Of the area football programs, two in particular had strong seasons, with both Bristol Central and St. Paul finishing 7-3. But there was several individuals that shined from all three high schools this fall.
Leading the way for our ninth annual All-Press Football Team is Bristol Central quarterback and defensive back Dathan Hickey.
As the premier player in the area, Hickey headlines the 22 players selected to our team.
Hickey was named all-conference team twice. He is third all-time in touchdowns scored in the history of the Rams program.
This season, Hickey finished with 1,402 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns. He also added a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns and an 81-yard punt return score.
Hickey has committed to play football at Yale University and will play defensive back there.
On defense, he finished with 48 tackles, seven pass break-ups, two interceptions, including one returned for a 71-yard touchdown.
Lastly, Hickey finished second all-time in single-game rushing yards during the Thanksgiving Day game against Bristol Eastern, with 333 yards on 28 carries and four touchdowns.
“Clearly, Dathan had a great season for us,” Rams coach Jeffrey Papazian said. “He put together as dominating a five-game stretch I’ve ever seen. Week after week, he came through on offense, defense and special teams. And he did it against defenses that committed extra guys to trying to take him away. Against offenses that stayed away from him at all costs. And against special teams that did whatever they could to keep the ball out of his hands. When you look at our Bristol Central football record book, there’s some great players on those lists. And Dathan certainly deserves to be mentioned with all of them.”
Selected along with Hickey for Bristol Central are Mike Guzman, Adam Ewart, Gabe Updegraff, Devon Dawson, Justus Fitzpatrick, Darrell Payton and Jakob Salinas.
The offensive line for the Rams had a solid season and was a big reason for the rushing success Bristol Central had with Hickey, Payton and Fitzpatrick.
“I was glad the majority of our O-Line made the team,” Papazian said. “Our final team rushing numbers were impressive (2,569 yards, 8.02 per carry, and 42 rushing touchdowns). Devon, Ewart and Gabe - along with Guzman and Alex Lape had a tremendous season for us.”
Fitzpatrick was one of the more dynamic players on the roster, serving as a hybrid player offensively. He finished with 356 rushing yards with three scores and was the leading receiver with 21 receptions for 239 yards.
Payton’s 669 rushing yards and six touchdowns were second on the team.
On defense, the Rams had a pair of standout linebackers in Guzman and Salinas.
“Defensively, Mike Guzman has been so good at linebacker for us for three years, and this year Jakob Salinas really came into his own as the season progressed,” Papazian said. “For a freshman to play varsity football, at linebacker, and have the year he had is saying something.”
In the NVL, St. Paul started 5-0 then struggled the rest of the season, going 2-3 coming out of the bye. While the season ended without a playoff appearance, the Falcons nonetheless had good talent on their team.
Four St. Paul seniors were crucial to that success and as a result were selected to our All-Press Team, Dominic Aiello, Chris Dionne, Damien Rabis and Eric Langland.
Dionne was the leader of the St. Paul defense and also served as one of the running backs in the Falcons’ wishbone offense.
“Chris’ enthusiasm toward the game is remarkable,” St. Paul coach Jude Kelly said. “Whenever he puts the pads on he is all business. He was the mainstay of the defense for the whole season. He made sure everybody was lined up in the right positions and just took charge of the defense. He’s a tough kid and a great leader.”
In his career Aiello has been an All-State and All-NVL player.
He will be attending Middlebury College and playing football.
“Dom Aiello has been a starter for us since his sophomore year,” Kelly said. “He’s the strongest player on the team and he’s committed to the game.”
Rabis was the most elusive player for the Falcons. Rabis finished with 1,055 yards rushing to go with 16 touchdowns.
He intends to play college football and is still looking at his options.
“Damien ran the ball extremely well,” Kelly said. “Our backs have to be good blockers and he blocked really well. He’s a very unselfish player and played multiple positions on defense, wherever he was needed. He was a great leader.”
Langland was also one a key lineman for the Falcons this season.
“The NVL is a 16-team league with good football players and he was selected to the all-defensive line team,” Kelly said. “He could have been on the offensive line as well. He has growth potential. He’s looking to play in college. He’s got great grades, he’s tall and height is really important at the collegiate level and I think Eric is going to grow into his body and be a very good collegiate player.”
Rounding out the St. Paul All-Press selections is junior quarterback Kevin Ashworth and junior fullback Connor Bogdanski.
Ashworth was named All-Copper Division in the NVL for his play at defensive back.
Bogdanski had a strong season at fullback for St. Paul and will look to lead the Falcons offense with Ashworth next season.
While Bristol Eastern finished 2-8, there was some standout talent on the field as the Lancers improved off a winless season.
Leading the Lancers on our All-Press Team are a pair of juniors.
Junior middle linebacker Trinidad Gonzalez led Bristol Eastern in tackles as the main cog of the defense. He had a team-leading 91 tackles, 10 for a loss, and one sack on the year.
“He is someone we have relied on to lead our defense all season,” Eastern coach Anthony Julius said. “His production on defense was outstanding. He is someone opposing offenses must account for in their blocking schemes because he can wreck a play.”
On offense, junior wide receiver Jaden Laprise was often the most electric player either team brought to the field.
Laprise had a stellar season for Bristol Eastern, finishing with 43 catches for 819 yards and eight touchdowns.
“He is someone who as the season went on the opposing defenses really keyed on,” Julius said. “He was still able to put numbers up. It just shows what type of playmaker he is.”
Laprise was also a player to watch on defense. He finished with 48 tackles and three interceptions.
“Jaden is a dynamic player on offense and defense,” Julius said. “His ability to make big plays on both sides of the ball is what makes him so special.”
Another dynamic playmaker on offense for the Lancers was tailback Ariza Kolloverja.
He finished with 1,090 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns. On defense, Kolloverja had 55 tackles and two interceptions.
“Ariza has been a do everything player for us for the last two years,” Julius said. “He excels at whatever position we have put him and that is what has made him so valuable. Another thing that has made him so great is reliability. He has made 30 starts in his high school career. That’s something that is pretty incredible.”
For the Bristol Eastern offensive line, there was expectations of improvement this season and the group did just that. As a result, two of the Lancers linemen were selected to the All-Press team.
Senior left tackle Andrew Consalvo and junior center Zach Giblin both were a big reason for the turnaround.
Both are planning on playing at the next level. Giblin was also named to the all-conference team.
Rounding out the players selected to the All-Press Football Team for the Lancers are quarterback Justin Marshall, fullback Steven Hopkins and linebacker Tyler Mason.
Marshall threw for over 1,000 yards and his biggest game came against Platt, during which Bristol Eastern scored a season-high 39 points.
Mason was the leader for the Lancers as captain and did it all on the field.
Hopkins brought physicality for Bristol Eastern and was a major reason in the Lancers being a tougher team this season.
“Steven is an old school type kid, hard-nosed, hard-working kid. He was someone who injected a lot of life into our program this past year,” Julius said.