COACH — JEFF PAPAZIAN (6th year, 32-18)
CONFERENCE — CCC Division II West
PLAYOFF CLASS — L (614 boys enrollment)
HOME — Bristol Central Turf Field, Bristol
2018 RECORD — 5-5
2019 OPENER — Sept. 13 vs. E.O. Smith, 6 p.m.
TEAM WEBSITES — Bristol Central HS | Maxpreps
QB/DB Justus Fitzpatrick (AIC), TE/DL Ryan Rodriguez (AIC), WR Nate Rosa (WENU), OL/DL Austin Collins.
After a rough start to the season, Bristol Central pulled off its biggest victory of the 2018 season, nipping Class L playoff contender Platt, 21-20, at home. But just a week later, the excitement had all been swept away.
Bristol Central called a meeting of parents to announce they’d used an ineligible player — a kicker who’d come over from the soccer team at midseason, which is prohibited — self-reported it to the CIAC and forfeited its victory over Platt and a 28-7 win over Capital Prep/Achievement First.
Regardless, the Rams salvaged the season with two wins to finish 5-5, including a satisfying 24-19 victory over rival Eastern in the Battle of the Bell.
A good chunk of starters return from last year’s squad — five on offense, including three offensive linemen, and another six on defense.
The Rams are, once again, looking for new playmakers, especially with the graduation of All-State QB/DB Justus Fitzpatrick, who made the team go.
But coach Jeff Papazian doesn’t seem too concerned. He calls this year’s group “talented, athletic and young.”
For starters, receivers Galen Hickey (who’s older brother Dathan was a first-team all-state player now at Yale) and Ian Staubley return to the starting lineup after injuries curtailed their junior seasons.
Their presence should help offset the loss of receiver Nate Rosa, and has allowed sophomore Victor Rosa, an All-CCC receiver as a freshman, a chance to move over and assume the quarterback position.
Other receivers include juniors D’Ante Ross, Jorge Dejesus and Peter Nizielski. Sophomore Jarrett Boxley will also be in the mix, the coach said.
Papazian has a pair of juniors, Shawn Rodriguez and Orlando Baldwin vying for the primary running back job.
“We’re young, although several key players have played significant minutes as freshmen and sophomores,” Papazian said.
Papazian can at least rely on his defense, which was solid while allowing 178 points last season. Junior linebacker Jacob Salinas returns, as does sophomore Dan Lauretti, who started 10 games at defensive tackle as a freshman.
Staubley and Hickey’s return will bolster the secondary, which also took a hit with the loss of Fitzpatrick.
Bristol Central must navigate a minefield of potential playoff-caliber teams. They kick off the season vs. E.O. Smith and face Class L finalist Maloney in Week 2 before traveling to face Masuk in their Scheduling Alliance game.
After that, it’s a who’s who of top CCC squads, including Windsor on Oct. 4, always tough Wethersfield and Platt, a playoff team last season.
“We want to play hard and be competitive every week,” Papazian said.
Sept. 13 — E.O. SMITH,* 6 p.m.
Sept. 20 — at Maloney,** 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 — at Masuk, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 — WINDSOR,* 6 p.m.
Oct. 11 — WETHERSFIELD,** 6 p.m.
Oct. 25 — at Platt,** 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 — at RHAM,* 7 p.m.
Nov. 8 — NEWINGTON,** 6 p.m.
Nov. 15 — CONARD,* 6 p.m.
Nov. 28 — at Bristol Eastern** (at Muzzy Field), 10:30 a.m.