Redhawks roll past Tiger football
MIDDLEBURY — The visiting Champlain Valley Redhawks proved to have sharper claws than the Middlebury Tigers in the Division I opener for both high school football teams this past Friday, as CVU rolled to a 56-19 victory.
The Redhawks, a D-I finalist a year ago, scored on its first three first-quarter possessions and shrugged off the Tigers’ third-quarter comeback attempt. They outgained the Tigers 556 yards to 150 yards, picking up 304 yards and five touchdowns on the ground and 252 yards and three scores through the air.
Tiger Coach Dennis Smith said he knew going in this would be a tough game for his new-look team, and he expects better things ahead despite the lopsided score.
“We did a lot of things that weren’t like us in terms of not executing, stupid penalties, not doing things the way they should have,” Smith said. “But we’ll learn from it. We’re young, we’re young in spots. But we’ll be OK.”
CVU senior quarterback Max Destito did much of the damage, tossing multiple TDs to senior wideout Alex Provost, while running for 113 yards. Junior QB Alex Cheer added touchdowns on runs of 48 and 28 yards.
Junior Jacob Kemp gave the Tigers a lift in the third quarter with two long kickoff returns. He bolted for 53 yards to set up junior Jackson Gillett’s 8-yard TD pass to Gavin McNulty and took a handoff from Gillett on the next kickoff and darted down the left sideline for an 85-yard score that made it 35-19 with 2:54 left in the period. But CVU pulled away from there.
CVU took a 6-0 lead on a 25-yard Destito-to-Provost hookup that completed their first drive. They made it 12-0 with one play, a 28-yard Cheer run after a fumble recovery in Tiger territory. The third score was a bit fortunate: Provost caught a 30-yard pass in the endzone from Destito that deflected off the hands of another CVU receiver.
But basically, the Tigers struggled to stop the Redhawks in what is a new defensive set.
“We changed some things defensively, and we didn’t execute those changes…” Smith said.
Meanwhile the Tigers struggled to move the ball. Early on they gained first-down yards — in their opening three series the initial plays were a 15-yard Gillett run, a 5-year McNulty rumble, and a 15-yard Cole Schnoor burst. But those were followed, respectively, with a fumble, a 1-yard run, and a 2-yard loss.
“It was execution, and it was they (CVU) were physical up front, too. They really packed it in, and they were aggressive. We really couldn’t get anything fully established,” Smith said.
After the opening fumble, the Tigers next four drives were three-and-outs, and the Redhawks intercepted a pass on the fifth just before halftime. They netted just 140 yards in the first half.
They did settle down defensively in the second period, stopping CVU three times and forcing a field goal after the Redhawks earned a first-and-goal at the Tiger 4 during the waning minutes. It was 21-0 at the break.
The Tigers scored to open the second half, in part because the Redhawks mishandled a punt after penalties stalled an initially promising Tiger drive. The Tigers recovered on the CVU 13, and Schnoor ran behind the left side three times, the final time punching it in from the 2. Penn Riney’s point-after made it 21-7 at 7:34.
The teams spent the rest of the third quarter trading scores. Cheer scrambled 48 yards to make it 28-7, and Gillett’s toss to McNulty brought MUHS to within 28-13. Destito then went back to work, completing a 39-yarder to Provost, scrambling twice for a total of 30 yards, and then hitting Provost for a 3-yard score to make it 35-13.
Kemp answered with his 85-yard jaunt, and when the Tigers got a stop and CVU punted to the Tiger 9 as the quarter closed, the door was still open for a rally.
It closed when Tiger fullback Cam Stone was stopped an inch short or the 19 on fourth-and-four, and on the next play CVU back Jack Sumner raced around the right side and scored to make it 42-19. On the Redhawks’ next possession, Destito scrambled for a 67-yard TD, and in the final minute, the Redhawks’ second-string punched in the team’s final score. Smith had no choice but to go for it on that fourth-down play.
“I just figured we’ve got to score, because we’re not shutting them down,” Smith said.
Destito completed 13 of 23 passes for 252 yards, six of them to Provost. Sumner rushed for 45 yards in seven attempts.
The Tigers ran 31 times for 132 yards. Stone led with 45 yards on nine attempts after a strong second half, and he had the only Tiger sack of Destito. McNulty (three for 30) and Schnoor (10 for 25) were next.
This coming Friday, the Tigers visit St. J, which defeated Hartford this past Friday.
Smith said they would watch the video and go back to the drawing board before then.
“Our guys got an awakening tonight, but it’s good. It’s game one. It’s not over,” he said. “We’ve just got to lick our wounds, and … look at the film with the kids and get ready for St. J.”
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