From the outside looking in, the main question surrounding the Bristol Central Rams heading into the upcoming season is how the team will replace the production loss from the 2021 Gatorade Connecticut Football Player of the Year, Victor Rosa.
Rosa led the team to a 9-2 record and a Class L quarterfinals appearance for the first time since 1987. He also rushed for 2,728 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Rams coach Jeffrey Papazian said there’s no replacing a player like Rosa, but he is encouraged by the team’s work ethic and commitment to proving they can still compete in the conference.
“Rosa not being here is a big storyline to the season, but other guys are stepping up,” Papazian said. “We don’t have a kid like that who will rush for almost 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns, but we have a lot of guys that can fill in and contribute.”
Papazian said the motivation for this year is simple.
He said the word is out that since Rosa graduated, Bristol Central is not going to be very good this year. He said the players hear that, the coaches hear that and they continue to remind the team of that narrative.
“We’re trying to prove people wrong on that front,” Papazian said. “Rosa is a great player, but the kids here are trying to get after it and prove that they are capable getting the job done. We’ve won here before and the expectation doesn’t change just because some kids graduate.”
This season the Rams will be leaning on returning players like Julius Powell and Treshawn Blair. Papazian said the hope and the expectation is that Bristol Central has the foundation in place as a program and from a culture standpoint to allow different players to step in without missing much of a beat.
Blair and Powell both said they feel pretty confident with the team entering the season. Blair said while the storyline is about what they will do this year, the talent that they have this year can succeed as long as they play as a team and maximize all of their different weapons.
Powell said he actually feels like they’re in a better situation than they were in last year.
“We have a lot of dedicated guys, but we just have to show them what’s right, what to do and what’s going to help us win,” Powell said. “I feel like we’re in a better position than last year. We did have a Division 1 guy, but I feel like we have more guys on the team that can help.”
Powell said last year a lot of the players were just doing their jobs and leaned on Rosa to make magic, but this year there are more guys that can contribute to winning. He said last year there was also a period where the team had to build and learn each other since they were coming off a COVID year where there was no football.
“We don’t have to go through that this year,” he said. “It’s just straight football.”
Bristol Central opens up their season at home against Manchester Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. Powell said from a player perspective the goal is to make the playoffs and to see what happens from there, but Blair, as a senior, took it a notch further.
“We’re not finished until we win a state championship,” Blair said.