- COACH — JEFF PAPAZIAN (5th year, 27-13)
- CONFERENCE — CCC Division II West
- PLAYOFF CLASS — L (587 boys enrollment)
- HOME — Bristol Central Turf Field, Bristol
- 2017 RECORD — 7-3
- 2018 OPENER — Sept. 7 vs. Hartford Public, 6 p.m.
- TEAM WEBSITE
- JUSTUS FITZPATRICK, Sr, ATH (5-10, 175)
- NATE ROSA, Sr. WR (6-4, 165)
- RYAN RODRIGUEZ, Sr. TE/DL (6-4, 215)
- DARRELL PAYTON, Sr. RB/DB (5-6, 160)
- ISAK GONZALEZ, Sr. OL/DL (6-2, 225)
- JAKOB SALINAS, Soph. OL/LB (5-10, 195)
- JOSE NAVEDO, Sr. WR/DB (5-8, 170)
QB/DB Dathan Hickey (Yale), LB Mike Guzman (Springfield), C/DT Gabe Updegraff (Western New England), SS Isaiah Miller (Wesleyan), T/DE Alex Lape.
Bristol Central’s M.O. last year was simple, put the ball in Dathan Hickey’s hands and watch things happen.
The consensus first-team All-State star didn’t disappoint, rushing for 1,402 yards and 30 touchdowns while passing for another 482 yards and three scores as Bristol Central earned its fourth-consecutive winning season.
Alas, the state didn’t get to see Hickey and his teammates in action in the playoffs. The Rams finished just out of the running for a Class L playoff spot for what must seem to Bristol Central fans like the umpteenth time since last qualifying (and winning it all) way back in 1987.
Hickey parlayed his field heroics (not to mention his intelligence) into a budding career at Yale. A number of last year’s starters have also moved onto college.
But 11 total starters (five on offense, six on defense) return to continue the program’s quest of that elusive state playoff berth.
“Dathan was certainly a dynamic player and did some really great things for us, as well as our really good senior class,” fifth-year coach Jeff Papazian said. “That being said, we have got quite a few guys returning with decent experience, a lot of older guys who have been stuck behind the starters for a year or two, champing at the bit.
“People like to throw the word ‘rebuild’ around and I think it’s lousy to use when you talk about high school sports. I’ve got a group of seniors here who don’t want to hear anything about ‘rebuilding.'”
Central will look to Justus Fitzpatrick, an All-CCC playmaker in his own right who played receiver and corner last year, to spell Hickey this season. The elusive and speedy senior is already dangerous with the ball in his hands and, Papazian said, has been working hard in the offseason to strengthen his throwing ability.
“He’s athletic, he’s definitely going to be a running threat that we always seem to have, even before Dathan,” Papazian said. “We’ll play to his strengths and use that athleticism.”
He’ll have plenty of options with the return of tall receiver Nate Rosa and Jose Navedo — among others — in the receiving corps. Senior Darrell Payton returns at tailback after posting a strong, second half of 2017 to earn All-CCC honors.
“For not being overly big in stature, he sure runs hard,” Papazian said. “He’s got really good balance and he’s really good at finding a crease and making a lot out of it.
“We’re hoping with him back, and all of the skill guys we have returning, we should be able to mix things up a bit.”
Central’s main concern on offense is replacing four of five offensive linemen. Seniors Isak Gonzalez and Austin Collins will anchor a group has been itching to make its mark after patiently waiting their turn. “They’ll have to be ready,” said Papazian, who said the O-line will consist of a mix of three seniors and two sophomores. “We need these guys to step up. They’ll be all right and they’ll get better as the season goes.”
On the defensive side, Central will revolve around the play of sophomore — yes, sophomore — linebacker Jakob Salinas, who played and was an All-CCC pick as a freshman. “Clearly, he’s the anchor of the whole thing for us,” Papazian said. “He was a really good player for us as a freshman and he’s going to be even better for the next three seasons.”
Gonzalez and senior Ryan Rodriguez return to man the edges on the defensive line. Papazian said the defensive secondary, manned by many of the same skill players from the offensive side, is athletic and relatively deep.
There won’t be a ton of time to figure it all out. The Rams kick off the season at home vs. Hartford Public, and then play four-consecutive games against the CCC Division II’s contenders — at Windsor, at Wethersfield, Middletown and Maloney. That stretch will determine what this team’s about.
- Sept. 7 — HARTFORD PUBLIC*, 6 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — at Windsor*, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 21 — at Wethersfield**, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 — MIDDLETOWN*, 6 p.m.
- Oct. 12 — MALONEY**, 6 p.m.
- Oct. 19 — at Newington**, 6:30 p.m.
- Oct. 26 — at Capital Prep/Achievement, 7 p.m.
- Nov. 2 — PLATT**, 6 p.m.
- Nov. 10 — at East Catholic*, 1:30 p.m.
- Nov. 22 — vs. Bristol Eastern** (at Muzzy Field), 10:30 a.m.
Home games in CAPS