BRISTOL - With just under four minutes remaining in regulation and Bristol Eastern driving at the E.O Smith 28 yard line, Justin Marshall was again looking for Jaden Laprise deep as he had been beating the coverage all night long.
Thomas Pavliscsak read Marshall perfectly and intercepted him for a third time in the game leading to a 14-7 E.O Smith victory in the opening game for each team Friday night.
“Jaden makes big plays for us in the passing game and when you have a kid like that you try to get him the ball as much as you can,” Bristol Eastern head coach Anthony Julius said.
The opportunity was there for Bristol Eastern throughout the night to win.
“We just made too many mental mistakes,” Ariza Kolloverja said. “We need to know our assignments and we have to execute and finish the game.”
Down just one point in the fourth quarter, E.O Smith’s Kobe Stigler ripped off a 75-yard run. Following the second missed extra point, Eastern was down 14-7 and still had a slim chance but the clock was ticking.
On the final drive for Eastern, E.O Smith’s star defensive end Rondell Bothroyd had a pair of sacks to seal the game for the Panthers. While he finished with 3.5 sacks in the game, Andrew Consalvo and first-year starter Jake Dauphinee did a solid job on Bothroyd.
“Between Andrew [Consalvo] and our young right tackle Jake [Dauphinee], they did a good job,” Julius said. “We changed some protection schemes up a little bit to try to get some help against him [Bothroyd] because he’s a handful.”
In the first half, it was looking like E.O Smith was going to run away with the game.
On Bristol Eastern’s first drive, Kolloverja and Stephen Hopkins were tackled for losses and then on third down quarterback Rondell Bothroyd sacked Marshall for a loss of eight yards.
After receiving the punt from Bristol Eastern, Isaiah Rivera ran the ball at ease against the Lancers defensive line and ended the strong first drive with a seven-yard touchdown run. Following the missed extra point, E.O Smith held a 6-0 lead.
The Lancers refused to back down, though, and Marshall hooked up with Laprise on a 4th and goal. Eastern went up 7-6 following the extra point by kicker John McPhee. McPhee was a bright spot in the game for the Lancers as he made his extra point and pinned E.O Smith within its 20 yard line multiple times in the game.
“I give them a lot of credit,” E.O Smith head coach James Kelly said. “They’re a team that is getting better and played very physical.”
Eastern was taking a lot of shots downfield throughout the night.
“Deep shots wasn’t our game plan but it ended up because Jaden was running routes and beating his corner,” Marshall said. “We had the chance of throwing it deep but we couldn’t connect.”
Defensively, Trinidad Gonzalez was all over the field for Eastern. He finished with nine tackles in the game. Kolloverja had a strong showing as well on the defensive side and it was highlighted by a forced fumble, ripping the ball out of the hands of the E.O Smith receiver and Tyler Mason recovered.
Kolloverja didn’t see much action offensively but had some nice runs in his action at tailback.
“Ariza is a nice changeup for us on offense whether he’s at receiver for us or in the backfield. He did a really nice job,” Julius said.
Bristol Eastern made a few key stops on fourth down in the game defensively.
Marshall had an interception in the game.
For Eastern, there is a lot of positives to take away from this contest going into next week’s game against a tough opponent in Middletown.
“We were in position to really take advantage of things but we didn’t cash out on all of them,” Julius said. “We had big plays though. We had a lot of big plays in the passing game.”