Otter football drops Eagles, 55-22
BRISTOL — The Otter Valley Union High School football juggernaut claimed another victim on Saturday, this time game, but overmatched, Mount Abraham team by 55-22.
OV improved to 7-0 and scoring on its first six possessions to lead at the half, 40-0, as quarterback Carson Leary threw for three touchdowns and ran for two.
The Otters can clinch the top seed in Division II with a win at home on Saturday at 7 p.m. over visiting Mill River (6-1) in a game that will be played under temporary lights.
The Eagles dropped to 2-5 and out of contention for a D-II playoff berth despite scoring more points than any other team this season against the Otters.
OV coach Jim Hill said he was pleased with his team’s and Leary’s progress in the passing game. Leary moved to quarterback this fall after two years as a tailback. On Saturday he completed 12 of 20 attempts for 170 yards, according to OV’s staff. He also rushed 15 times for 123 yards.
“Our passing game really clicked today,” Hill said. “The line really did a great job of protecting him.”
Mount Abe coach Lee Hodsden would have liked to see more from the Eagles in the first half, but appreciated the response of many of his athletes after the break, when senior Ryan Paquin returned a kickoff 79 yards for one score and ran 64 yards for another. Linebacker Devon Kimball picked off Leary and raced 54 yards to paydirt for the other Eagle TD.
“Some kids came out in the second half and just said in the second half I’m not going to get pushed around any more,” Hodsden said. “Ryan Paquin was one of them, and Matt Mullin and Jeb Hodsden and Josh Roscoe and Jack Eisenhower and Bradley Sturtevant and all these kids stepped up late.”
But in the first half, the Otters mixed the run and the pass to move the ball at will. Jove Bautista capped the first OV drive with a 16-yard ramble, and before the first quarter ended Leary scored on 3- and 5-yard runs.
In the second quarter, the Otters attacked from the air, with Leary hitting William Ross from 33 yards out, Tyson Cram from 5 yards out, and — after a bad snap on an Eagle punt put OV on the Eagle 25 — Robertas Nielsen on the next play at 1:45 to make it 40-0.
Meanwhile, the Eagles managed just one first down in the half, and the Otters sacked quarterback Coleman Russell three times, a season high total against Mount Abe.
Hill noted his starting defense has allowed only four touchdowns this fall.
“Defensively, we’ve been playing great all year,” he said.
The Mount Abe defense stopped OV on consecutive possessions to open the second half, including Kimball’s interception on third-and-six that he converted to six points for Mount Abe at 9:06 of the third.
OV scored on its third possession of the half, a 60-yard march capped by a 5-yard Brent Nickerson run. Nickerson finished with 13 carries for 137 yards, according to Eagle figures.
The Eagles earned a couple first downs, one on a well-thrown 26-yard Russell pass to Wyatt Gracie to the OV 30. But a fumble recovered by Leary (he also picked up a sack) gave OV the ball back, and Nickerson bolted 64 yards on the next play to make it 55-6.
Paquin, who had already returned the last two OV kickoffs for 30 and 35 yards, took the next kickoff, burst up the middle, broke a tackle, cut to the right sideline and outraced the coverage for a 79-yard return. Russell hit Hodsden for a two-point conversion.
Paquin, who finished with 76 yards on seven carries, broke a 66-yard run in the fourth quarter, and Gracie hit Hodsden with a halfback option pass on the conversion to create the final score.
Hill credited the Eagles’ effort.
“No quit in Mount Abe, they played very hard to the end,” he said.
Hill said he continues to be pleased with the Otters’ progress with the playoffs looming after next week.
“I feel great where we’re at. If we keep getting better, we’re going to be tough,” he said.
Hodsden praised the Otters.
“Otter Valley is an amazing team. They have great athletes. That Carson Leary is a monster,” Hodsden said. “Our boys gave great effort, but we just got blown off the ball today.”
Hodsden is still seeking more consistency for a full 60 minutes from the Eagles, a group he said he is proud of and enjoys coaching.
“Our kids came out hard in the second half and gave another great second-half effort, but we need four quarters of football,” he said. “We really haven’t had four quarters of football all year.”
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