BRISTOL - Anthony Julius, head coach of the Bristol Eastern football team, was anything but surprised when he looked at the Week 1 scoreboard after the Lancers’ loss in their season opener.
Newington, Eastern’s Week 2 opponent, had stunned Class L powerhouse Windsor to pick up a huge statement win. Not many outside of the Indians’ locker room and student section believed such an upset win was possible, except maybe for Julius himself.
“Coach (Jason) Pace is an excellent coach, and when we saw Newington in Passing League this year, they definitely had some athletes,” Julius said. “They played a really complete football game against Windsor. They earned that win. Windsor didn’t give it away, Newington took it from them. So we’re working really hard to be ready for them on Friday.”
Seeing the final score wasn’t enough to surprise Julius, and after watching the Indians in the film room, he was further convinced that his Week 2 opponent was for real.
“They played well up front,” Julius said. “When you’re playing teams of that caliber (like Windsor), you have to be pretty sound up front. (Quarterback Nick Pestrichello) also threw the ball very well. We knew they had athletes, but I was definitely impressed with that on film.”
Pestrichello and all-conference wide receiver Izayah Ciarcia will present a challenge for Eastern’s secondary, which is hoping to avoid giving up big plays on Friday night, especially after last week’s loss at Middletown, where the Lancers gave up a 28-yard touchdown pass and another 61-yard toss less than four minutes later to turn a close contest into a blowout.
Newington possesses similar big play potential as the Blue Dragons did, and Julius knows his defense has to be ready to sniff out any home run attempts by the Indians, who will be looking to quickly silence Eastern’s home crowd.
“Any football, no matter what level, limiting explosive plays is the key to winning,” Julius said. “It’s our job to keep them in front of us and limit those plays. That’s our goal whenever we play. We have to keep them in front of us to be successful.”
The Lancers were also victims of two explosive running plays in last week’s loss, but aside from that pair of outliers, the run defense was solid.
Julius hopes that will carry over into Friday’s matchup, when Eastern hopes to contain a Newington squad that hung 30 points on a Windsor team that allowed more than three touchdowns just once all of last season (against state juggernaut Hand).
“Our defensive front played well for the majority of the game,” Julius said of his defense’s Week 1 performance. “We obviously gave up a couple big plays, which we’re working on this week to avoid, but I think our kids are up for the challenge. The kids are excited to play in front of their home fans for our home opener.”
The Lancers are excited, but also prepared. Newington is coming off an unforgettable win, but Julius isn’t buying into the idea of an emotional hangover for the Indians. He’s ready to face Newington’s best, and it will take Eastern’s best to pull off an upset of their own on Friday night.
“I’ve known coach Pace for a long time, and I know he’s going to have his kids ready to play,” Julius said. “A lot of coaches preach going week-to-week and living in the moment, but there’s no doubt that it was an emotional win for those guys. I remember a few years ago when we knocked off Windsor here and it was a really big deal for our kids. I understand that, but I’m very sure that coach Pace will have his kids ready to play.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org