BRISTOL - After giving up 41 points last week to Platt, the Bristol Eastern football team was seeking improvement this week, specifically against the run.
The Panthers’ Ethan Dudley ran for 197 yards against the Lancers, but didn’t break a long run, as his longest carry went for 37 yards.
This week, Hartford Public running back Lavarey Banton was the best player on offense for the Owls.
Defensively, the Lancers allowed Banton to have 155 rushing yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns.
From a glance, those numbers make the defense look bad, as he averaged 9.1 yards per carry in the game. But that was not the case, as Banton was stuffed on every run outside of the three long touchdowns of 33, 40 and 68 yards.
Two of those three touchdowns came in the second half, something quarterback Justin Marshall mentioned in the game against Platt, when the second half was the issue on the ground.
On his 14 carries other than the touchdown runs, Banton was held to just 14 rushing yards.
“Against the run, I thought we did really good,” Lancers linebacker Tyler Mason said. “I feel our reads at linebacker were good. Our defensive line did really good. Everybody on defense did really good. It was solid.
“Last week we took two steps back and this week we took two steps forward, so I’m proud of what we did, but we just gave up those big runs.”
Yet those three touchdown runs still count, and establishing defensive consistency and not giving up mentally on plays will be something the Lancers hope to see progress in over the course of their final three games, against Wethersfield, Manchester and Bristol Central.
The last touchdown run by Banton was a 68-yard score and left time on the clock for the Lancers to get the ball back with 1:28 remaining.
“I just think it was a blown run fit,” Bristol Eastern head coach Anthony Julius said. “It actually ended up benefiting us. If we stopped the two-point conversion we would’ve been down eight points with a minute and thirty to go, so it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to us.”
On the offensive side of the ball for the Lancers, Marshall’s performance at quarterback was solid. He stood tall in the pocket, making good decisions and putting the ball on the mark even with the windy conditions.
He finished 15-for-31 with 161 yards passing and a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ariza Kolloverja, placed perfectly in the left corner of the end zone.
“I felt calm in the pocket,” Marshall said. “They gave me good time to throw the ball. I just couldn’t connect on some of the balls I thought I could’ve connected on.”
While his top receiver Jaden Laprise has been a reliable target this season, Laprise dropped a pass in the end zone against the Owls. Bristol Eastern tight end Rajon Collins also dropped a touchdown pass that Marshall threw perfectly.
Those two drops played a big part in the Lancers only scoring 14 points in the game.
“Justin did a nice job in the conditions,” Julius said. “He put the ball on the money, but we just didn’t execute well enough on offense to help him out.”
Marshall’s progress throughout the season has been a positive sign for Bristol Eastern, as Marshall is still a junior.
Over the final three games, the run defense preventing big plays and the continued development of Marshall at quarterback will be two things to watch for as Bristol Eastern looks to add to its current total of two victories on the year.
Dan Orencole can be reached at or