Football: Otters eye D-III crown in rematch vs. Fairfax

RUTLAND — This Saturday at Rutland High School the Otter Valley Union High School football team will try to win the second title in the program’s history. The Otters will meet a familiar foe in the Division III final, BFA-Fairfax.
The top-seeded Otters (8-1) and the No. 2 Bullets, who will square off at 2 p.m. on Saturday, met once before this fall. On Sept. 8, OV outscored Fairfax in the second half to rally for a 54-42 victory on the road.
If the Otters can defeat the Bullets for a second time, it would add a second trophy to their case: OV completed a perfect season in 2005 by defeating U-32 for the D-IV crown.
The Bullets will be seeking their first championship, although they have been knocking on the door in the past two years. Like the Otters, they were D-III semifinalists a year ago, and in 2012, they reached the final.
Sept. 8’s battle between the two teams came down to the final minutes. The Otters had fought back to take a 48-42 lead, but Fairfax then drove deep into OV territory. But OV’s Derek Bassette picked off a pass, and soon afterward Otter running back Carson Leary ran 90 yards for the clinching touchdown.
In that game, Fairfax’s Luke Langelier ran for three TDs and 150 yards, and Matt Larose also rushed for 150 yards and caught a TD pass. Those two backs and a third back, Liam Sweeney, have all reportedly topped 1,000 yards rushing this fall.
In the Bullets’ semifinal win vs. Mount Abraham on Saturday, Langelier ran 26 times for 130 yards, Larose 12 times for 66 yards, and Sweeney 13 times for 57 yards, while quarterback Dylan Lumbra completed four of eight passes for 61 yards.
OV countered on Sept. 8 with QB John Winslow’s six TD passes, three to Josef Scarborough. Robertas Nielsen and Leary have also been top targets as Winslow has tossed 18 TD passes this fall.
That passing attack has provided balance to the running of Leary, a junior whose 1,500-plus yards in nine games set a new single-season program record. Leary has gone over 200 yards at least four times and has scored 30 touchdowns this fall combined rushing and receiving, a big factor as OV has scored at least 41 points in every game.
Coach Jim Hill said an offensive line led by senior Adam Sherwin deserves credit for opening holes for Leary and tailback Brent Nickerson, while on the defensive side of the ball Sherwin, Tyler Allen and Leary have increasingly helped OV control the line of scrimmage.
OV’s defense this past Saturday shut down a Windsor rushing attack that steamrolled U-32 in a quarterfinal, and Hill said he has faith an improved run defense can slow down the Bullets as well.
But he called Fairfax a tough, hard-hitting team, and said the Otters would have to be ready to play hard.
“It’s going to be a tough, physical game,” Hill said. “We have to be ready to be more physical than they are.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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