Tigers fall behind, then clobber CVU, 54-6

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Union High School running back Bobby Ritter wanted to talk about Ashton Bates, Bruce Wright, Lucas Plouffe, Calvin Desforges and Chris Grier on Friday after the No. 1 Tigers had dispatched No. 8 Champlain Valley, 54-6, in a Division I quarterfinal.
Ritter ran for 216 yards on just six carries, including three touchdowns on counter plays of 93, 31 and 29 yards. He pointed out he was virtually untouched on those scoring rambles: Anyone, Ritter said, could have run through the holes he saw.
“Our offensive line is unbelievable. Those guys are ridiculous. Every time I touch the ball it’s wide open,” Ritter said. 
Two of the linemen, Bates at center and Grier at tackle, stepped into the lineup when starters Wyatt Laberge and James Ploof went down with injuries.
Coach Dennis Smith said the team did not miss a beat.
“I’ve got guys that are ready to play football,” Smith said. “There was never any issue of who was going to be the next one in.”
Ploof could be back this Friday, when No. 5 Colchester, a 26-21 winner on Friday at No. 4 Rutland will visit. The Tigers blanked the 7-2 Lakers at MUHS this fall, 34-0. The Lakers threw only four passes at Rutland, and MUHS will have to defend the run.
Ritter said they would be prepared, but not overconfident.
“We’re approaching practice the same way we always have, watching film and going through our weekly routine and making sure we’re focusing on our next opponent and continuing to stay level-headed,” he said.
The Tigers got off to a slow start against the 3-6 Redhawks this past Friday. CVU got more than half of its 80 total yards of offense on its opening drive. A 43-yard keeper by quarterback Andrew Bortnick put the ball on the one, and Richard Lowery punched it in at 10:34. The first of several CVU bad snaps ruined the point-after, and it was 6-0.
After a couple fruitless Tiger possessions, a bad snap on a CVU punt put them on the CVU 21. On fourth-and-three the Tigers surprised CVU with a 14-yard TD pass from QB Austin Robinson to Sam Holmes at 2:50, and Nathan Lalonde’s point-after made it 7-6.
The quarter ended with the Tigers on their own 5 after a big bounce on a CVU punt. On the second play of the second quarter, Ritter went 93 yards on a counter, and the kick made it 14-6.
The Tigers racked up 212 yards in the second quarter — they totaled 427 despite soggy turf — on the way to a 28-6 halftime lead.
On their next possession they moved 45 yards in four plays, including a 22-yard Cortland Fischer run, and scored on a 12-yard pass from Robinson to Cullen Hathaway. Robinson finished eight-of-10 for 65 yards.
MUHS next moved 63 yards, including a 37-yard Ritter burst and a 17-yard Robinson strike to Holmes, and scored on a 9-yard Justin Stone run. It was 28-6 at the half.
In the third quarter, Ritter added scoring runs on the Tigers’ first two possessions. The kicks were blocked, but the Tigers led, 40-6, and Smith called for the second-team offense.
In the fourth quarter Oakley Gordon tossed an 8-yard pass to Sawyer Ryan and Jerry Niemo added a 50-yard run. Matt Dunton, Nick Beauchamp, Sam Killorin and Lalonde were among the players who had big games defensively as the Tigers held to CVU six first downs.
Even with Bortnick’s 43-yard run, he finished with eight carries for 36 yards, while Lowery added 36 yards in 21 attempts. Two CVU QBs combined to go four for eight for 22 yards and a late interception, by Trey Kaufmann.
It was only the second time this year the Tigers had trailed, and Smith said they handled it like they did the first time, vs. Hartford in their second game.
“There was no panic,” Smith said. “We just dug in and made just a couple minor adjustments, and the kids settled in and then we played some good football.”

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