BRISTOL - Trailing 16-0 early in the second half following a 40-yard touchdown run by Harford Public running back Lavarey Banton, Bristol Eastern got going on offense behind running back Ariza Kolloverja.
Yet Kolloverja’s 114 rushing yards in the second half and strong play from Bristol Eastern quarterback Justin Marshall weren’t enough to deliver the comeback, as the Lancers fell 24-14 to Hartford Public on Saturday afternoon.
On Bristol Eastern’s second possession of the second half, starting from its own 9-yard line, it was all Kolloverja, as he had six carries for 91 yards, capped off by a 30-yard touchdown run.
Stopping Banton was something Bristol Eastern’s defense needed to do in order to come away with the victory, as Banton is the focal point of the Owls’ offense.
Banton had all three touchdowns for Hartford Public, runs of 33, 40 and 68 yards.
Allowing big plays is something the Lancers have been struggling with.
“It’s something that we have to continue to work at and continue to fix,” Bristol Eastern coach Anthony Julius said. “It’s been our Achilles’ heel all year and luckily we got a few games left to try and fix that.”
On the first drive of the game for Bristol Eastern the Lancers saw some success, but none of it resulted in any points.
With a fourth-and-4 and Bristol Eastern lined up to punt the ball, Hartford Public was called for an encroachment penalty, resulting in a Lancers first down.
Bristol Eastern drove the ball to the 40-yard line of the Owls and Marshall was sacked by Charles Rolle, resulting in a second-and-17. Following that sack, the Lancers couldn’t keep the drive going, eventually turning the ball over on a incomplete pass from Marshall looking for Kolloverja.
Hartford Public scored on its first possession with a 33-yard touchdown run by Banton and the two point conversion from Owls quarterback Joemar Scott to Jermaine Jones, giving Hartford Public a 8-0 lead early.
The next three drives were three-and-outs, one by Hartford Public and two from Bristol Eastern.
On the fourth possession for the Lancers, they took over on the Owls’ 16-yard-line following a muffed punt by Hartford Public.
With a fourth-and-2 from the Owls’ eight-yard line, the Lancers decided to go for it rather than kick the field goal and Marshall was stopped just short on a tackle by Banton.
Things got interesting on the last possession of the first half.
A pass interference call on Jaden Laprise in the end zone negated a touchdown.
Two plays later, Marshall threw an incomplete pass and the clock didn’t stop as the half ended, drawing outrage from the fans and coaching staff, as the Lancers were on the Hartford Public 7-yard line with a chance to kick a field goal before the half.
“It was a huge missed call,” Marshall said. “I personally watched the last three seconds come off of the clock. And the refs just didn’t notice it, I guess, and went with what they thought was right.”
Coming out of the locker room, Banton broke a 40-yard touchdown run on a direct snap during the first possession of the second half and Scott converted another two-point conversion, this time a pass to Branden Pettiford.
On the second possession of the half, Kolloverja’s dominant drive resulted in the first points of the game for Bristol Eastern, but the two-point conversion failed as the Lancers cut the gap to 16-6.
Following that, Bristol Eastern recovered an onside kick, but couldn’t capitalize, punting back to Hartford Public.
With the Owls backed up, Scott was sacked in the end zone by Tyler Varasconi for a safety, cutting the deficit to 16-8.
Needing a touchdown and the two-point conversion to get back in the game, the Lancers took over with 4:03 left to play. Marshall drove Bristol Eastern down the field, connecting with Kolloverja for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
The two-point try was no good on an incomplete pass by Marshall.
After John McPhee’s onside kick attempt failed, Banton put an exclamation point on the Hartford Public lead with his longest run of the day, a 68-yard touchdown.
Yet the clock read 1:28, and if Bristol Eastern stopped the two-point conversion try it still would have been a eight-point deficit for the Lancers with time to convert offensively.
But Scott converted his third straight passing attempt for a two-point conversion after a fumbled snap opened up his receiver Jermaine Jones and Scott got the ball just in time to make that read to the open Jones.
The conversion extended the Owls’ lead to 24-14.
“It was a little bit of blown coverage,” Bristol Eastern linebacker Tyler Mason said. “When the fumbled snap happened, all respect to our corners and safeties because when they see the ball on the ground they’re ball hawks, so it was kind of a heat of the moment play and it sealed the deal on us.”
That touchdown ended up being the difference maker.
With the loss, the Lancers dropped to 2-5 on the season as Hartford Public got its first win of the year.
Dan Orencole can be reached at or On Twitter: @OrencoleDan