play offenses for two consecutive weeks, the defensive unit bore down and challenged the Warriors on every play.
“We made them work for their yards,” said Papazian. “To hold a team like that to just one score is really a great tribute to our defense. And we really made them earn that one score. It was just a great effort by everybody out there. We rotated a bunch of kids through there today and they all played really well. We had guys bruised up and cramping and they went right back out there and did the job.”
Windsor’s lone touchdown came late in the third period and took two long drives to accomplish. The Warriors took the second half kickoff to the Rams’ 33-yard line with a 13-play drive that finally stalled on downs.
Getting the ball right back at midfield after a fumble, the Warriors mounted another long march that ultimately resulted in the score. But not before running back Jaiden Murphy took three cracks at the line from inside the 3.
In all it took the Warriors 21 plays and more than 10 minutes of the third period to battle to their only score of the night.
“I thought Peter Nizielski had a really big game for us,” said Papazian. “He had that big sack (to end the first Windsor drive of the second half) and he played really well on both sides of the ball. Dan Lauretti is a guy who kind of goes unnoticed out there (as a two-way tackle), but he does the job and was a big part of the win today. And of course Jakob (Salinas) is the glue that holds it all together.”
Salinas was once again the leading tackler for the Rams and was instrumental in shutting down the run game. He got a chance to score for the first time in his career when the Rams lined him up in the backfield on a two-point conversion attempt and he bulled his way into the end zone.
“He would have had two,” said Papazian, “but he slipped on the second one. It was wide open for him.”
Offensively, the Rams rolled behind quarterback Victor Rosa, who accounted for 32 of the team’s 34 points. Rosa ran for four touchdowns, including runs of 57 and 76 yards, and threw for another. He added a two-point conversion and capped a great overall day with an interception and 64-yard return while playing defense.
Rosa has rushed for 570 yards and scored 12 touchdowns through the first four games of the season.
With the big win over Windsor under their belts, the Rams now turn their attention toward Wethersfield, a divisional opponent that is 3-1 on the season. The Eagles are coming off a 14-0 win over Farmington. It was their second shutout of the season.
While the Rams will not extend their streak of games against playoff teams, they know that Wethersfield is going to be another formidable foe and it will take another great effort next week.