It’s easy to take for granted the run of excellence by the Bellows Falls field hockey team.
In their third trip to the Division III state championship game in four years, the top-seeded and undefeated Terriers came away champions for the second straight year with a 4-0 win over the No. 3 Missisquoi Thunderbirds at the University of Vermont in Burlington last Saturday.
Bellows Falls has built a dynasty, but it didn’t just happen. The foundation was laid a few years ago when coach Bethany Coursen reinvigorated the feeder program that teaches younger players the skills they need to win.
The grade schoolers who started as field hockey novices are now the contributors to a new tradition of winning, but Coursen makes sure that no one gets complacent. She pushes her players to play with skill and intensity and never settles for a “good enough” effort.
BF got to the title game with an 8-0 romp over No. 5 St. Johnsbury in a semifinal game on Nov. 1 in Manchester.
Molly Kelly scored four goals, Abbe Cravinho added three more, and Reaghan Baldasaro also scored as the Terriers dominated from start to finish.
BF’s defense — led by Aly Bashaw, Murphy Hicks, Paxton Santorelli, and Maci Streeter —and the goaltending tandem of Brigid Hodsden and Emma Lober notched their 11th shutout of the season.
It was also BF’s fifth straight shutout in the playoffs, a streak that began last year. They made six in a row against the Thunderbirds. Hodsden and Lober again shared goaltending duties and had one save each.
As for the offense, BF finished its playoff run by outscoring their opponents 21-0 in its three postseason victories.
Baldasaro, Dani Marchica, Kelly, and Sophie Hyslop were the goal scorers against the Thunderbirds. BF led 2-0 at the half and were never seriously threatened by Missisquoi. Madison Streeter had two assists in the second half, while Kelly set up one of the first-half goals.
BF finished this season with a 16-0 record and will undoubtedly be the team to beat in Division III in 2017.
• The local runners turned in some fine performances in the Vermont state cross-country championship meet at Thetford Academy last Saturday.
The Bellows Falls boys narrowly missed another state title in Division III. They were edged out by Rice, which had 60 points to BF’s 62. It was Rice’s first boys’ cross-country championship since 1964.
Senior Cody Tallent led the Terriers with an 11th place finish, covering the 5-kilometer course in 18 minutes, 56.8 seconds. Senior Jackson Purdy was 14th in 19:04.1, followed by freshman Timothy Salter-Roy (18th in 19:31.6), junior Nicholas Potter (23rd in 19:43.9), and senior Cameron Joy (29th 19:53.5).
The Brattleboro girls finished sixth out of 12 teams in Division I. Sophomore Sarah Gallagher was 15th in 20 minutes, 39.1 seconds. Junior Annie Takacs was 33rd in 22:06.1, followed by freshman Alexandra Miskovich (42nd in 22:24), sophomore Ellery Loggia (43rd in 22:24.9), and sophomore Liz Morse (46th in 22:26.5).
The Brattleboro boys finished eighth out of 14 teams in Division I. Junior Isaac Freitas-Eagan came in fifth overall in 17 minutes, 12 seconds. Rounding out the Colonels’ top five were junior Colin Costa-Walsh (31st in 18:08.7), senior Spencer Loggia (44th in 18:47.9), sophomore Trevor Kipp (55th in 19:13.1), and freshman Logan Makay (89th in 21:42.9).
In the Division III girls’ race, junior Delaney Bullock of The Putney School was the winner in 19:32.9, while BF’s Lia Clark finished 17th in 23:25.
• It’s always tough playing the same football team two weeks in a row.
Even though second-seeded Bellows Falls hung on for a 32-12 win at Fair Haven in the regular season finale on Oct. 28, BF coach Bob Lockerby knew his team would not have it easy against the third-seeded Slaters in a Division II quarterfinal game at frigid Hadley Field last Friday night.
“We’re playing one of the better minds in high school football in the state of Vermont [Fair Haven coach Brian Grady], and I know he knows how to prepare for a team once he’s played them more than once. Yeah, I was very concerned,” Lockerby said.
Admittedly, it’s easy to prepare for BF. They usually will run the ball and pass only when necessary. But this season, the Terriers have one of their deepest and most talented backfields in years, and Lockerby has been able to mix and match his running attack.
In last Friday’s game, it was senior fullback Jake Lober’s turn to be the star. He rushed for 129 yards and had 62 receiving yards to lead BF to a 42-28 victory.
“They all came to play, but there’s something about Lober tonight; he wanted everything,” Lockerby said. “He’s been playing varsity football since he was a freshman and I don’t have many guys that I let play as a freshman.
“We stood over there at the top of the bank and I just said ‘let’s stand here when we come up and look at the lights and understand that you seniors, you’ll never go on that field again after tonight and play a game more meaningful than this one. It’s never going to happen again.’ Emotions are important and I could see it in their faces. They knew that this was the last time. [Lober] played like it.”
After Fair Haven scored first on a Jordan Phillips’ 1-yard run for a 7-0 lead with 6:53 left in the opening quarter, Lober scored BF’s first two touchdowns. His first came on a 16-yard run with 1:53 left. Lober then scored again 10 seconds into the second quarter. A conversion pass from quarterback Caleb Lisai and a conversion run by Jahyde Bullard gave BF a 16-7 lead.
The Slaters came right back a minute later with a 1-yard touchdown run by Phillips set up by a pair of long passes from quarterback Cam Coullotti to Cole Tupper to cut the lead to 16-14.
BF responded with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Lisai to running back Shane Clark. Lineman DJ Snide then surprised everyone with a conversion pass to Clark for a 24-14 lead with 6:30 left.
Fair Haven again counter-attacked and scored on a 72-yard pass from Coullotti to Dylan Ellis. But Clark knocked down the conversion pass and left BF with a 24-20 lead with 5:57 left in the first half.
The Terriers again marched down the field for a score. Lisai found Lober with a pair of passes that picked up 35 yards and then connected with Clark for a 15-yard score and a 30-20 lead with 3:18 left.
BF’s defense held the Slaters to a single touchdown from that point, but that touchdown came at a crucial point in the third quarter. Coulotti found Dylan Ellis again for a 28-yard touchdown. Austin Ellis reeled in the conversion pass, and suddenly the BF lead was down to 30-28 with 2:59 left.
The Terriers then pulled away with two unanswered touchdowns. Bullard gave BF some breathing room with he finished an 11-play, 71-yard drive with a 3-yard run for a 36-28 lead with 9:41 left in the game.
Clark got an insurance touchdown with a 54-yard dash with 6:05 to go. Defensive back Brody Burke then snuffed out the Slaters’ last scoring try with an interception in the end zone with 3:32 left.
BF finished with 443 yards of total offense. Clark had 103 yards, 79 of them rushing. Lisai, Logan Cota, and Bullard combined for 115 rushing yards.
With the win, the Terriers will once again face defending champion Burr & Burton for the state championship this Saturday, at 2 p.m., at Rutland High School.
The top-seeded Bulldogs (9-0) defeated Bellows Falls 34-14 on Oct. 21, handing the Terriers their only loss of the season. The Bulldogs rolled over Burlington, 39-6, last Saturday to advance to the title game.
• Top-seeded Twin Valley knew they had their work cut for them in facing the No. 4 Stowe Raiders, the four-time state champions, in the Division III semifinals at Hayford Field in Wilmington on Nov. 2.
Even though they were the lower seed, Stowe played like champions in a 3-0 win over the Wildcats in a rematch of last year’s Division III title match.
As he was last year, Stowe goalkeeper Mark Infante was outstanding and he was aided by an excellent defensive back line. Twin Valley had few shots on goal, and Infante corralled all of them.
“They are a dynasty,” said Twin Valley coach Buddy Hayford. “They have a lot of talent and size. There really are no weaknesses on that team. They go 16 to 18 players deep, and there’s not a lot of drop-off.”
Kristian Viljalen started the scoring for Stowe when he converted a penalty kick in the fourth minute after he got taken down in the penalty area by Wildcat defender James McGovern.
Still, it was a 1-0 game at the half, and Hayford said he told his players that the next goal would be the turning point in the game.
“During our halftime talk I told the players the next goal is the big goal,” said Hayford. “We can either tie this thing up, or they’ll have a two-goal lead.”
Stowe ended up getting that all important second goal just 40 seconds into the second half. Viljalen put a hard shot on Wildcat goalkeeper Logan Boyd. He was able to deflect the shot, but Viljalen pounced on the rebound and knocked in it.
“That second goal was a backbreaker,” said Hayford. “Against a team like that, you’re probably not going to come back down two goals. They’re so solid in the back.”
Mac Crawford scored on a header seven minutes later to all but seal the win for the champs.
Although the Wildcats were denied again by Stowe, Hayford said he was pleased with how the season went for his 15-2 team.
“This has been a fun group to coach. This team has improved from the start of the season to the finish and that’s success,” Hayford said. “We achieved two of our three goals — winning our league and the John Werner Tournament. Every team wants to win the state championship, but that’s a tough task.”
Stowe beat Williamstown for its fifth straight state title last Saturday. Given the legacy of excellence by Twin Valley and Stowe, the chances are good that these two teams will be seeing each other again next season in the playoffs.
• Fifth-seeded Leland & Gray lost to top-seeded Thetford, 4-1, in a Division III semifinal on Nov. 2.
Freshman Sophie Williams scored the first goal for the Panthers, and Regan Covey followed with three goals for Thetford to put the game out of reach.
Thetford had a big turnaround this season. Last year, the Panthers were 3-11-1 and were shut out in their last seven games.
This season, they improved to 13-2-1 and had seven freshmen who collectively had 14 goals and six assists. On defense, the Panthers notched 10 shutouts.
The Rebels caught a tough break when their top scorer, Ashley Bates, suffered a head injury late in the first half. Trailing 2-0, her teammates stepped up to cut the lead in half.
With 2:28 remaining in the first half, Mackenzie Boyle set up Emma Densmore with a crossing pass at the top of the penalty box. Densmore then hit a long, sailing shot that got past Thetford goalkeeper Danielle Robinson.
Thetford took control in the second half as they outshot Leland & Gray, 10-4, and Covey scored her second and third goals.
Her first came five minutes into the half as she weaved her way through the Rebels’ defense and beat Rebels goalkeeper Kelsi Bostrom with a low hard shot. She finished her hat trick with 11 minutes to play with a blast of Bostrom’s hands.
Thetford finished with 25 shots to the Rebels’ six, and had a 15-4 advantage in corner kicks.
Senior bowling roundup
• Week 10 of the fall season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League saw Team 5 and Team 3 tied for first place at 31-19. Team 1 (29-21) is second and Team 9 (28-22) is third. Team 6 (26-24) is fourth, while Team 10 and Team 4 are tied for fifth at 24-26. Team 7 (22-28) is sixth, followed by Team 8 (20-30) and Team 2 (15-35).
Team 9 had the high handicap game (878), and series (2,532) for the second straight week. Carrol Frizzell had the women’s high handicap game (261) and series (68o), while Bob Wistrom had the men’s high handicap game (276) and series (692).
Nine men rolled a 500-series: Peter Cross (519), Charles Marchant (585), Wistrom (563), Jon Peters (501), Fred Ashworth (546), Warren Corriveau Sr. (531), Marty Adams (518), Wayne Randall (544), and Peter Gilbert (512).
Marchant (222, 202), Corriveau (201), Wistrom (233), and Randal (233) all had 200-plus games.
Cops on the court
• The Brattleboro Police will play a Brattleboro Union High School team in a charity basketball game to benefit Home at Last, a local nonprofit that helps find permanent housing for homeless veterans in the area.
The game takes place at the BUHS gym on Friday, Nov. 18, at 6 p.m. Admission is free for students, and a $5 donation is suggested for adults. This will be a fun game for a very worthy cause.