BRISTOL - Coming off a winless season, the Bristol Eastern football team started this year out 0-3, two of which were blowout losses coming to Middletown and Maloney.
Mental mistakes, not finishing drives and the lack of a run game led to the combined score of 83-14 in those first three games.
Right out of the gate the question as to whether or not another winless season was upon the Lancers could have easily been tossed around.
Bristol Eastern, however, took on the challenge and didn’t back down.
In the return home the Lancers won their first game as a program since 2015, a 9-7 win over Newington behind 172 rushing yards on 30 carries from senior tailback Ariza Kolloverja.
It wasn’t long before that next win came, as Bristol Eastern beat Farmington 19-12, again running the ball well.
Running the football behind a much improved offensive line and having the ability to throw if defenses stacked the box, as junior quarterback Justin Marshall took the next step forward, and long touchdown drives of 67 and 86 yards were a step in the right direction and it seemed as if the Lancers had found an identity after looking lost on offense in the first three games.
With the two-game win streak, the bye week came with Bristol Eastern sitting at 2-3.
Back on the road out of the bye week, the Lancers traveled to Platt and were facing off against one of the better tailbacks in the state in Ethan Dudley.
Bristol Eastern had a strong offensive performance with 39 points scored. However, the Panthers scored 52, the season high allowed by the Lancers defense.
With the streak snapped, the next game came against Hartford Public and the opportunity for the third win was there as the Owls came in as a winless team.
However, Hartford Public beat Eastern behind three big touchdown runs by Lavarey Banton. The Lancers offense struggled to score in the windy conditions leading to the second straight loss out of the bye.
Bristol Eastern returned home to face Wethersfield.
The Lancers looked to be the better team on the field, but a few missed big plays and a couple goal line run opportunities failed led to just 13 points scored with the defense allowing 14.
With two games remaining on the schedule against Manchester and cross-town rival Bristol Central, the question became would the Lancers find a way to finally get back in the win column and where was the offense that had the ability to put up 39 points against the Panthers?
In the final two games of the season, big plays allowed on defense continued to be a problem as Bristol Eastern didn’t get another win.
Indians wide receiver Jevin Frett had six catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns to go with a 67-yard punt return score in a 25-20 win for Manchester.
Rams quarterback Dathan Hickey had 331 rushing yards and four touchdowns including a pair of 75-yard touchdown runs leading to a 33-27 win for Bristol Central Thanksgiving morning in the Battle for the Bell rivalry game.
With it, the Lancers finished the season 2-8 and one that left a lot to be desired as the Lancers lost four games by a touchdown or less including the last three of the season.
“Even though our record doesn’t really show it we’ve been in most of the games,” senior linebacker Tyler Mason said. “I feel like all the underclassmen should have respect in this game. And always just keep pushing.”
The second year with head coach Anthony Julius at the helm was rough, but improvement was a step in the right direction, and next season the Lancers will return three offensive linemen, a tailback that has shown flashes with limited playing time in Matt D’Amato, third year quarterback Marshall, his top two weapons in Laprise and Elijah Gagliardo and most of the starters on defense, including leading tackler Trinidad Gonzalez.
The Lancers haven’t had a winning season since 2014 and next year they have a good shot at ending that streak.
“I’m really proud of the effort the guys gave this year,” Julius said. “But it’s been a season of could’ves. We could have done this and we could have done that and as this program continues to grow and get better hopefully those could’ves become we did.”