Thursdayâ€™s thrilling game made its mark as the first overtime game in the history of the long Battle for the Bell series. It will be also be known as the highest scoring game in the 61 years that the teams have been playing.
When Bristol Central blocked Easternâ€™s extra point kick with six seconds left to force overtime, it marked the third time in the series history that the game ended in a tie in regulation. The others were a 6-6 tie in 1962 and an epic 14-14 deadlock in the mud in 2006.
That 2006 game was the last tie game ever played in Connecticut High School football history as the CIAC adopted its tiebreaker rule during the ensuing offseason. So instead of sharing the Bell trophy for a year as the schools did the last two times that regulation play ended in a deadlock, this time the teams took turns trying to score from the 10-yard line.
The Lancers scored on a fourth down pass from Bryce Curtin to Edgar Santiago, but missed the extra point attempt. Centralâ€™s Victor Rosa scored on the first play from scrimmage and added the conversion to give the Rams the exciting 34-32 win.
The combined total of 66 points set a new Thanksgiving Day scoring record. The old record of 62 points was set in Easternâ€™s 34-28 win in 2008.
Rosa tied a Battle for the Bell record when he scored his fifth touchdown of the game. That matched the five touchdowns scored by Tim Washington - the seriesâ€™ most prolific scorer - in the 2000 game, where he also set the record for the most rushing yards in a Thanksgiving game.
Rosa scored 32 of his teamâ€™s 34 points in the contest and accounted for 194 yards in total offense.
Both Rosa and Easternâ€™s Alex Marshall joined the long list of players who have rushed for over 100 yards at Muzzy Field on Thanksgiving morning. Marshall rushed for 159 yards and scored three times. Rosa had 171 yards rushing and threw for 33 more. The two sophomores were named the Offense Player of the Game for their respective teams, the first time that both awards went to a sophomore.
In 61 games, there have been 52 players who have broken the 100-yard rushing mark. Thursdayâ€™s game marked the 11th time that each school had a runner top the 100-yard mark. There have been three years when two runners from the same school went over 100. Only once, in 1997, were there three runners who rushed for over 100 yards in the game, as Easternâ€™s Reinaldo Soto and Pat Brookman and Centralâ€™s Craig Capurso all accomplished the feat.
Rosa finished the year with 1,146 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. The touchdown mark puts him in the top 10 list of Centralâ€™s all-time single season scorers, tied with D.J. Hernandez (2002), Garry Pearson (1977) and Brian Godbout (1974) for 10th place. Rosa also completed 31 of 79 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns. In two years, the sophomore has rushed for 1,436 yards, scored 136 points and thrown for 14 more.
All of Thursdayâ€™s individual awards were presented to underclassmen, as juniors Bobby Mosback of Eastern and Jakob Salinas of Central earned the Defensive Player of the Game awards for their respective schools.
There was one dubious mark set in the contest as Central was whistled for 22 penalties. The Rams did not break the record for penalty yardage, as many of the penalties on Thursday came on extra point attempts and goal line stands. The Rams had two successful two-point conversions nullified by penalties in regulation and had to block the Lancersâ€™ extra point twice because of a penalty on the first block.
Thursdayâ€™s game was the final one for Central seniors Galen Hickey, Colten Pelletier and Ian Staubley and Eastern seniors Elijah Gagliardo, Tyler Gleifert, Bryce Curtin, Eric Dupree, Josh McConnell, Asanee Anderson, Edgar Santiago, Carlos Wehbe, Kellen Joseph and Jake Dauphinee.