Bristol Eastern gets back on track behind potent running game

Published on Saturday, 23 October 2021 00:00
Written by MATT HORNICK

@MNHornick

MANCHESTER - Losing consecutive one possession games was a difficult burden for the Bristol Eastern football team to carry into its bye week. Believing their record could, if not should, be better left the players with disappointment after starting the season 2-0.

The Lancers were a few mistakes away from having a winning record halfway through the season and channeled that frustration into practice during their week off before facing East Catholic on Thursday night. They arrived in Manchester revitalized to turn their season around and proved it on the field, running for more than 400 yards as a team and outplaying the Eagles for 48 minutes en route to a 38-18 win.

Eastern’s record is now up to 3-3 this season after running through East Catholic and the team feels reset with four games remaining on their schedule.

“We lost a couple really close ones where a couple of breaks go our way and maybe it’s a different story,” Eastern head coach Anthony Julius said. “I’m extremely excited for the kids to get a W tonight, get ourselves back to .500 and kind of restart the season for us.”

The Lancers could not ask for a game to go better than this. They ran the ball effectively whenever they wanted to with several different ball carriers and built an early lead, which they were then able to protect with the same rushing attack and sound defense.

Eastern’s success on the ground displayed quality play from all 11 offensive players on the field. In addition to their talented rushers, each of the Lancers blockers won their matchups repeatedly and opened wide holes to run through. Eastern’s runner’s consistently reached the second level of the defense before getting touched, which allowed them the space to extend their runs even further with swift cuts.

“When you have a back of the caliber that Alex Marshall is, it makes play calling a little bit easier,” Julius said. “You have to credit the linemen and the tight ends and the receivers [whose] stalk blocking down the field was tremendous. Jeremy Kolloverja sprung two long touchdown runs. Jeremy is just an unselfish player, does anything we ask him to do and does it very well. I’m very proud of what the offense and what the offensive line was able to do.”

Marshall led the way with 217 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries (eight yards per carry average), but the Lancers had four players run for at least 50 yards, three of whom broke runs of more than 40 yards.

Turnovers, both running and passing, became a serious problem for Eastern during its losing streak, with most of the giveaways coming on the opposing team’s side of the field. Despite being his team’s workhorse, Marshall entered the bye week with red-zone fumbles in consecutive games. This week, he anchored a clean performance from his team that featured no turnovers and six total rushing touchdowns.

“It shows our team can overcome adversity sometimes,” Marshall said. “We fixed a lot of the small mistakes that ended up making us lose all these games. It felt really good for everyone to get back on track with a really dominant performance.”

This win was a nearly perfect display of how the Lancers want to play their games. After playing solid defense for most of the first half and scoring three touchdowns behind 154 yards from Marshall, they started the second half with the ball and an eight-point lead. From there, their preference would have been to take their time moving the ball up the field to take as much time off the clock, but Eastern ran for huge gains naturally because the holes in East Catholic’s defense were so large.

Sophomore wide receiver Rayshon Andrews scored on the first play of the third quarter, taking a reverse 65 yards to the end zone after no one on the Eagles had the angle to catch him.

“When you have a player with the dynamic speed that Rayshon Andrews has, we scored a little faster than we thought we were going to in the second half, but I’m never going to complain about explosive plays,” Julius said. “I’m happy for him, he works hard, he’s a great player so I was excited to see him get in the end zone.”

The Lancers are going to live and die with their running game every week, but they do not expect it to come as easily in every game. Marshall eclipsed 200 yards for the fourth time this season despite every opposing defense expecting him to get the ball on almost every play. The last four teams they have to play this year will pose greater challenges at the line of scrimmage for Marshall and his blockers, but it is yet to work for anyone else so Eastern has no reason to stop.

The next team to take a shot at stopping Marshall will be South Windsor (3-2) on Oct. 29 in Bristol when Easter gets to bring it newfound energy home for the first time in pursuit of another win.

“We’re going to have more confidence going into next week,” Marshall said. “We’re going to keep working on those small mistakes, we still made some obviously, they wouldn’t have scored if we didn’t make mistakes.”

Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or mhornick@bristolpress.com.



Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol Eastern on Saturday, 23 October 2021 00:00. Updated: Saturday, 23 October 2021 00:02.