Burr & Burton outscores MUHS in football semi
MIDDLEBURY — Entering Friday night’s Division I semifinal, the Middlebury Union High School football team had surrendered only 99 points in its nine games, all wins.
The Tigers had allowed only one team to score as many as 20 points, and that was back on Sept. 6. They pitched a shutout in their quarterfinal home victory over St. Albans, and had held five straight foes to 14 points or fewer.
But the second-seeded Tigers had not played No. 3 Burr & Burton (9-1) and quarterback Joey McCoy. At 9:52 of the second quarter the Bulldogs’ McCoy had already thrown three touchdown passes to John Morgantini and run for another score, and BBA had 21 points.
It never got better for the Tigers in a 54-39 loss. McCoy finished by completing 13 of 25 passes for 261 yards and five TDs, all to Morgantini. He rushed 27 times for 270 more, often bolting up the middle out of the Bulldogs’ shotgun formation against the Tiger four-man front.
MUHS Coach Dennis Smith said on Friday the Bulldogs, who will meet undefeated St. Johnsbury for the title (St. J won the regular-season matchup) were the better team.
“Every time we tried to take one thing away they found another thing. They’re a great team. They’ve got athletes all over the place,” Smith said. “I tip my hat. They’re the real deal.”
BBA took the opening kickoff and moved 65 yards to score on a 30-yard McCoy toss to Morgantini, who made a fingertip catch in the back of the end zone.
The Tigers quickly punted. But a standout defensive play after a good Zach Bean punt gave them seven points: Matt Kiernan hit McCoy as he was pitching the ball to back Logan Morgan, and Nikolai Luksch scooped the ball at about the BBA 10 and ran it in with 8:05.
Undeterred, the Bulldogs marched 86 yards and scored on a 38-yard McCoy run up the middle. After a short kickoff — BBA apparently did not want to kick deep to Tiger standout Tyler Buxton — MUHS fullback Thatcher Trudeau busted loose for a 44-yard TD run over the left side to tie the score again at 14-14 with eight seconds to go in the quarter.
Two plays later, at 11:44 of the second, BBA led, 21-14: McCoy tossed a 47-yard bomb to Morgantini.
The Tigers answered on their first play from scrimmage with a 54-yard Buxton run, and it was tied again.
It was at about this point Smith reported he and his defensive coordinators had this chat: “I heard on my headset, ‘You know, we don’t want a shootout,’ and I said, ‘Well, stop them, please.’”
The Tigers couldn’t. The Bulldogs moved 63 yards in five plays, one of them a 50-yard Morgan draw play, to score on a 21-yard pass to Morgantini. A missed kick made it 27-21 at 9:52.
The Tigers then mounted a 49-yard drive, but came up a yard short on fourth-and-eight at the BBA 29, and the Bulldogs promptly moved 78 yards to make it 34-21 on a 9-yard McCoy run at 0:51. A 56-yard Ian Ploof kickoff return gave the Tigers a chance to cut the lead, but time ran out on them.
A rare stop followed by a 10-yard run by QB Tim Goettelmann run cut the lead to 34-27 at 5:43 of the third. But BBA scored on its next two three possessions to put the game out of reach. A Ploof run in the middle of the surge briefly brought the Tigers to within 41-33, and Goettelmann hit Buxton from nine yards out with 1:22 left in the fourth to create the final score.
“They were running up and down the field, and we stopped them a few times here and there, but not enough,” Smith said.
Morgan added four rushes for 68 yards and five catches for 76 more for BBA as the Bulldogs amassed about 600 yards of offense.
Buxton added to his 1,000-yard season with 12 rushes for 140 yards and made two touchdown-saving tackles, once racing to catch McCoy from behind and nabbing him with a diving shoestring grab. Trudeau amassed 100 yards on 17 attempts. Goettelmann completed five of 15 passes for 55 yards.
Smith said the Tigers showed heart and resilience to have an excellent season despite a series of injuries, especially along the line, that posed challenges.
“I could sit down for a couple hours and tell you all the adversity we’ve gone through,” Smith said. “We rose above it because there were a lot of things we had to do to change things because of certain injuries and other issues that went on, and other kids stepped up and did a great job. I’m proud of these guys.”
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