Otter Valley football tramples Poultney
BRANDON — The Otter Valley Union High School football team on Saturday took another step toward its best season since winning the Division IV title in 2005, thumping visiting D-III rival Poultney, 48-20, to improve to 4-1.
The Otters’ record includes a 3-0 mark within D-II, and they are the only D-III team without a league loss. They are in position for a top seed, with earlier victories over D-III’s two one-loss teams, Mill River and Fairfax, and games remaining this Saturday at home vs. Winooski (2-4) and on Oct. 18 at Oxbow (1-5).
Yes, said OV senior quarterback John Winslow after Saturday’s rain-soaked win over the Blue Devils, the Otters believe in themselves — but they won’t lose sight of their bigger goals.
“We are confident. We’ve just got to take it week by week. We can’t look too far ahead and that’s pretty much the biggest thing now,” Winslow said. “We don’t take any team lightly.”
Really, the Otters weren’t satisfied with their performance on Saturday. Penalties hurt them, and Poultney back Zack Constantine broke loose for an early 79-yard run to set up a touchdown that allowed the Blue Devils to knot the score at 6-6.
But the Otters also ground out 402 yards rushing, with junior tailback Carson Leary (226 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries) leading the way.
Winslow said an offensive line led by senior Adam Sherwin and the backfield of Leary, Brent Nickerson (14 carries, 67 yards, two TDs) and Jove Bautista (nine attempts, 61 yards) offset the errors.
“The line of scrimmage is always where things happen,” Winslow said. “We made some stupid mistakes today, but we made up for it with a couple good backs. Carson Leary was tearing it up, with guys on his back. That’s what really set the tone.”
Coach Jim Hill enjoyed the fact that OV sent its homecoming crowd home happy, but expects his team to show the same discipline down the stretch it showed in its big win the week before over D-II Milton.
“We’ve got to clean up the mistakes we made. We had some bad penalties again today. We’ve got to clean that up. It seems like every week we have costly penalties that kill drives, and come playoff time you can’t have that,” Hill said. “We’ve got to get better.”
On the plus side, the Otters topped 42 points for the fifth straight game, and wasted little time getting started. Robertas Nielsen returned a short opening kickoff 35 yards to the Poultney 34, and five plays later it was 6-0. Winslow, who finished six of 15 for 81 yards passing, threw effectively before the rain worsened and completed two passes on the march, one for 21 yards to Nielsen and then a 12-yard scoring strike to Josef Scarborough on third-and-seven at 10:04.
Poultney answered after Constantine (12 carries, 110 yards) bolted up the middle 79 yards to the OV 4. Three plays later, QB Alex Wade tossed a three-yard scoring pass to towering end Sam White, and it was 6-6.
That was about the only success Poultney had through the air: Three Blue Devil passers finished two of 12 for 13 net yards and threw interceptions to Winslow, Scarborough and Bautista. The Devils also finished with just 126 yards of offense in the half and 177 for the game.
On the next play from scrimmage, Leary bolted 79 yards, shedding tacklers, for a touchdown, and William Ross caught a deflected conversion pass to make it 14-6.
On the next OV possession Winslow’s 20-yard pass to Ross on third-and-seven kept the drive alive, and Leary finished it by rambling 37 yards — with help from Ross’s pancake block downfield — for another score. Sherwin powered in the extra points, and it was 22-6 with 1:39 to go in the first quarter.
Hill said Leary is not only six-foot-two inches tall and 215 pounds, but also has been timed at 4.6 seconds for 40 yards.
“Carson does that every week,” Hill said of his effort on Saturday. “He’s the fastest kid on the team, too. It’s not that he’s just a big, strong kid.”
OV added two scores in the second quarter. Winslow dodged what seemed like half the Poultney team after going back to pass and turned the play into a 33-yard TD run at 7:33. After Scarborough’s interception, OV took over at the Poultney 27, and Nickerson bolted in from there on a counter play. Winslow ran in the conversion; he was the holder and picked up a bad snap, and it was 36-6 at the half.
Poultney scored to open the second half, moving 70 yards on the ground with many OV subs on the field. Vincent Kendall punched the score in from the 1.
OV answered with 59-yard drive highlighted by a 41-yard Leary run on a second-and-33 play. That run followed a curious personal foul call on Leary — he was flagged for throwing a hard, but clean, block on a player that the official said did not have a chance to make a tackle on a scrambling Winslow. Leary treated several Devils like bowling pins on that run and then capped the drive with a nine-yard dash to make it 42-14.
The teams traded TDs in the fourth. Winslow’s interception and a legitimate personal foul call put OV on the Poultney 38, and soon after Nickerson scored from the 16. Later, Kendall blocked a Winslow punt, and White picked it up and ran about 10 yards to cap the scoring.
Now, Hill said, the Otters have to focus on the finish line.
“We’ve got a good thing going. We’ve just got to keep it going,” Hill said. “Talent-wise, we’re right there. We could win Division III this year.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]
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