BRISTOL - Nick Pestrichello threw three touchdown passes and the Newington defense shut down the Bristol Central offense in the second half to lead the Indians to a 21-16 win over the Rams before a sparse crowd Friday night at Bristol Central.
The Rams held a one-point lead at the half, but Pestrichello connected twice in the third period to spark the Indians to a 21-8 lead. Central scrambled for a late touchdown to cut the lead to five points but Pestrichello ran for a big yard on fourth and one with just under two minutes left to allow his team to retain possession and run out the clock and hold on to the win.
Newington improved to 6-2 overall, 3-1 in the CCC Division II-West. The Rams dropped to 4-4 and 1-3 in divisional play. Coupled with Wethersfield’s loss to Maloney, the Newington win keeps the Indians alive for a share of the divisional title if they can defeat the Eagles on the night before Thanksgiving. The loss drops the Rams out of the divisional title picture.
Friday’s win also moved Newington into sixth place in the CIAC Class L tournament rankings, ahead of Wethersfield. All four of the teams that Central has lost to this year are now in the top eight in the Class L rankings.
Central celebrated the return of quarterback Victor Rosa with a big early touchdown and the defense made that score stand up through the first half. Rosa, who had 163 yards rushing on 18 carries, broke through the Newington line and raced 63 yards for a score late in the opening period. Shawn Rodriguez added the two point conversion.
The Indians moved the ball, but couldn’t find the endzone until late in the half. A fumble at the one yard line ended the first Newington drive and the Rams forced a punt on the next possession.
Early in the second period, John Amaning came up with a couple of big gains to move the Indians deep into Central territory and then Pestrichello took over, first connecting for 18 yards to Gunnar Johnson to bring the Indians into the red zone and then hitting Johnson again on a corner route for a nine yard touchdown. A.J. Ferreira kicked the extra point to bring Newington to within one and that’s the way it stood at halftime as neither team was able to move the ball.
The Indians got the second half kickoff and put together their longest drive of the night, marching 66 yards in ten plays with Pestrichello hitting Johnson again on the same corner route for a 13 yard scoring strike to take the lead for good with 7:55 left in the third period.
They made it 21-8 when Pestrichello found Keenan Esau in the corner for a 20-yard score with 1:30 left in the third.
The Rams struggled to get an offense going for most of the second half and had a scare at the start of the final period when Rosa had to sit for a few plays after taking a hard hit on the final play of the third quarter.
With Rosa back under center, the Rams put together a scoring drive to make it close after Galen Hickey picked up a big 15-yard gain to pull his team from deep in its own territory and Tre Jones found a seam down the sideline to go 37 yards to the Newington 18.
Rosa hit Rodriguez twice, first for an 11 yard completion and then with a seven yard scoring strike. Rosa’s two point conversion run brought the Rams to within striking distance with 3:21 to play, but the Rams never got the ball back after an onside kick attempt failed to go 19 yards.
The big play for Newington came with just under two minutes left when Pestrichello plunged into the middle of the line on fourth and one and just managed to get the nose of the ball over the line to gain to retain possession. Central did not have enough time outs left to keep the time from ticking away and the Indians held on to the win.
“That was two pretty good teams really going at it for most of the night,” said Central coach Jeff Papazian. “They played pretty hard. We played pretty hard. They made a couple of big plays in the end and we didn’t. But if you had told me (Thursday) that we would hold a team like that to 21 points, I’d say we’ll take it. That’s a very good team that has run a high scoring offense all season and our defense did a pretty good job of containing them.”
“Unfortunately our offense kind of got bottled up in the second half,” he added. “We scrambled for that last one, but there were too many times when we had three and out and that forced us to leave the defense out there a little too long. In the end they were able to take advantage of that.”
Pestrichello completed nine of 13 passes for 126 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Newington offense. He also rushed for 46 yards, but it was Amaning who carried the brunt of the offense for the Indians, with a strong running attack, often pushing the pile for extra yards as he rushed for 140 yards on 25 carries.
Rosa, who missed the second half of the Platt game and all of last week’s contest with a hip injury, returned to action for the Rams with a big night and figured in 14 of his team’s 16 points. In addition to his 163 rushing yards, he completed two passes for 18 yards and a touchdown. Jones also had a big night with a season high five carries for 67 yards including the 37 yard run that set up the final score.
“We’re going to take the next few days to take a long look at what went wrong tonight and try to figure out why,” said Papazian. ”I’m sure a good part of it will be that Newington is a very good team, but I think we are, too, and we have to get it in gear for those final two games.”
The Rams host Conard in the home finale next week before taking on Eastern on Thanksgiving morning.
Newington 21, Bristol Central 16
At Bristol Central
Newington 0 7 14 0 - 21
Bristol Central 8 0 0 8 - 16
BC – Victor Rosa, 63 run (Shawn Rodriguez run), 3:12
N – Gunnar Johnson, 9 pass from Nick Pestrichello (A.J. Ferreira kick), 5:57
N – Johnson, 13 pass from Pestrichello (Ferreira kick), 7:55
N – Keenan Esau, 20 pass from Pestrichello (Ferreira kick), 1:30
BC – Rodriguez, 7 pass from Rosa (Rosa run), 3:21
Rushing: Newington – John Amaning 25-140, Nick Pestrichello 9-46. Bristol Central – Victor Rosa 18-163, Shawn Rodriguez 5-7, Tre Jones 5-67, Galen Hickey 10-24.
Passing: Newington – Pestrichello 9-13-0 for 126 yds. Bristol Central – Rosa 2-10-0 for 18 yds.
Receiving: Newington – Gunnar Johnson 5-57, Keenan Esau 3-29, John Amaning 1-35. Bristol Central – Shawn Rodriguez 2-18.