BRISTOL - After the first game of the season, Eastern looks to be a solid team.
While the first game against E.O. Smith was a loss, the coaching staff has a lot of positives to build on and not many negatives.
“The effort was real good,” Lancers head coach Anthony Julius said. “We were in position to take advantage of things.”
The offense looked overmatched in the first series against the E.O Smith defense. It was a three-and-out after two tackles for a loss and a sack by Rondell Bothroyd, the E.O. Smith defensive end who committed to Temple University.
On the ensuing possession, E.O. Smith overpowered the Eastern defensive line, driving down the field and scoring a touchdown without throwing a pass.
At that point, it seemed as if it was going to be a long night for the Lancers and that Isaiah Rivera was going to have a huge game after running for 40 yards in the first series for E.O. Smith.
But following those first two possessions, Eastern looked like a completely different team.
The offensive line held Bothroyd in check for most of the rest of the night, other than the two sacks he had in the final possession for the Lancers.
“I think they were a little shell-shocked by how quick he was for how big he is,” Julius said. “Once they got adjusted to that, I think they did a good job for us blocking.”
Both Andrew Consalvo and Jake Dauphinee had excellent performances at the tackle positions, Consalvo on the left and Dauphinee lining up on the right.
With the protection, quarterback Justin Marshall was able to make some big throws. With a fourth-and-goal presented to him, Marshall threw a dart to his favorite target in the game, Jaden Laprise.
Laprise could have had a monstrous night offensively, as he was overthrown twice after beating the coverage. Had he caught those two balls, nobody was in the way of him and the end zone.
The other playmaker for Eastern, Ariza Kolloverja, had a quiet night in the opening game. He wasn’t targeted often in the passing game, but had a big 22-yard catch to put his team right outside the red zone.
Kolloverja saw some action in the backfield and was impressive. He had a 10-yard run called back on a holding penalty, but had a couple runs of seven yards. Julius hinted that he might get more opportunities in the backfield during the next game.
For the offense, Marshall will need to be more accurate in the coming games, as he had the opportunities down the field multiple times but couldn’t deliver on them.
“We looked at our matchups and saw that we could attack them deep, so we tried to capitalize on that some,” Kolloverja said.
On the defensive side of the ball, Trinidad Gonzalez and Tyler Mason both had good games at the linebacker position. Both Gonzalez and Mason were all over the field.
The secondary also played a strong game. The passing attack for E.O. Smith was invincible for most of the night as it attacked Eastern with a power running game, rushing up the middle time after time with Rivera and then using Kobe Stifler on the outside with his speed.
Takeaways were a plus for Eastern, as it had four in the game. Capitalizing on them was an issue, however. The Lancers only scored after one of the four takeaways.
Fourth down stops were a huge positive for the defense. Eastern had stops on a fourth-and-6 as well as a fourth-and-inches.
The mental mistakes turned out to be costly for the Lancers, but with a week of film and seeing what went right and what didn’t, the improved team seen against E.O. Smith might get even better.
“We gave up too many big plays on defense,” Laprise said. “We gotta fix those and keep moving forward.”
Eastern looked good and next week against Middletown will be a nice challenge.
“We’re getting there,” Julius said. “It’s just about having confidence and getting ourselves going in the right direction.”