BRISTOL - With Anthony Juliusâ€™ second season complete as head coach of the Bristol Eastern football team, having just two wins to go with 18 losses isnâ€™t a good look.
Yet the Lancers have seen tremendous improvement, going 2-8 this season after an 0-10 mark last year, a testament to what Julius and his staff have implemented.
After losing games by an average of 26.1 points per game last season, Bristol Eastern cut that in half this year, as it lost its games by an average of 13 points.
The Lancers gave up 250 points this season after allowing 344 last year.
â€śWeâ€™re not where we want to be yet,â€ť Julius said. â€śBut weâ€™re definitely trending in the right direction. I think itâ€™s evident by our play that we were in about eight of the games this season and some of those games could have went either way for us, so it shows weâ€™re trending in the right direction.â€ť
The senior class this season has known Julius throughout their years in high school, as he has been part of the program for 10 years.
â€śHeâ€™s almost like a second father to me,â€ť Lancers senior linebacker Tyler Mason said of Julius. â€śHeâ€™s always been there for me, whether itâ€™s from an academic standpoint or itâ€™s anything that I need. Heâ€™s always set a standard for me and always been a good person.â€ť
On offense, Bristol Eastern was much improved as well.
In 2016, much of the issue was struggling to generate any kind of offense and the ground game was inept.
That changed this season. Establishing a physical style of offense was a point of emphasis heading into the season.
Bristol Eastern leading rusher Ariza Kolloverja had 614 rushing yards individually this year, with the team gaining more than 1,000. The Lancers ran for only about 500 yards in the previous season.
â€śI appreciate all the coaches and what theyâ€™ve done for this program,â€ť Bristol Eastern defensive end Rajon Collins said. â€śI appreciate the time they took to get this program heading in the way itâ€™s headed towards.â€ť
With the run working, quarterback Justin Marshall got better looks to throw the football, as the play-action pass was a prominent part of the offense this season.
After throwing for less than 1,000 yards last season, Marshall threw for 1,472 yards with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
The Lancers scored 155 total points this season after just 83 points last year.
For Julius, itâ€™s just as important to develop players off the field as it is on the field, and thatâ€™s something for which his players have been appreciative.
â€śHeâ€™s kind of taken me under his wing and been like a father figure up here because my mom is a single parent,â€ť Bristol Eastern fullback Steven Hopkins said of Julius. â€śI really look up to him and I love him as a coach.â€ť
Moving forward, Julius and the Lancers hope that their seasons are measured by how much they beat opposing teams, rather than how close the games are that they lose.
â€śRebuilds like this donâ€™t happen overnight,â€ť Julius said. â€śAs long as the kids continue to show up and work hard, which they are, weâ€™re doing things the right way.â€ť
Bristol Eastern is on the right path and next season could be a special one with seven starters returning on both sides of the ball.
â€śComing off of my junior year not winning many games and always being given a challenge and coming out on bottom has been tough,â€ť Lancers senior defensive lineman Tyler Varasconi said. â€śItâ€™s been an honor to come out and be better than we were last year, and I hope that for the years to come itâ€™s even better than what it is this year.â€ť
Dan Orencole can be reached atÂ 860-973-1811 orÂ firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @OrencoleDan