BRISTOL - The running game will be the Bristol Eastern football teamâ€™s focus on both sides of the ball as the Lancers get ready to face Platt on Friday night.
Eastern starting running back Alex Marshall was held to just 64 yards on the ground in last weekâ€™s 54-14 loss to Farmington, with 34 of his yards coming on one rush. Marshallâ€™s performance was the main contribution to the Lancersâ€™ 116 yards of total offense against the Indians.Â
Eastern head coach Anthony Julius said his offense needs to refind its run game if it wants to be successful on offense.
â€śFor a good portion of the year weâ€™ve had some pretty good consistency running the football,â€ť Julius said. â€śWe havenâ€™t had that consistency the past two weeks. Weâ€™d like to obviously get back to that to help out our passing game, loosen some things up for us and get some more [defenders] in the box to allow our quarterback and receivers to make some big plays in the passing game.â€ť
A resurgence running the ball is exactly what the Lancersâ€™ passing attack needs going forward as quarterback Bryce Curtin looks to rebound from a seven turnover game (3 interceptions, 4 fumbles).
Julius said the coaching staff has worked with Curtin on protecting the ball this week, but the blame does not fall entirely on his quarterback for the teamâ€™s offensive struggles and those turnovers.
â€śBryce is a tough kid,â€ť Julius said. â€śAny time the team struggles on offense, everybody looks to the quarterback all the time and thatâ€™s not always the case. Thereâ€™s a lot that goes into it [such as] the receivers running the right route and catching the ball, the offensive linemen making their blocks properly and then stuff falls on the quarterback as well.
â€śFor us itâ€™s a matter of just getting back out here at practice trying to stay in rhythm, good repetition getting on the same page with him and the receivers. Weâ€™re looking forward to a good performance from our skill group on Friday.â€ť
The Lancersâ€™ main focus on defense will be the running back across from them, as they gear up to face Platt workhorse Roberto Salas, who has 1,290 rushing yards and eight touchdowns through seven games this season and is averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
Salas has run for over 100 yards in every game this year, including a season-high 264 against Newington on Oct. 12, and was kept out of the end zone for the first time last week.
â€śDefensively, we have to get back to stopping the run well,â€ť Julius said. â€śIn our last two losses thatâ€™s not something that weâ€™ve done very well, itâ€™s definitely been a point of emphasis the last week of practice. Hopefully we see that improvement on Friday.
â€śTheir offense has been a lot of the tailback, whoâ€™s a good player, for good reason and theyâ€™re pretty solid up front, so for us itâ€™s always about stopping the run first, thatâ€™s what we want to be able to hang our hat on as a defense, so we need to make sure we do that very well on Friday.â€ť
Another area where Eastern will need to be better is converting on third down. Julius reiterated the importance of succeeding on early downs to make third down easier on the offense.
â€śA lot of times third down comes down to first down for us,â€ť Julius said. â€śIf we end up with a negative play on first down, typically it puts us in a long yardage situation on third and itâ€™s just something we havenâ€™t been great at all year.
â€śSo for us, itâ€™s about getting ourselves into manageable third down situations when they occur; and if we could do that by staying positive on first and second down to give us those short yardage opportunities on third down, we feel weâ€™re going to have more success to convert those.â€ť
Julius added, â€śPlatt is historically a good football program. It seems that year in and year out theyâ€™re competitive, theyâ€™re physical, theyâ€™re fast, so from a standpoint of Xâ€™s and Oâ€™s theyâ€™re well prepared every week. So weâ€™re going to have to be on our A game on Friday. We expect them to show up ready to play and we need to obviously match that.â€ť
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or