Scoring early and often, Enfield High School won its first football game in more than three years with a convincing 49-7 win over Bristol Central at the Rams home field Thursday night. It was Central’s worst loss since a 49-0 thumping at the hands of Windsor in 2013.
The Eagles led 28-7 after one period and never looked back. The contest went to a running clock with 7:24 left in the third period when the Eagles scored to go ahead by 35 points at 42-7. They added another score late in the game.
Enfield quarterback Christian Benvenuto had a career night. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. Nearly all of his big yardage came on the same slant play the Central defense seemed to have no answer for.
“They got off the bus ready to play,” coach Jeff Papazian said. “They came here ready to win and we didn’t.”
The Eagles wasted no time establishing who would be in control of this one after stopping the Rams on three quick plays to force a punt. Taking possession at this own 41, Benvenuto hit on two quick slant passes for 10 yards each to push the Eagles into Central territory. An 11-yard pass to Payton Boney set it up for Luke Arsenault to run 31 yards for his team’s first score just four minutes into the game.
Enfield recovered a fumble on the next play and two plays later Benvenuto hit Zachary Bonini with an 11 yard scoring strike to make it 14-0.
The Rams appeared ready to make a game of it when quarterback Nik Salinas found Tre Blair open in the flat and the senior made use of his speed to take it 57 yards and cut the gap to 14-7 with 6:14 left. But that would be all the Rams could muster.
Enfield scored twice more before the quarter was out, first on an 11 yard run by Arsenault and then a long 36-yard pass completion to Michael Bagley. They added another score in the second, again using the play that mystified the Central defense all night long. This one went for 41 yards from Benvenuto to Nicholas D’Onofrio.
Jameson Flynn scored the touchdown that put the game into running clock mode on an eight-yard run and added the final scored midway through the final period when he connected with Benvenuto for 45 yards on the same pass over the middle play.
“We’re lacking identity on both sides of the ball right now,” said a frustrated Papazian after the game, “and it falls on me to figure out how to fix it. We have to figure out how to put the people we have in the best possible situation for them to be successful. That’s not happening right now and it doesn’t get any easier the rest of the way.”
The Rams put up decent offensive numbers but were not able to move the ball into the red zone. The Teams were even in the rushing category with about 140 yards each, but the inability of the Central defense to stop the pass and to make tackles after catches, spelled the difference.
Salinas completed eight of 19 passes for 125 yards. Blair had four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Salinas was the leading rusher with 75 yards on 11 carries, but had very little run support from the players alongside him.
For the first time this season, the defensive numbers were not good. Central surrendered 383 total yards and seven touchdowns. That matched the output of Tolland in last seasons’ 68-50 Central win, but was the most touchdowns allowed in a losing effort since they did it twice in 2013.
The win for Enfield was the first for the Eagles since the final game of the 2019 season. They did not play in 2020 and were winless last year. They came into Thursday night’s game having lost 12 in a row and 16 of their last 17.
For the Rams, the challenge grows even larger as they wrap up the first half of the season at home against Windsor next week followed by a visit from undefeated defending Class L state champion Maloney following the bye. After Thursday night’s performance, the Rams have a lot of work to do if they hope to be competitive in those games.
Enfield 49, Bristol Central 7
At Bristol Central
Enfield (1-2) 28 7 7 7 - 49
Central (1-3) 7 0 0 0 - 7
E – Luke Arsenault, 31 run (Zachary Bonini kick), 7:55
E – Bonini, 12 pass from Christian Benvenuto (Bonini kick), 7:34
BC – Tre Blair, 57 pass from Nik Salinas (Oscar Kuzniar kick), 6:14
E – Arsenault, 11 run (Bonini kick), 3:49
E – Michael Bagley, 38 pass from Benvenuto (Bonini kick), 1:58
Nicholas D’Onofrio, 41 pass from Benvenuto (Bonini kick), 4:06
E – Jameson Flynn, 8 run (Bonini kick), 7:39
E – Jameson, 45 pass from Benvenuto (Bonini kick), 7:24
Note: Christian Benvenuto completed 10 of 14 passes for 243yards and three touchdowns.
Rushing: Enfield – Luke Arsenault 13-98, Nicholas D’Onofrio 2-3, Jameson Flynn 1-8, Christian Benvenuto 3 - -4, Ryan Valentin 3-32, Denim Lumpkins 1 - -2. BC – Nik Salinas 11 – 75, Carmelo Thompson 5 – 26, Johnny Rios 3-15, Tre Blair 1 – 2, Amari Gaskin 4 – 26, Aiden Lamarre 1 - -3.
Passing: Enfield – Christian Benvenuto10-14-0 for 243 yds and 3 TD. BC – Nik Salinas 8-19-1 for 125 yds and 1 TD.
Receiving: Enfield – Arthur D’Onofrio 2-21, Payton Bonney 2=20, Zachary Bonini 2-30.Nicholas D’Onofrio 3-99, Jameson Flynn 1 – 45. BC – Tre Blair 4-77, Cassias Breland 2-33, Carmelo Thompson 1-1, Anthony Paulino 1-14.