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Tiger football rebounds to knock off Hurricanes

MIDDLEBURY — A Middlebury Union High School football team coming off a disappointing opening loss just might have made a statement in its second game.
The Tigers will be reckoned with this fall.  
On Friday the Tigers toppled Hartford, 27-14. And Hartford, a Division I finalist a year ago, had opened by winning at defending champion St. Johnsbury the week before.
Junior quarterback Tim Goettelmann, who ran 16 times for 108 yards and scored three touchdowns, explained what the win meant to the Tigers.
“We lost our opener, and we just beat the No. 1 team,” Goettelmann said. “So it’s a turnaround for the season.”
The Tigers gashed the Hurricanes for 234 yards on the ground on 30 carries, with sophomore fullback C.J. Bryant adding nine carries for 95 yards, including a 28-yard TD.
How did they do it? Both Goettelmann and Coach Dennis Smith pointed to the offensive line: center Will Larocque, guards Spencer Cadoret and Riley Brown, and tackles Lucas Ferrell and junior Trysten Quesnel. In particular they and tight ends Wyatt Cameron and Bode Rubright sealed the edges and allowed the speedy Tigers to run wide.
“The whole line played way better,” Goettelmann said. “It was all them. We can’t run without those guys.”
Smith said the group improved its technique and confidence from week one.
“They were making their blocks. They were giving us just enough time,” Smith said. “We were hitting the edges and we were hitting the inside just enough to keep them honest. And I can’t wait to watch that film with my offensive line this week compared to last week.”
Defensively the Tigers slowed a rushing attack that overwhelmed St. Johnsbury the week before. The Hurricanes managed 267 yards on 51 attempts, but the Tigers forced three fumbles and tackled runners for losses 10 times.
A more aggressive approach against the bigger Hurricanes helped, Smith said. The Tiger linemen often moved around, and at times linebackers blitzed.
“We did a lot of stunting in the line, and we were sending a backer here and there,” Smith said. “We usually read and react. But being smaller we felt we had to be the aggressor.”
And Smith said in the opening loss to Colchester the Tigers were at times watching the ball instead of keying on how their opponents were moving, a better way to determine what plays are coming.
“That was my goal this week, cut down on our mental mistakes, and I think we did,” he said.
The Tigers overcame an early mistake, a fumble on the Hartford 6-yard line, to score on their next possession and take the lead. The Tigers took over on the Hartford 34, and two plays later a 29-yard Bryant run put them on the Hartford 2. Goettelmann punched it in from there and kicked the first of his three extra points at 2:45 of the first quarter.
Two possessions later the Tigers took over at midfield after a short Hartford punt. Three plays later it was 14-0. Goettelmann went wide for 17 and up the middle for five, and Bryant went the final 28, bursting up the middle and cutting to the right sideline to pay dirt at 7:58 of the second.
Hartford finally got its own running game going. After Porter’s 42-yard kickoff return, the Hurricanes moved 38 yards behind Zach Burek (who finished with 25 carries for 132 yards) and Reece Thompson to score on a 5-yard Burek run.
The Tigers answered with a seven-play, 69-yard drive capped by Goettelmann’s 1-yard run at 2:04. Goettelmann (two for five, 16 yards) completed an 11-yard pass to Simon Fischer on the march and ran four times for 31 yards, and Fischer and Bryant each ran for first downs as MUHS took a 21-7 lead.
The Hurricanes threatened, but with 26 seconds left in the half Fischer tackled Thompson on fourth down on the Tiger 11, a yard short of a first down.
In the third quarter, the Tiger defense ended two long Hartford drives with big plays. Ian Ploof and Bryant sacked Hartford QB Cole Jasmin on back-to-back plays to halt one march, and Tyler Buxton picked off Jasmin and returned it 46 yards to end another drive and the quarter. That put MUHS on the Hartford 34 to open the fourth, and two more Goettelmann runs, the second an 8-yard score, made it 27-7.
Jasmin capped a long Hartford march with a perfect 26-yard strike to Kobe Peach that made it 27-14 with 5:08 to go, but Buxton dashed Hartford’s hopes of a miracle comeback with another interception. In all, Jasmin was five for 11 for 37 yards, 21 net yards considering the two sacks.
Smith said the Tigers played with more poise and confidence, and he expects continued improvement that should bode well in the weeks to come.
“We corrected a lot, as it showed,” he said. “I think we can continue to grow from here.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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