BRISTOL - It took less than 30 seconds for the Bristol Eastern football team to ignite its home fans at Alumni Field.
Senior wide receiver Jaden Laprise took the first pass of the game, a screen pass, 66 yards navigating through the E.O. Smith defense to score the first touchdown of the season for the Lancers.
But the momentum shifted to the Panthers in a hurry and the ensuing point after conversion was the only other point Bristol Eastern could put on the board in its season-opening 23-7 loss to E.O. Smith on Friday night.
“We really lost the field position battle tonight,” Bristol Eastern head coach Anthony Julius said. “E.O. had us pinned down most of the night. They had a lot of drives that didn’t necessarily result in points but they flipped the field on us a lot. The whole first half I don’t know if we got outside the 20-yard line. We just couldn’t really get it going again and that’s on me as a play caller.”
Lancers starting quarterback Justin Marshall was under duress all night long facing pressure from the Panthers defensive line.
Marshall was sacked five times in the game and faced pressure most of the night with little time to throw. He avoided multiple sacks as well with his ability to get out of the pocket and make defenders miss.
“If you can extend the play it makes it harder for the corners to stay on,” Marshall said. “If you extend the play you can either take off and run or you can just hit them deep.”
Bristol Eastern was rotating Simon Gonzales, Dylan Brown and Carlos Wehbe in on the left side of the offensive line and E.O. Smith junior defensive end Isiah Lovell had his way with multiple sacks.
“We had a tough night,” Marshall said. “We got to move our feet and just keep putting in the work. We need to be faster off the ball and be ready.”
E.O. Smith’s Kobe Stigler was the playmaker coming in and slowing him down was an emphasis for the Lancers but Stigler was too much to handle. He was all over the field on the offensive side of the football, showing his ability to both catch the ball, run the ball in open space and also run in between the tackles more than he did in the matchup between the two last year.
Stigler had 187 yards from scrimmage on offense and capped it off with a 55-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, which put the Lancers down two scores with time not in their favor.
“He’s a great player and great players make great plays,” Julius said. “The defense kept us in it for awhile but when you’re on the field for what felt like three quarters of the game, eventually things are going to break down on you.”
Bristol Eastern junior Dylan Garcia had a strong game on defense highlighted by a sack of E.O. Smith quarterback Jaidin Glidden, forcing a fumble out of Stigler and some open field tackles preventing extended plays.
“Dylan showed a lot of hustle,” Julius said. “He’s a strong kid and he did a lot of good things for us tonight. We just have to continue to get better playing team defense.”
Short yardage situations challenged the Lancers defense, especially when E.O. Smith’s fullback William Tharp got the ball in them.
On the Panthers first drive of the game they converted on a pair of fourth downs with two yards to gain. Sharp converted the first one and the second one he ran in for E.O. Smith’s first touchdown of the game.
“They converted on a lot of short yardage situations tonight and we didn’t really win first downs tonight on either side of the ball,” Julius said. “It seemed that they were in short yardage situations and we were in long yardage situations so we’ll go back, look at the film and get these kids coached up and the good thing is these things don’t quit.”
E.O. Smith combined to run for 256 yards in the game and the Lancers couldn’t figure out an answer.
Bristol Eastern will look to bounce back next Friday night against Middletown at 6:30 on the Lancers home field.
E.O. Smith 23, Bristol Eastern 7
At Bristol Eastern
E.O. Smith (1-0) 7 2 7 14 - 7
Bristol Eastern (0-1) 7 0 7 3 - 35
BE - Jaden Laprise 66 pass from Justin Marshall (Jack Bachand kick), 11:39
E - William Tharp 2 run (Austin Turkis kick), 5:00
E - Safety, 10:50
E - Kobe Stigler 55 pass from Jaidin Glidden (Austin Turkis kick), 11:04
E - Matt Jameson 38 run (Austin Turkis kick), 5:57
Rushing - Bristol Eastern: Jaden Laprise 2-14, Dylan Garcia 3-11, Justin Marshall 2-16, Matt D’Amato 8-10, Bryce Curtin 1-0. E.O. Smith: Kobe Stigler 18-129, Jaidin Glidden 10-63, Matt Jameson 3-44-TD, William Tharp 6-20-TD.
Passing - Bristol Eastern: Marshall 7-86-TD, Glidden 11-17-150-TD
Receiving: Bristol Eastern: Laprise 2-71-TD, Curtin 3-17, D’Amato 1-6, Garcia 1- (-8). E.O. Smith: Stigler 2-58-TD, Mehki Hayden 4-43, Justin Habakangas 1-1, John Benevides 2-20, Jameson, 1-11, Javon Baker 1-17.