BRISTOL â€“Â Bristol Central footballâ€™s 2022 season debut had its share of highlights. Unfortunately for Central, it also had its share of lowlights, and in the end, those costly miscues led to three Manchester touchdowns and a 21-14 defeat for the Rams before a large crowd Friday night.
Central led early but let the Red Hawks back into the game with a couple of scrambling runs by quarterback Jayden Kennedy and two long touchdown passes from Kennedy to Jared Lindstrom. Despite the defensive miscues, the Rams found themselves in a 7-7 tie deep into the final period before a costly turnover, their third of the game, led to a late Manchester touchdown and a season opening victory for the Red Hawks.Â
â€śThere is a lot of frustration tonight both offensively and defensively,â€ť Central coach Jeff Papazian said. â€śWe had some big breakdowns at really bad times. We had some momentum going early but we turned the ball over and we never really got back on track. Thereâ€™s never a good time for a turnover, but we picked some especially lousy times tonight.â€ť
The miscues for the Rams started on the very first play of the game when the Manchester kickoff bounced around untouched amongst several Central returners and kicker Joshua Kwarteng pounced on the ball for the Red Hawks at the Central 40 yard line.
The Rams were able to recover from that mistake as the defense forced a three-and-out and the offense followed with its longest and most efficient drive of the game. With Nik Salinas and Carmelo Thompson handling most of the ball carrying duties with occasional help from Geovannie Colon and Tre Blair, the Rams marched 93 yards in 14 plays, eating up nearly 10 minutes of clock time, to score the gameâ€™s first touchdown.Â
Salinas took the ball the final eight yards after pushing the line forward for a big first down on fourth and one on the previous play. The only pass of the drive came on an 18-yard completion from Salinas to Colon off a key third-and-nine play.
The Ramsâ€™ defense stuffed the Red Hawks on the next three plays, but facing long yardage after a penalty deep in his own territory, quarterback Kennedy found a hole on the defensive coverage and capitalized. Jared Lindstrom was wide open near midfield when the scrambling quarterback connected with him on a play that covered 77 yards and tied the score at 7-7 as the second period opened.
The Rams quickly started another long drive that included a 36-yard pass from Salinas to Blair and appeared ready to counter. But a fumble at the Red Hawks 32 ended the drive, stifled the momentum and put the Rams into a defensive struggle the rest of the way.
Neither team scored in the third period. An interception in the end zone by Centralâ€™s Anthony Paulino put an end to a Manchester drive that ate up most of the period. The teams exchanged fumbles over the next several minutes until the Kennedy to Lindstrom combination hooked up again with another wide open pass completion, this one for 53 yards to put the Hawks up 14-7 with eight minutes left.
Salinas led the Rams back after a Manchester penalty for excessive celebration on the touchdown led to good field position for Central on the next possession. The drive covered 42 yards and nine plays including a couple of long runs by Blair before Salinas connected with Thompson and Whitford kicked the extra point to tie with 4:27 to go.
But an 80-yard drive that included scrambling runs of 32 and 23 yards by Manchester runners, gave the Hawks the lead for good when Chase Parker scored form five yards out with 1:34 to play to ice the win.
Despite the loss, there were some solid performances for the Rams. Can Tomak had a big first half interception and Paulinoâ€™s pick in the end zone was a huge play at that moment of the game. Luis Padilla had a fumble recovery for the Rams.
Salinas, in his quarterback debut, rushed 12 times for 57 yards and completed four of eight passes for 62 yards. He scored a touchdown and passed for another as he fought to keep the Bristol Central tradition of running the offense through the quarterback alive.Â
â€śI thought Nik battled the whole night,â€ť Papazian said. â€śHe did all of the things we asked and we expect he will continue to improve. That touchdown pass was a really well thrown ball, a lot harder play than it looked from the stands, and he put it right where it had to be.â€ť
Sophomore Carmelo Thompson, in his varsity debut, had a solid night. He carried 12 times for 51 yards and scored on his only pass reception of the night.
â€śAt times our line play was really good on both sides of the ball,â€ť Papazian said, â€śbut there were plenty of times when it was not so good. Weâ€™ve got some work to do to get ready for South Windsor next week.â€ť
â€śWe created turnovers in some really big spots,â€ť Papazian added, â€śbut in the end there were just too many breakdowns. They certainly capitalized on our mistakes. I canâ€™t say the same for us.â€ť
Manchester 21, Bristol Central 7
At Bristol Central
Manchester (1-0) Â Â Â Â 0Â 7Â 0Â 14Â - 21
Bristol Central (0-1)Â Â 7Â 0 Â 0 Â 7 -Â 14
BC â€“ Nik Salinas 8 run (Ken Whitford kick), 1:13
M â€“ Jared Lindstrom, 77 pass from Jayden Kennedy (Lindstrom kick), 11:44
M â€“ Lindstrom, 53 pass from Kennedy (Lindstrom kick), 8:23
BC â€“ Carmelo Thompson, 8 pass from Salinas (Whitford kick), 4:27
M â€“ Chase Parker, 5 run (Lindstrom kick), 1:34
Rushing: Manchester â€“ Jayden Kennedy, 9-86, Lucas Ryan 7-21, Chase Parker 8-67, Jalen Pinnix 2-2, Arlon Poteat4-30. BC â€“ Nik Salinas 12-57, Carmelo Thompson 12-51, Geovannie Colon 5-3. Tre Blair 10-44
Passing: Manchester â€“ Kennedy 5-8-2 int for 145 yds, 2 TD. BC â€“ Salinas 3-7-0, for 62 yds, 1 TD.
Receiving: Manchester â€“ Jared Lindstrom 4-148, Poteat 1 â€“ (-3). BC â€“ Colon 1-18, Blair 1-36, Thompson 1-8.