BRISTOL - With the holiday season in full swing and the New Year approaching, Bristol Eastern football got one final season and a last-second touchdown out of senior standout tailback Ariza Kolloverja.
With the clock ticking down on his career in the Thanksgiving Day game against Bristol Central, Lancers junior quarterback Justin Marshall found Kolloverja on the outside for a touchdown pass.
It was a bittersweet moment as the Rams won the game, retaining the Bell. And Bristol Eastern stalled at two wins after a winless season just a year before.
Still, Kolloverja did everything he could for the Lancers program and he hung up his cleats, for now, on a high school career to be proud of.
Kolloverja recorded 1,090 yards from scrimmage and saw limited action in the first three games in his senior season before breaking out against Newington, playing a key part in the Lancers’ first win since 2015.
He ran for 172 yards in the game and flashed a versatile style, showing his ability to run both between the tackles and on the perimeter.
“Ariza is really quiet and always focused on getting better,” Bristol Eastern football head coach Anthony Julius said. “He’s more of a talker than he gets credit for. He can always be counted on, and as a coach that’s a big relief, knowing I have a kid like that.”
Kolloverja went on to score seven touchdowns for Bristol Eastern in his final season. He did so with a quiet and calm demeanor, letting his performance speak for itself.
“He goes about his business by himself,” Bristol Eastern wide receiver Jaden Laprise said. “But he packs a good punch and that’s what made him deadly.”
Lining up in front of him on most plays was fullback Steven Hopkins, his former Bristol Bulldogs teammate.
Hopkins returned this past season after moving to Florida.
For Hopkins, coming back and seeing the season Kolloverja put together was special as his lead blocker.
“Ariza’s season was fun to watch,” Hopkins said. “It was really good to come back and see his explosiveness and how he handles himself on and off the field.
“I’m telling you man, this dude is football. Every time I saw him in the morning we went over film. He’d come up to me in the middle and say this is what you need to do and these are their weaknesses. He’s just all football, always committed, and a great player to watch.”
On the defensive side of the ball and special teams is where it all started for Kolloverja, in his sophomore season.
Kolloverja started at free safety that year and the team knew that he brought something special to the table.
In his junior season he progressed, leading the Lancers in tackling. All that work culminated in 55 tackles this past year and a pair of interceptions.
Now with winter sports underway, Kolloverja has transitioned to basketball, his secondary sport.
He comes off the bench and does whatever Bristol Eastern head coach Bunty Ray asks of him.
“Ariza is a solid contributor. He’s a team player and a really good athlete,” Ray said. “We’re mixing and matching lineups this year and he fits into whatever role we need him.
“Football has helped his confidence and he’s matured into a good athlete.”
Just like his football career, Bristol Eastern is hoping for Kolloverja to finish his basketball career strong.
His football career at the high school level may be over, but Julius believes he still has a future in football.
“Ariza is a kid that we’re really going to miss,” Julius said. “I really hope he gets the chance to compete at the next level.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org