The Conard Chieftains wasted little time establishing who would be in charge in Friday nightâ€™s CCC interdivisional game at Bristol Central. It took them just three plays and 31 seconds to score their first touchdown and they never looked back as they rolled to a 24-8 halftime edge and came away with a 31-8 victory.
â€śCertainly a frustrating night,â€ť said Central coach Jeff Papazian. â€śThey jumped on us early and we were never able to recover. What really hurt is that we made some critical mistakes at important times. We turned the ball over twice - thatâ€™s something we really havenâ€™t done all year. And we had big penalties at inopportune times. Thereâ€™s never a good time to have a penalty, but tonight we had them when we thought we had the opportunity to turn the game around.â€ť
The Rams put up some good numbers offensively, but the defense was burned for 424 yards in total offense by a Conard attack that was lethal both on the ground and through the air.
The Chieftains wasted no time in getting on the board after recovering a short opening kickoff near the midfield stripe. An offside penalty on the Rams before the ball was ever put into play moved the Chieftains into Central territory and three plays later, they were in the end zone. Arsen Shtefan ran on all three plays including the seven-yarder for the score. Peter Simplicio hit the extra point and Conard led with the clock showing 11:29 left in the opening period.
The Rams followed that score with a drive of their own and appeared ready to counter the opening score, but a fumble at the 20-yard line ended the march and set the Chieftains up for another long drive that led to a 27-yard field goal by Simplicio. Conard had a 10-0 lead with more than half of the opening period still to play.
Victor Rosa got the Rams on the board after a 42-yard run to bring his team deep into Conard territory. Rosa scored on a one-yard run and hit Tre Jones with a two-point conversion pass to cut the gap to 10-8 as the opening period ended.
The Rams were never able to get on the board again despite piling up 341 yards in total offense and threatening the end zone several times. Central turned the ball over on downs deep in Conard territory three times and fumbled the ball away twice in a frustrating night for the offense.
â€śI thought we moved the ball decently enough to keep ourselves in the game,â€ť said Papazian, â€śbut we seemed to shoot ourselves in the foot quite a bit tonight on the offensive side.â€ť
Conard scored twice in the second period on two long passes to take a 24-8 lead into the half. The Rams picked up the defense in the second half and held the Chieftains off the scoreboard until late in the game when Emmett Coco broke loose for a 43-yard run to the 2 and then took it in on the next play to close out the scoring for the night.
The Rams came up with two interceptions in the second half to give themselves an opportunity to get back into the game, but were not able to capitalize. Orlando Baldwin picked off Israel Lopez early in the third period and had a nice return, but a penalty at the end set the Rams back into Conard territory. Galen Hickey had an interception late in the third to set up a drive that brought the Rams inside the 20 before it stalled on fourth down.
â€śThe defense was better in the second half than it was in the first,â€ť said Papazian. â€śWe had our moments, but Conard came out and played hard. They played a tough physical game and they earned it tonight.â€ť
Shtefan led the offense for the Chieftains with 125 yards on 19 carries. Coco had 89 yards on just six carries, a big chunk of it on his long fourth quarter run.
Quarterback Israel Lopez connected on nine of 17 passes for 145 yards. He threw touchdown passes of 35 yards to Sean Guevara and 13 yards to Shtefan in the second period. He had seven completions and 128 yards in the first half before the Central defense clamped down and limited him to 17 aerial yards in the second half.
Rosa had another big night for the Rams. He ran for 153 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and completed 10 of 22 passes for 102 yards. It was by far the most prolific passing night of his young career.
â€śWe worked a whole bunch on the passing game in practice,â€ť said Papazian. â€śWe thought from what we had seen of them that we would be able to throw the ball, so it was a conscious effort by us to get more passing into the attack.â€ť
Tre Jones caught three passes for 53 yards and Galen Hickey had four receptions for 39 yards to lead the aerial attack. Elijah Rodriguez also had a couple of big catches in key situations.
â€śWe were able to move the ball,â€ť said Papazian. â€śBut it was not good enough at the end of the night.â€ť
Conard improved to 6-3 and has now won four in a row. The Rams dropped to 4-5 and now have a must-win game facing them on Thanksgiving morning if they want to keep their streak of .500 or better seasons alive.
Conard 31, Bristol Central 8
Conard 10 14 0 7 - 31
Bristol Central 8 0 0 0 - 8
C - Arsen Shtefan, 7 run (Peter Simplicio kick), 11:29
C - Simplicio, 27 FG, 5:07
BC - Victor Rosa, 1 run (Tre Jones pass from Rosa), 0:36
C - Sean Guevara, 35 pass from Israel Lopez (Simplicio kick), 5:20
C - Shtefan, 13 pass from Lopez (Simplicio kick, 1:31
C - Emmett Coco, 2 run (Simplicio kick), 3:06
Rushing: Conard - Arsen Shtefan, 19-125, Emmett Coco 7 -89, Israel Lopez 7-31, Jack Tousignant 1-20, John Calcaterra, 2-4. Bristol Central - Victor Rosa 17-153, Shawn Rodriguez 8-26, Tre Jones 6-25, Elijah Rodriguez 1-18, Galen Hickey 1-7, Axjaivion Evans 5-10.
Passing: Conard - Lopez 9-17-2 for 145 yards. Central - Rosa 10-22-0 for 102 yards.
Receiving: Conard - Silas Bridges 3-62, Sean Guevara 3-48, Arsen Shtefan 2-26, Jack Tousignant 1-9. Central - Tre Jones 3-53, Galen Hickey 4-39, Eli Rodriguez 2-17, Shawn Rodriguez 1-(-7).
Records: Conard 6-3, Bristol Central 4-5.