BRISTOL - The Bristol Eastern football team is ready to go. After a long offseason of preparation, the first game of the season is finally here for the Lancers.
Fittingly, it happens to be against the team that shut out Eastern in the opener last year, E.O Smith. That score was 21-0.
This year, the players believe it will be different. With most players returning and another offseason under their belts, another winless season would be a huge disappointment.
“It’d be huge getting that first win,” Ariza Kolloverja said. “It sets the tone and keeps everyone in check and will allow us to keep rolling.”
The first game on the schedule is one that the Lancers can win. The playmakers on offense will be a major factor in the ballgame for Eastern.
“I think we can take advantage of them on the perimeter with some of our guys being out in space and spread their defense out a little bit, making them play on islands,” head coach Anthony Julius said. “We can hit for some big plays in the running and the passing game.”
Specifically, Kolloverja and Jaden Laprise will be expected to have big games in Week 1.
“Ariza and Jaden are going to be tough matchups for everybody we play,” Julius said. “They’ve done a great job all camp long and with Justin’s [Marshall] experience back [at quarterback], he’s going to be able to help take advantage of things.”
In order for the playmakers to utilize their abilities, the offensive line must have the offseason work it put in come to fruition on the field tonight. Against a physical opponent, the Lancers will look to establish the run game early.
“We need to make sure that our line gives us a good run block,” Marshall said. “If we get a good run block, our passing game will open up and that’s how we roll.”
Defensively, Eastern is expected to be more athletic, especially on the line.
“For us, we’re going to have to be ready to match their physicality and hopefully they’re going to have to match ours,” Julius said.
The performance out of the offense in the preseason has the team feeling good about the offensive prospectus.
“Our offense has gotten better,” Laprise said. “We barely scored last year in the preseason and this year we’ve gotten in the end zone more times.”
For E.O Smith, it returns some key players including its best player, tight end/defensive end Rondell Bothroyd, a Temple University commit.
“He’s a very fast and physical tight end and defensive end and he’ll create matchup problems for us,” Julius said. “We’ll have to find a way to neutralize him,”
The Lancers will also have to account for the Panthers other playmakers on offense, including a new dual-threat quarterback will have a new quarterback under center this season that brings a different style to the field. But will have to replace some key seniors from a year ago.
“They’ve definitely lost some talent with some seniors leaving,” Kolloverja said. “Their line has pretty good size and they have decent skill players.”
With the returning players and another year with Julius, this is a great spot for Eastern to start off the season on a high note. It’s up to the line to bring the toughness and open up the field for the strength of the Lancers, playmakers.
“E.O Smith is a well coached very physical football team. They’re kind of old school,” Julius said. “They run it right at you and try to out push you and be more physical.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan