The joy of the Brattleboro Colonels over their first Division I playoff game since 2006 turned to ashes last Friday night after one of the screwiest ends to a high school football game you’ll ever see.
After taking a 14-0 lead over the fifth-seeded Champlain Valley Redhawks, the fourth-seeded Colonels were upset, 19-16, at Natowich Field in a first-round contest that wasn’t decided until the very last play of the game.
In the first quarter, it looked like the Colonels were going to run away from the Redhawks. Quarterback Tony Martinez scored a 3-yard run on the opening drive, and running back Cheick Diakite later scored on a 35-yard run. Taylor King kicked both extra points for a 14-0 lead with 2:40 left in the first.
Early in the second quarter, the Colonels had a chance to take a three-touchdown lead, but Martinez was intercepted near the goal line. CVU quickly turned that mistake into points as Brad Reynolds broke a couple of tackles and raced to a 61-yard touchdown.
The CVU defense rose to occasion in the second half, as Brattleboro turned the ball over four times. Diakite gained 112 yards in the first half, but was held to 36 yards in the second half, and Martinez struggled to find his groove throwing the ball.
Brattleboro managed to hold the Redhawks at bay until quarterback Andrew Bortnick connected with Sam Mikell for a 21-yard touchdown pass at the start of the fourth quarter. But a missed extra polnt attempt left the Colonels clinging to a 14-13 lead.
CVU then took the lead to stay when Mason Cohen picked off Martinez and ran 35 yards into the end zone. A two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Redhawks now had a 19-14 lead with 8:26 to play.
Brattleboro had multiple chances to win. A big kickoff return by King gave the Colonels good field position, but Diakite fumbled on the CVU 36. Two plays later, Evan Perkins recovered a fumble and, aided by a pair of penalties, Brattleboro drove the ball down to the 1-yard line, where they were stopped with under a minute to play.
CVU got the ball back on downs, but failed to move the ball. Facing fourth down at their own 2 with 30 seconds to play, the Redhawks had Bortnick run through the back of the end zone for a safety, rather than punt the ball away.
After the free kick, King reeled in a 17-yard catch to set up a 37-yard field goal try. King’s kick was blocked, and was apparently run in by a Brattleboro player for the winning touchdown as time expired.
Or so they thought.
As confusion reigned on the field, the referees huddled up and ruled there was no touchdown, due to an inadvertent whistle, and decided to re-do the down.
King got a second chance to send the game into overtime, but his kick came up just short.
Game over. Season over.
The 5-4 Redhawks advance to the semifinals to face top-seeded Rutland. The Colonels finished their season at 4-5, and while the ending was agonizing, they have a lot to be proud of. The foundation of a stronger Brattleboro football program was laid down by coach Chad Pacheco this season, and with many of the team’s core performers expected to return next season, better days are coming.
Terriers clinch No. 2 seed
• Bellows Falls entered last Friday night’s game against Fair Haven having already clinched the No. 2 seed in Division II, win or lose. For the Slaters, they needed to win the game to secure the fourth and final playoff spot.
The desperation of the Slaters made this game much closer than expected, as the Terriers managed to hang on for a 41-35 win.
BF took a 14-0 lead on touchdown runs by Jahyde Bullard and Jacob Lober and a two-point conversion by quarterback Zac Streeter.
The teams traded scores after that. Fair Haven then scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Alexander to Luca Czarnecki. Streeter scored on a 1-yard run set up by a 40-yard ramble by Reid Coursen. Alexander connected with Jordan Phillips for a 10-yard score, and BF was left clinging to a 21-13 lead at the half.
Fair Haven tied the game up at the start of the third quarter on an 8-yard scramble by Alexander, followed by a two-point conversion.
Streeter then did something he rarely gets a chance to do — show off his throwing arm. He threw two touchdown passes to Chris McKeen; the first was a 24-yarder to the right side of the end zone, the second was a 30-yard desperation heave that McKeen hauled down in the far left corner of the end zone as time expired.
BF had a 34-21 lead heading into the final quarter, but the Slaters countered with another scoring drive capped off by a five-yard TD run by Alexander. The Terriers then put the game away with a long scoring drive that consumed more than seven minutes off the clock and ended with a 3-yard run by Lober with 3:15 remaining in the game. Alexander threw another touchdown pass, this time to Dylan Ellis, as time wound down.
It was a game effort by the Slaters, and exactly the tune-up the Terriers needed for their first playoff game. They will host No. 3 Burlington on Friday night at 7 at Hadley Field.
• No. 5 Leland & Gray advanced to the Division III semifinals with a 6-1 win over No. 13 Thetford last Friday in Townshend.
The Rebels took a 3-0 lead in the first half as Julian Plumadore scored off an Owen McDonald feed in the 15th minute. McDonald then scored the first of his three goals with an unassisted effort in the 23rd minute. Colton Bills then found the back of the net three minutes later.
McDonald completed his hat trick in the second half, scoring from Owen Beattie in the 45th minute and from Bryce Karg in the 48th minute. Karg got a goal of his own in the 55th minute. Thetford’s only score came from Nick Moses with 17 minutes to play to spoil goalkeeper Nick Morrow’s shut out bid.
Morrow finished with five saves while Thetford goalkeeper Alden Nichols stopped 12 shots.
“We were pretty sharp today,” said Leland & Gray coach Chris Barton. “We moved the ball well in the midfield with a lot of two-touch passes, and the defense was outstanding.”
Leland & Gray opened their playoff run with a 3-0 first round win over No. 12 Randolph in Townshend on Oct. 20. McDonald scored two goals and Evan Daigneault added another for the Rebels, and goalkeeper Nick Morrow made nine saves in the shut out victory.
• Twin Valley, the top-seeded team in Division III, also advanced to the semifinals.
The Wildcats cruised past No. 16 Oxbow, 8-1, in their first-round game on Oct. 20 in Wilmimgton.
Justin Hicks led the way with two goals and two assists, while Troy Felisko added two goals and an assist for the Wildcats. Chris Robinson, Chad Bernard, Gunnar Nilsen, and Skyler Boyd also scored, while Kyle Murdock turned away two shots.
Oxbow’s Brendan Smith broke up the shutout big with a goal in the 46th minute strike. Tim Hodges made 28 saves for the 0-15 Olympians.
The Wildcats had no problems with No. 8 Enosburg last Friday as they cruised to a 6-1 win. Hicks again stole the show with three goals, while Baylee Crawford, Bret Swanson and Skyler Boyd each chipped in with goals.
Murdock earned the win in goal with seven saves. Parker Snow had the only goal for Enosburg, as their goalkeeper, Adam Martin, made 17 saves.
• Twin Valley hosted Leland & Gray in the Division III semifinal on Oct. 27, and rolled to a 5-1 victory.
The teams split the regular season series. Twin Valley won, 1-0, in Townshend on Sept. 11, while Leland & Gray snapped the Wildcats’ 39-game winning streak with a 2-1 win in Wilmington on Sept. 17.
After beating the Wildcats, the Rebels went 6-2 the rest of the way and wound up winning the Marble Valley League C Division title.
But it was Twin Valley that won the most important game between these two longtime rivals. Now the Wildcats will play this Saturday in Bellows Falls against third-seeded Stowe for a chance at a third straight state title.
• In Division I, third-seeded Rice clobbered No. 14 Brattleboro, 12-2. Five players scored at least two goals for the Green Knights.
Nate Carey scored the first two goals, he and Sam Dickin both finished with three goals apiece. Hayden Kjelleran, Sergio Garcia, and Eric Benz also scored two goals apiece. Rice led 7-0 at the half.
• It was an early exit for all three local girls soccer teams that qualified for the postseason, as Brattleboro, Twin Valley, and Leland & Gray all lost first-round games on the road on Oct. 20.
• In Division I, second-seeded Colchester shut out No. 15 Brattleboro, 4-0. Kelsey Cauchon and Greetje Scheller fired in two goals apiece.
Brattleboro goalkeeper Megyn Ayotte made 15 saves as the Colonels finished the season at 4-11.
• In Division III, top-seeded BFA-Fairfax blanked No. 16 Twin Valley, 2-0. Macy McNall and Chloe White were the goalscorers for the Bullets as they outshot the Wildcats, 9-3.
McNall scored in the 10th minute with an assist from Mikayla Sullivan, while White got the insurance goal early in the second half off an unassisted boot.
Goalkeeper Brianna Rafus made seven saves for Twin Valley, which finished its season at 4-11.
• No. 5 Green Mountain beat No. 12 Leland & Gray, 4-1, in a Division III match of local rivals in Chester on Oct. 20.
After a scoreless first half, Kira Breuning scored for the Chieftains early in the second half. In the 66th minute, Lexi White drilled a cross off the crossbar, and Hannah Veysey knocked in the rebound to make it 2-0. GM reserve Avery Prescott then scored two goals late in the half to put the game out of reach.
With their eight straight win, GM (10-4-1) advanced to face No. 4 Oxbow in the quarterfinals, while the Rebels ended their season with a 5-9-1 record.
• Things never go easy for Bellows Falls in the playoffs and, against the No. 8 Montpelier Solons, the top-seeded Terriers had to work hard for a 3-0 win in their quarterfinal game last Friday in Westminster.
The Solons (0-12-3) held the Terriers scoreless for nearly the entire first half, as goalie Emily Bashara turned away numerous shots.
Abbe Cravinho finally broke the ice with 74 seconds left. BF got a penalty corner and Emily Stoddard took a pass from Madison Streeter and fired it on Bashara. The ball trickled through between her pads, and Cravinho pounced on the ball and tapped into the empty net.
That was all the scoring the Terriers needed, but they still got a couple of goals for good measure late in the second half. Hannah Kelley scored from Cravinho with 18:17 to play, followed by a Leia Robinson goal with 12:36 left.
BF goalie Brigid Hodsden had a quiet and uneventful game. She faced no shots on goal, and the Solons did not have a penally corner. Bashara finished with 26 saves.
The Terriers (11-2-2) now move on to play No. 4 Missisquoi Valley (5-7-3) in the semifinals on Oct. 28 at Burr & Burton in Manchester.
• N0. 11 Brattleboro finished its season with a 4-0 loss to sixth-seeded Hartford in a Division I first-round game on Oct. 20.
Hartford lost its chance to win the Marble Valley League with a 1-0 loss to Bellows Falls in the regular season finale. First-year coach Heath Haskell challenged the Hurricanes to do better in the playoffs, and they proceeded to take out their frustrations on the Colonels.
The Colonels held the Hurricanes scoreless for the first 18 minutes, until Kristen Davis scored off a scramble in front of the Colonel cage, then Morgan Horne, Natasha Lovell and Morgan Pero each scored before halftime to end any hope of a Brattleboro upset. It was the most goals scored by Hartford since a 5-1 win over Springfield on Sept. 11.
• The Marble Valley League Championships were held Oct. 20 at Skinner Hollow Farm in Manchester. In the A Division, the Brattleboro boys and Burr & Burton girls were team winners.
The Colonel boys placed three runners in the top 10 Isaac Freitas-Eagan was third in 18 minutes, 30 seconds, followed by Josh Meachen (fourth in 19:09), Jonah Koch (sixth in 19:15) and Colin Costa-Walsh (ninth in 19:39).
The Brattleboro girls came in third. Sarah Gallagher was second overall, and Liz Morse placed in the top 10.
In the B division race, the Bellows Falls boys placed second with 38 points — 22 points behind champion Woodstock.
Cody Tallent came in second in 17:24 to lead the Terriers, followed by Ian Wallace (11th), Nic Potter (12th), Cam Joy (15th), Matt Chapin (24th), and Ethan Lauricella (38th).
Lia Clark finished fourth overall in 22:15 for the BF girls.
Next up for Brattleboro and Bellows Falls is the state championship meet at Thetford Academy this Saturday.