Bobwhites fly by Tigers, 21-3
MIDDLEBURY — Visiting BFA-St. Albans earned a 21-3 victory over the Middlebury Union High School football team on Friday by having two backs rush for more than 100 yards, tackling well and recovering three of the six Tiger fumbles.
The Bobwhites improved to 5-1 in Division I and overall, good for a second-place tie with Essex behind undefeated Hartford, while the Tigers dropped to 3-3 overall, 2-3 in D-I. That league mark leaves them in an eighth-place tie with Burlington with two D-I games to go: at Colchester on Friday and vs. Champlain Valley on Oct. 19 at home.
Both the Lakers are Redhawks boast 4-2 league marks. The top eight teams in D-I will make the playoffs, which begin on Oct. 26 and 27.
The Tigers have been close to two more wins, losing a late two-touchdown lead at Essex in a one-point setback, and dropping a two-point game at home to Rutland in which they outgained the Raiders by a wide margin and also fumbled six times.
But Coach Dennis Smith said it is too late to dwell on what might have been: The Tigers must buckle down if they want to get back to the D-I title game.
“I’m confident we can play with anybody, but we need to get to there, and right now we’re not there,” he said.
Smith said the Tigers are simply making too many mistakes, something that surprised him this past Friday.
“I felt we had a great week of practice, and then the game happened, and we made a lot of mental mistakes,” he said. “There were a lot of adjustments that we needed to be making, and we weren’t making them at the correct times. And all of a sudden we’re giving up a big play … So we’ll go back and we may pare down and make things simpler and see if we can get things working.”
Smith also praised the Bobwhites, who broke open a tight game by marching 80 and 50 yards to touchdowns on their final two possessions. All of those yards were on the ground as senior backs Doug Saffo (22 carries, 120 yards) and Lucas Kelsey (18 carries, 118 yards) began to find holes in the Tiger defense.
“They’re a good team. They’re not fancy, but they just keep coming at you,” Smith said. “They wore us out and then just started popping things on us.”
BFA also scored on its first possession, with some help from MUHS. The Tigers forced a punt, but fumbled it, and BFA’s Dylan Callan recovered it at the Tiger 43. Saffo soon broke loose for a 33-yard run to the four, and two plays after that Saffo swept right to make it 6-0 at 7:50 of the first period.
BFA got no points-after: Tigers Gabe Laberge and Jakob Trautwein teamed to block Robert Kelley’s first kick, his second effort was ruined by a bad snap, and Taylor Patterson blocked the third.
Darren Callan promptly recovered another Tiger fumble to set up BFA at midfield, but the Tigers held, fielded the punt cleanly, and moved 57 yards to set up a 26-yard Josh Stearns field goal at 0:42.5. The big play in the drive was a fake punt on fourth-and-one from the BFA 40, which MUHS snapped directly to Mitchell Clarke for a 26-yard gain.
BFA held the Tigers to 12 yards in the second quarter. BFA moved the ball, but Austin Robinson’s end-zone interception of quarterback Nick Jaslowich’s pass killed one drive. Jaslowich did better on the final BFA possession, keying a late 38-yard drive with a 23-yard completion to Riley Mangan.
That march set up a 42-yard Kelley field goal as time expired, and the score was 9-3, BFA, at the half, with the Bobwhites holding a 129-74 yardage edge.
The Tigers looked ready to take the lead with their first possession of the second half. They marched 57 yards behind strong running by Trautwein and Nick Felkl and faced third and three at the BFA 13. But the Bobwhites stoned consecutive running plays and took over.
The teams exchanged three-and-outs and the Bobwhites took over on their own 20 with 1:09 to go in the third quarter, and began their first of two scoring drives. Saffo broke loose for 25- and 18-yard runs, and Kelsey carried four times for 49 yards in the march, which ended in a Saffo 1-yard run at 7:47 of the fourth to make it 15-3.
The Tigers earned two first downs behind Clarke’s running on their next drive despite having to recover their own fumbles twice. The second was more costly: It came on first-and-10 on the BFA 47. On third-and-six, a pass play just missed connecting, and on fourth down Kelsey dropped Clarke for a loss on a halfback option play.
The Bobwhites took over at midfield, ran seven rushing plays and scored on the seventh, a Kelsey 11-yard ramble at 1:26. In all, BFA outgained the Tigers, 262-187.
The Tigers were led by Clarke (eight carries, 43 yards), Trautwein (eight carries, 31 yards), Felkl (six carries, 29 yards) and Sam Smith (five carries, 25 yards). Quarterback Tyler Provencher completed two of five passes for a net of seven yards.
Coach Smith said the Tigers cannot afford not to punch the ball into the end zone when they have the chance, or to play such error-prone football, especially against teams like the Bobwhites.
“We can’t turn the ball over like we did tonight, and we were making a lot of mental mistakes adjustment-wise,” Smith said. “They made none, and we made our share. They were the better team tonight, period.”
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