BRISTOL - The Bristol Eastern football team already faced a 6-0 deficit by the time it started its first possession Friday night against Wilbur Cross, but the Lancers quickly proved their offense could also compete as they gained positive yards on their first seven plays to give themselves first and 10 with the end zone 23 yards away.
The next play appeared to be a positive one, too, as freshman quarterback Brady Brown had room to run on a keeper. After bringing the ball into the red zone and gaining approximately seven yards on the run, Brown gets hit and fumbles, giving the ball back to the Governors.
This was the first of Eastern’s four turnovers in the game, two fumbles and two interceptions, all of which came at critical moments in the game. The Lancers survived giveaways in its two wins to open the season and made an emphasis to minimize such mistakes, but they ended up being what held the team back in its first loss of the year.
“[Turnovers have] definitely been an achilles heel the last two games for us,” Julius said. “That’s something we need to get fixed or we’re not going to have the success I think we’re capable of.”
Despite the turnovers, Eastern remained competitive for the entire contest, trailing 20-12 after three quarters en route to a 28-12 loss. Better ball security from the Lancers could have made the score closer at various points in the game, but avoidable mistakes cost them points and resulted in additional points for Wilbur Cross.
With the game tied 12-12 with less than two minutes left in the second quarter, the Lancers were in search of a lead before the end of the half. Starting on their own 33-yard-line, a 20-yard run from sophomore Rayshon Andrews on a reverse put them in enemy territory.
Needing to pass, the Eastern turned to freshman quarterback Kamden Laprise, who completed his first pass on the run, but the clock continued to run as the receiver stayed in bounds. Laprise’s next pass was intercepted by Kenny Flowers and returned to Eastern’s 27-yard-line with less than a minute until halftime. The Governors capitalized quickly, connecting on a 28-yard pass in the end zone that went through the hands of an Eastern defender with 11 seconds remaining in the first half, sending the Lancers to the locker room with an eight-point deficit instead of a lead or tie.
“[Wilbur Cross is] a battle tested program,” Julius said. “The SCC is not a joke in terms of the caliber of teams they play week in and week out and we knew we were going to be in for it. Unfortunately, we didn’t play the cleanest game in terms of execution on both sides of the football [Friday night] in terms of missed tackles and turnovers. That really hurt us tonight, but I love the kids' effort. They battled all the way to the end and we just came up short, we got out-executed.”
Now trailing 28-12 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Eastern faced its last opportunities to come back. It opened its drive with the same reverse to Andrews that gained 20 yard and this one is set up to have similar, if not greater success, but Andrews loses his handle on the ball and ends up chasing it 20 yards in the wrong direction before it is recovered by Wilbur Cross.
The Governors needed just 15 yards for another touchdown, but the Lancers forced a turnover on downs. Now trying to manage the clock, Eastern moved the ball well to start its drive, starting with a 32-yard run from senior Alex Marshall. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Wilbur Cross moved the ball inside the Governors’ territory and three plays later the drive ended when Brown forced a pass into a tight window and it was intercepted.
All four of the Lancers’ turnovers were committed by two freshmen and a sophomore each playing in their third varsity game ever. Failing to protect the ball is never good, but is more likely to happen when asked to rely on such young players.
“We’re concerned about it because we have to take care of the football, that’s our number one priority,” Julius said. “A lot of it is young mistakes and hopefully as the season progresses that stuff cleans itself up and goes away. It’s something that’s emphasized and it’s something that they know. Like I told the kids at the end of the game, nobody made a turnover [Friday] on purpose. We’re out here battling, doing the best we can and unfortunately we made a couple mistakes and it cost us.”
Eastern will look to return to the win column next week on the road against Plainville (2-1) and will look to capitalize on its strengths. Despite the mistakes, the Lancers showed how good it can play offensively and defensively against a challenging opponent.
“At our best, we marched the ball up and down the field,” Julius said. “Defensively, we made some nice stops in the backfield and we did what we thought we were capable of doing. However, we made some mistakes at crucial moments and it really hurt us.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.