Bullets end Otters’ championship bid, 42-30
RUTLAND — Saturday’s conditions at Rutland High School seemed perfect for the balanced offense of the No. 1 Otter Valley Union High School football team to win the Division III title — no wind to slow the potent OV passing that complements the team’s bruising ground game led by running back Carson Leary.
But No. 2 BFA-Fairfax (10-1) had other ideas, racking up 485 yards on the ground and getting a five-for-five passing effort from quarterback Dylan Lumbra for 55 yards as the Bullets upset the Otters, 42-30.
OV Coach Jim Hill’s defense had stifled Windsor’s solid running game in a semifinal victory, but in Saturday’s final the Otters could not slow BFA backs Matt Larose (24 carries, 261 yards, three touchdowns), Luke Langelier (23 rushes, three TDs, 139 yards) and Liam Sweeney (8 attempts, 72 yards)
“We just couldn’t get the stops when we needed them,” Hill said. “Kudos to them. They made the plays when they needed to, and we just couldn’t today. I’m proud of the team, proud of their effort. We just got beat today.”
Larose broke loose for scoring runs of 92 and 67 yards in the first half, when he rushed for more than 200 yards; Langelier burst up the gut for a 56-yard run in the third quarter; and Sweeney put the nail in OV’s coffin late in the game by bolting for 38 yards on fourth-and-two from the OV 47. OV (8-2) had just cut the Bullet lead to 34-30 with 6:56 to go, and four plays after that fourth-down conversion Larose iced the win with a 6-yard scoring run.
Hill wanted to crowd the line of scrimmage to bottle up the BFA attack. But he acknowledged the Bullets won the battle in the trenches too often.
“They had a couple big runs that hurt us. When you load up the box to try to stop the run, you’re susceptible to that. But if you sit back on your heels, they’re just going to chunk out six, seven yards at a time,” he said.
Hill accepted responsibility.
“I run our defense. I take the blame for that. I told the kids it wasn’t them, it was the scheme,” he said.
Despite the favorable conditions for OV’s passing attack, which saw senior QB John Winslow throw for six TDs in a 54-42 regular season win over BFA, the Bullets contained OV on Saturday. They pressured Winslow and played effective man-to-man coverage. Due also to several dropped passes, Winslow finished five of 18 for 110 yards. OV was held below 41 points for the first time this fall.
“They did a good job defending us,” Hill said.
The Bullets answered whenever OV tried to seize momentum. In the first quarter, the Otters stopped them at the OV 2 on a fourth-down tackle by Winslow and Jove Bautista. Soon after, OV elected to go for it on fourth and one from its own 11. But the Bullets dropped Leary for a rare loss and took over at the 10, and Langelier soon punched it in from the 1.
OTTER SENIOR JOHN Winslow tries to slip a tackle during Saturday’s game against BFA-Fairfax. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
OV responded with a 70-yard drive capped by a 44-yard run by Leary, who finished with 23 carries for 188 yards and four TDs. Because both teams’ kicks were blocked, it was 6-6.
Leary then tackled the BFA kickoff returner on the 8. And on the next play Larose raced for a 92-yard score. Lumbra ran in the conversion to make it 14-6.
OV came right back. Winslow (seven carries, 82 yards) bolted 58 yards on a keeper to close the quarter, and early in the second Leary scored from 6 yards out. Winslow tossed the conversion to Josef Scarborough, and it was 14-14.
But the Otters could not complete a pass or earn another first down in the quarter. Later in the period, Larose broke a sweep for 67 yards, Lumbra tossed the conversion to Langelier, and it was 22-14 at the break.
OV scored in the third to tie it on a 2-yard Leary run. That TD was set up by a 42-yard Winslow-to-Scarborough connection. Leary converted the points-after, and it was 22-22.
But the Bullets again answered, this time with a 56-yard Langelier burst that made it 28-22 at 5:38 of the third.
OV then reached the BFA 42, but turned the ball over on downs when the Bullets gang-tackled Leary at the 44. From there, they moved down the field, and at 9:39, Langelier punched it in from the 3, and the BFA lead was 34-22.
OV fought back, using a 29-yard Winslow completion to William Ross to help set up Leary’s 5-yard TD at 6:56. On a fake kick, Derek Bassette tossed the conversion to Leary to make it 34-30.
OTTER DEFENDERS BRENT Nickerson, Trevor Peduto, Josef Scarborough and Hunter Birchmore bring down BFA-Fairfax running back Luke Langelier. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
The Otters needed the ball back with some time on the clock. But the Bullets moved 80 yards in 13 plays, including Sweeney’s crucial fourth-down conversion, for the clinching score at 0:28.
“We didn’t get the stops when we needed,” Hill said. “That fourth-and-two at the end kind of summed up the whole game.” Hill said.
Regardless, Hill called OV an outstanding football team.
“This loss doesn’t sum up the great year that we had,” Hill said. “It was a great season and a lot to be proud of.”
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