Unbeaten Tiger football clobbers Colchester 34-0
MIDDLEBURY — The Colchester football team came to Doc Collins Field on Friday night with the same 2-0 record as Middlebury Union High School and hopes of taking over first place in Division I.
But the Lakers left with a 34-0 loss, while the defending D-I champion Tigers won their 14th straight game and became one of only two undefeated league teams — 2-0 St. Johnsbury, idle this past weekend, is the other.
In their home opener, the Tigers may also have answered one of their few question marks. Earlier opponents Essex and Hartford had some success moving the ball on the ground. But the Lakers managed just 120 yards on 39 carries.
Tiger senior quarterback and safety Austin Robinson said film study plus motivation equaled good results.
“We’ve been giving up some more yards these past two games than we were used to giving up last year. But we knew it was the home opener. It was time to buckle down and play some Tiger defense,” Robinson said. “We just prepared, prepared, prepared all week.”
Colchester managed only two plays from scrimmage of more than nine yards, a 14-yard run by fullback Grant Cummings and a 12-yard run by halfback Dakota Navari, who led the Lakers with 48 yards on 11 attempts.
MUHS coach Dennis Smith said “subtle mistakes” had led to some of the rushing yardage in previous weeks, and those can get cleaned up as the season progresses. He also said he expects teams to gain a some yards against the Tigers.
“I never had a doubt on our defense,” Smith said. “We bend, but don’t break. That’s our philosophy. Don’t give up a big one. Make them earn it.”
Offensively, the Tigers scored on their first play from scrimmage, a counter play that senior halfback Bobby Ritter broke for 57 yards after he got good blocking and made a couple cuts near the line of scrimmage.
The Tigers briefly bogged down after that, however, as Robinson was tacked for a couple losses trying to run the option. The MUHS attack didn’t really start to roll until Robinson started giving the ball more often to junior fullback Cortland Fischer (10 carries, 72 yards).
Robinson took responsibility.
“I was pulling the ball when I should have been giving it,” Robinson said. “The line was blocking it. As soon as I started giving it, you could see the fullback breaking off 10 yards every time.”
The Tigers scored to make it 14-0 on their fourth possession after a 48-yard Robinson punt return — helped by a huge block by senior Justin Stone — put them on the Laker 35. But they needed a 15-yard facemask penalty to keep the drive alive and get a first down on the Laker 16. Then, Fischer got the ball for just the second time and burst up the middle for the score at 11:15 of the second period. Nathan Lalonde’s second point-after made it 14-0.
On the Tigers’ next possession, they moved 80 yards for a TD. Big plays on the drive were senior back Cullen Hathaway’s 42-yard run on another counter play and Robinson’s 14-yard sweep from the Laker 22. On third down from the seven, Robinson tossed to Hathaway on the goal line, and he leaped high for the TD grab at 4:20.
The Lakers closed the first half by reaching the Tiger 36, but a sack by Nick Beauchamp and Stone and a seven-yard loss on a pass from QB Justin Evans to Travis Boutin ended the threat.
MUHS padded the lead by moving 70 yards on six plays to open the second half. Fischer ran twice for 25 yards, Ritter (five carries, 82 yards) ran for 13, and MUHS scored from 30 yards out when Hathaway caught a Robinson pass behind the Laker defense along the left sideline. Robinson finished three for five for 56 yards, enough, he said, to give opponents something to think about.
“That just shows teams they have to prepare for the pass,” Robinson said. “They can’t just put everyone up in there and not expect us to throw it over the top.”
The Lakers got their best chance to score when Navari returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards to the Tiger 9, with senior Connor Quinn saving the TD by hauling him down. On third down from the 7, Stone, a defensive end, stripped the ball from Cody Turner on a reverse and rambled to the MUHS 48.
The Tigers scored again after a bad snap on a punt cost the Lakers 34 yards and set MUHS up on the Laker 7 early in the fourth. Hathaway scored his third TD on the next play.
The Lakers later reached the Tiger 28, but Oakley Gordon intercepted Evans to end that drive.
In all, the Tigers gained 292 yards, 236 on the ground behind the line of senior tackles Lucas Plouffe and James Ploof senior guard Calvin Desforges and junior guard Bruce Wright, and junior center Wyatt Laberge.
Smith said he saw progress.
“We’re getting better every week,” Smith said. “I just felt we played well. We came out ready to play tonight.”
Robinson also said he feels encouraged about the Tigers’ prospects.
“We’re feeling really good. It’s a different team from last year,” he said. “It’s unique, but we have that same special feel we had last year, and we want to do big things, but it’s one week at a time.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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