Eagle football team stems Otter Valley’s rally
BRISTOL — In a Division II game between two high school teams needing a positive result, host Mount Abraham-Vergennes outlasted visiting Otter Valley on Friday, 24-20, in a hard-fought Friday game played under rented lights.
The outcome was not decided until junior tailback Kevin Pearsall rushed 15 yards on third-and-14 with 40 seconds to go, allowing the Eagles to run out the clock.
That play kept the ball away from OV junior quarterback Tyler Rowe, who completed 26 of 38 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns and led OV to two scores in eight seconds of the fourth quarter to turn the game into a nailbiter.
Eagle Coach Lee Hodsden saw his team improve to 1-2, 1-1 in D-II, despite a few injuries that included a sprained ankle to senior captain Casey Kimball, the team’s top running back and linebacker. A limping Kimball rushed for 45 yards on nine carries, but left after their second possession.
Hodsden said the loss hurt even more on the other side of the ball, and the Eagles’ depth was tested. But, he said, they came through.
“It was a total team effort,” Hodsden said. “The backups had to come out and play. They might not have known the assignments as well as they should have, but they did a great job.”
At the same time, Hodsden said his team will not always be able to afford as many mistakes: A bad snap killed one drive, an onsides kick caught them napping, and OV receivers too often got open deep.
“We do film work Sunday night. We do it every week, and back to the drawing board, back to the fundamentals, and try to cut down on the mistakes,” he said.
OV Co-Coach Chas Hall said his team’s mistakes were the story. The 0-3 Otters outgained the Eagles, 376-278, but OV penalties kept an Eagle scoring drive alive and thwarted a promising OV march, a sure TD pass was dropped, and the Eagles returned a kickoff for a TD.
“I told the kids we’re extremely proud of their effort,” Hall said. “Execution is why we lost this game. We made too many mental mistakes, missed blocks and tackles and dropped passes. It’s that simple. We make a couple more plays and we win this game.”
The Eagles opened by marching 65 yards behind Kimball’s running to the OV 9, but a high snap that junior quarterback Parker Hines couldn’t handle set them back on the 17. OV’s Jacob O’Connell and Nate Hudson stopped Kimball at the 3 on fourth down.
OTTERS PAYSON WILLIAMS, left, and Douglas Coburn try to bring down Eagle Casey Kimball during Friday night’s game in Bristol. Kimball rushed for 45 yards in the Eagles’ 24-20 win. Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Rowe completed five passes to move OV to the Eagle 38, but two penalties ended the threat, and the Eagles took over on their 37. From there Hines (136 yards rushing on 18 carries) led a drive that put the Eagles on top, 6-0, at 7:28 of the second. He ran for 20 yards on third-and-9 and for 11 yards on third-and-11 from the OV 45 to keep the drive alive.
It apparently ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down, but a late hit on Hines drew a flag and put the ball at the 15. From there, Hines waltzed in over the left side.
OV responded with a 65-yard march in which Rowe hit all five of his attempts, the last a 14-yard bullet to Hudson in the end zone. Senior Payson Williams’ extra point made it 7-6 at 2:59.
But senior Eagle first-year football player Thomas Richards answered with an 85-yard kickoff return at 2:43. The Eagles led at the half, 12-7.
The Eagle defense began to pressure Rowe in the second half. A holding call and a Pearsall sack killed one drive, and on OV’s second drive Eagle senior linebacker Mason Wood picked off a hurried Rowe pass and returned it 26 yards to the OV 41.
The Eagles capitalized. Hines hit senior tight end Kyle Beatty for 20 yards on third-and-nine, his only completion in five tries, to put the ball on the OV 20. Three plays later Hines bolted in from the 3 to make it 18-7.
A 21-yard Rowe completion to junior Dylan Mackie moved the Otters into Eagle territory, but Eagle senior Ian Greenia broke up a pass in the end zone, and pressure from Pearsall forced an incompletion on fourth down at the 32.
From there the Eagles scored again. The drive started with Hines scrambling for 36 yards and ending with him sweeping left for a 17-yard TD at 9:51 of the fourth.
The Eagles next dodged a bullet when an OV receiver streaking behind the defense couldn’t handle Rowe’s pass on third-and-12. Junior lineman Cyrus Devine then sacked Rowe on the next play, and the Eagles were set up on the OV 46. But the Otters held, and got the ball back on their 32.
And Rowe completed four passes and ran three times, the last a one-yard plunge, and it was 24-13 at 4:47. And then the Eagles hesitated as OV pounced on an onsides kick. And on the next play Rowe lofted a 40-yard strike to Hudson alone on the goal line, and the extra point made it 24-20 at 4:39.
This time the onsides kick rolled out of bounds. But OV held the Eagles and took over on the Eagle 44. The Eagle defense responded: Junior Jacob Thomas and Pearsall sacked Rowe on back to back plays, and OV turned the ball over on downs at 1:51.
And Pearsall (10 carries, 44 yards) and the line had the push to run out the clock. Jon Jennings (10 carries, 37 yards) also contributed as the Eagles rushed for 260 yards.
Hodsden hopes for good health as the Eagles travel to Lyndon this Saturday.
“It’s a huge win. With the schedule I think we can be competitive with some of these teams,” he said. “If we get some of these people healed up we can keep the winning ways going, I hope.”
For OV Rowe added 11 rushes for 87 yards. Six receivers caught passes, including Hudson (seven catches, 118 yards), Mackie (six for 41), Williams (five for 55) and Douglas Coburn (three for 33).
Despite Friday’s miscues, Hall said he saw things his young team, which hosts U-32 on Saturday, could build on.
“That’s our attitude. We’re building every week. We had a great run there for a couple years, and all those kids graduated,” he said. “Now we have low numbers and guys who just didn’t play very much varsity football and some guys who didn’t play football at all. So we’re looking at just building it back up.”
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