Green Knights deal Tigers a key setback

MIDDLEBURY — Visiting Rice pinned a crucial upset on the Middlebury Union High School football team on Friday night, 14-7.
The setback against the 3-4 Green Knights dropped the Tigers to 4-3 in Division I and out of position for a home playoff game. Second-place Champlain Valley (6-1) is visiting on Friday at 7 p.m., and MUHS has yet to defeat a team with a winning record this fall.
On Friday, the Tigers outgained Rice, 277-179, but mistakes — four interceptions, plus penalties and missed assignments that left the Tigers facing unfavorable down-and-distance situations at critical times — proved costly.
Coach Dennis Smith said the same types of miscues cropped up in his team’s loss at Essex the week before.
“That’s what’s going on. I don’t know if it’s what I’m doing wrong,” he said. “But we haven’t been here before and we have to get back over the hump. Right now we’re just making those little errors that are costing us.”
Smith did not fault the Tigers’ effort, as they threatened after the Green Knights took a 14-7 lead with their opening drive of the second half and allowed Rice only two first downs in the game’s final 22:51.
“They fought the whole night,” he said. “So I’m proud of that.”
The game started well for the Tigers, who marched 78 yards on 13 plays, all on the ground, to take a 7-0 lead at 6:17 of the first quarter. Quarterback Andrew Gleason, fullback Spencer Carpenter and tailback Trey Kaufmann ran well on the drive, and receiver Simon Fischer broke a reverse for 27 yards to the Rice 3. Two plays later, Carpenter scored from the 1.
Then the frustration began. After Rice went three-and-out, the Tigers moved 48 yards to the Rice 28, with two Lane Sheldrick counter plays going for 10 and 14 yards on the march. But on third and two, another counter play lost yardage, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down as the quarter closed.
Then the Tigers missed a chance to bring down Rice back Jack Fitzgerald at the line of scrimmage early in the second period, and he broke tackles and then cut outside 62 yards down the left sideline for the tying TD. Fitzgerald provided the bulk of the Rice offense with 129 yards on 24 carries.
Rice did not earn a first down in the half, but it ended tied at 7-7 because two Tiger drives fizzled. One died because of a loss of seven yards after a fumbled option pitch after the Tigers moved into Rice territory. The other ended at 0:38, when Alexander Bond picked off Gleason at the goal line on second-and-eight from the Rice 16.
Rice moved 60 yards in three plays to take the lead as the second half opened. The key play was a 39-yard completion to Cavan Lamontagne from QB Richard Diemer, who finished two of five for 50 yards, but was also sacked once by Doug DeLorenzo for a 12-yard loss. That completion put the ball on the Tiger 15, and from there Fitzgerald raced around the right side to make it 14-7 at 11:19.
The Tigers gained only one first down in the third period, and an interception ended their first drive. DeLorenzo’s sack helped stave off a Rice threat after the interception, and Smith was happy overall with the defensive effort.
“For the most part we’re hanging in defensively,” he said.
The Tigers took over near midfield to open the fourth, but another interception, this time with Gleason under heavy pressure, soon ended that drive. They got the ball back at midfield midway through the period and gained a first down despite a penalty, but a five-yard loss on a counter play followed by an illegal procedure call forced a punt at 3:58.
The defense held again, and the Tigers got the ball back on their 42 with two minutes to go. Two Carpenter runs, two completions to Kaufmann and one to Pierson Beatty moved the ball to the Rice 30, but Matthew Riordan stepped in front of a Gleason throw on the right sideline for a game-clinching interception.
Carpenter ran 22 times for 104 yards to lead the Tigers. Kaufmann chipped in 66 yards on 11 carries, and the offensive line of Joe Langevin, Nick Beattie, Jaro Perera, Nate Warren and Brian Foote deserves credit for allowing the Tigers to rush for 258 yards on 51 carries.
But Smith said the Tigers will have to stop making mistakes.
“We’ve just got to come back and brush ourselves off,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to.”   MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School senior Doug Delorenzo tries to haul down a Rice rusher behind the line of scrimmage Friday night.
   TIGER SOPHOMORE SIMON Fischer finds an opening during Friday’s game against Rice.
Independent photos/Trent Campbell

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