With an 0-8 record and two games left to play, including the annual Thanksgiving Day Battle for the Bell, it might be understandable if the Bristol Eastern football team were looking ahead to that holiday matchup against their city rival and using tonight’s home game against Manchester as preparation.
But that’s not where the Lancers are at.
After having shown some positive signs in spurts in recent weeks, Bristol Eastern is focused on the task at hand, putting together a complete game against the visiting Eagles to pick up their first victory of the season.
“Our kids have done a good job all year of staying focused on the task at hand,” Bristol Eastern head coach Anthony Julius said. “We look at things week to week and we break things down that way. Obviously the kids know that the [Thanksgiving] game is coming up, but I don’t think that’s what’s on their minds right now. Their focus is on Manchester, and trying to improve on what we have been doing in spurts in the last few weeks, and trying to put together a full game from the first kick all the way to the final whistle. The kids have had a good attitude about it and they’ve worked hard in practice.”
The task at hand is not an easy one. While just 3-5 for the season, Manchester has a potent offense, led by senior quarterback Logan Tomlinson, who has completed 104 of 192 passes for 1,531 yards and 17 touchdowns, while also rushing 66 times for 427 yards and six more TDs.
Other offensive weapons for the Indians include senior running backs Elijah Ford (52 carries for 309 yards, 1 TD) and Wesley Allison (51-for-233, 6 TDs). Top receivers include senior A.J. Alibrio (24 catches for 366 yards, 8 TDs) and juniors Jaheim Carr (25-for-354, 4 TDs) and Trey West (22-for-341, 2 TDs).
“We’ve just got to be relentless effort on defense. I thought we played well defensively last week against Wethersfield and we’re hoping to carry that over,” Julius said.
“We’re going to have to play very disciplined football on both sides of the ball,” he added. “We’re going to have to execute well on the offensive side and make sure that we block the right people, and when we throw the football that we’re making the right reads and catching the ball and running the ball well.”
The key word for the night will be execution.
“A lot of it is execution. That’s the big thing that we need to do well on Friday night. And then defensively, it’s going to be making things difficult for their offense and being in the right spots and fitting in the right gaps when we’re supposed to,” Julius said.
“It’s execution on offense,” he added, “and I think it’s a team defensive effort on defense, making sure that everybody is doing their job on every single play.”
Senior wide receiver and team captain Jaden Laprise, who is injured and whose status is uncertain for tonight’s game, said the players are excited to face Manchester in the final game of the season at Bristol Eastern.
“We try and come with the same energy every game, but obviously this one means a lot to us,” he said. “I don’t think it’s really hit me yet, that it’ll be the last one here; but it’s very important, really, to get the win, as always.”
He added, “The energy’s perfect. Manchester’s a good opponent. They’re in a good class. And I think we’re always up for the challenge, and we’ll get it done.”
Julius said the team had been having a good week of practice and is ready for what should be an emotional game.
“You get to play in front of your home crowd one more time, and for our seniors it’s their last Friday night game at home for them, and that’s special for them, and hopefully we play well and we can come out on top,” he said.
Paul Angilly can be reached at 860-973-1800, or firstname.lastname@example.org