MERIDEN - When Class L No. 6 Bristol Central travels to Falcon Field tonight to take on No. 3 Maloney in their first CIAC football game in more than 30 years, it will be a familiar trip to take on an opponent that Rams have faced many times over the years.
But it will be a whole new dimension Tuesday night. While the teams have faced each other as divisional rivals more than 60 times over the years, for most of the players, there is very little memory of past games.
Central and Maloney last met in a CCC divisional battle in 2019 when most of the current crop of players were either untested JV’s or not yet even in high school. The Rams faced Maloney in the final preseason scrimmage of the current season, but coach Jeff Papazian puts little stock in any advantage that meeting might provide.
“Maybe there’s a little bit you can take from it,” said Papazian, “But the last scrimmage teams don’t typically show their whole hand. There’s some familiarity with the kids knowing who they’re up against. But that was a long time ago.
“We know they are athletic, aggressive and well coached,” said Papazian. “They’re 9-1 for a reason, but so are we. It will be a battle as it should be this time of year. We want to play a smart, sound physical game against them.”
The Rams have won nine in a row after their opening loss to Bloomfield. The Spartans are also on a nine game win streak, mostly against Class LL opponents in the CCC Tier 1.
Central comes off a strong all around effort against Bristol Eastern last Thursday in the Battle for the Bell and will look to continue that effort against Maloney’s experienced rushing attack.
“In big games it all starts up front,” said Papazian. “We had a really good effort on the defensive line last week. (Alex) Marshall is a good running back and we kept him under three yards a carry. We’re going to need that kind of effort again against Maloney.”
Offensively the Rams will rely on the running Victor Rosa, who has been a constant all season.
“It’s no secret that Victor makes things go for us,” said Papazian. “For ten weeks, opponents have known that and they haven’t been able to stop him. We have to be great up front and just go out there and do what we do.”
Rosa has rushed for 2,598 yards and 39 touchdowns so far. He has completed 45 passes for an additional 749 yards and eight touchdowns. He has had support from Damion Glasper who is the Rams’ leading receiver with 24 catches for 361 yards. Tre Blair is second on the team in both rushing yards (342) and pass receptions (15 for 297 yards). Getting both of them actively involved in the offense could be a key for the Rams tonight.
Maloney has been an offensive juggernaut all season behind quarterback Angel Arce. The Spartans have scored 339 points while giving up 147 in their ten games. After losing 13-7 in their opener at Southington on a Blue Knights score in the final minute, they have rolled through their Tier 1 schedule including a convincing 49-18 win over Hall that was the only loss for the playoff bound Warriors.
“There are 32 teams left,” said Papazian, “and they are all very good teams. We know that we are going to have be at our very best to compete, but we will be ready.”
Kick off from Falcon Field in Meriden Tuesday night will come at 6:30 p.m. Winner of the game will move on to the Class L semifinals to face either the winner of No. 2 Naugatuck or No. 7 Masuk on Dec. 5.