There comes a moment in nearly every athletic contest when the outcome hinges on one final play.
In one dramatic moment in the waning moments of a cold and windy Saturday afternoon at Rutland High School, Bellows Falls defensive back Brendan Kendall clinched the state Division II football championship for the Terriers.
While the Terriers had a 20-14 lead over defending champion Burr & Burton with 2:20 to play, the Bulldogs had the ball for one last possession to retain their title.
Quarterback Griff Stalcup drove his team from the Bulldog 40 down to the BF 26. But after a 4-yard loss on a first down run and two passes into the end zone that did not find the mark, it all came down to one last play.
On fourth-and-14 and under pressure from the BF defensive line, Stalcup again threw the ball toward the end zone, but Kendall stepped up and intercepted the pass with 43 seconds to play to give the Terriers their first state football championship since 2010.
It was a fitting climax to an exciting game.
The BF defense faced a team that averaged 45 points a game, and held them to just 14 points while forcing three turnovers.
Stalcup, considered one of the best quarterbacks in Vermont, was held in check. He completed 15 of his 31 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown and ran for 84 yards and another touchdown — a good day for most high school quarterbacks, but not good enough against the Terriers.
On offense, the Terriers’ rushing quintet of quarterbacks Shane Lisai and Logan Cota, fullback Jake Lober, and tailbacks Jahyde Bullard and Shane Clark ate up lots of time with a patient, effective running attack that kept the Bulldogs’ offense off the field.
Bullard ran for 155 yards on 23 carries, but it was his absence on what turned out to be the winning touchdown late in the fourth that forced Cota to improvise in the face of miscommunication.
With the ball on the 1-yard-line, Cota took the snap from center and turned to hand the ball off to Bullard. He wasn’t there, so instead Cota kept the ball and dove across the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:20 to play. A two-point conversion run failed, so the Terriers had to sweat out that one last drive from the Bulldogs until Kendall’s interception clinched BF’s 11th state title and ended Burr & Burton’s 20-game winning streak.
BF’s only loss this season came against Burr & Burton, a 34-14 defeat in Week 8. The Terriers also lost 28-7 to the Bulldogs in last year’s title game. There is no love lost between these two teams and, on Saturday, BF wasted no time showing they were not going to be intimidated.
The Terriers scored on the opening kickoff as Jacob Streeter broke free from a couple of tackles and jetted 88 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown. Bullard was stopped on the conversion run, and BF had a 6-0 lead just 16 seconds into the game.
It was the first time this season that the Bulldogs trailed in a game, and the Terriers’ defense kept the Bulldogs from immediately getting the equalizer as they put pressure on Stalcup and forced him into a pair of turnovers in the first quarter — a pass that turned into a one-handed interception by Cota at the BF 4 and a fumble that was recovered by lineman Brady Illingworth at the BF 15.
After a Bulldog punt near the end of the opening quarter, BF put together a long drive that ate up about 7 minutes of time but yielded no points.
Burr & Burton took advantage and put together a 10-play, 96 yard scoring drive capped by an 18-yard touchdown pass from Stalcup to Jay McCoy. The extra point was good for a 7-6 lead with 3:29 left in the half.
The Bulldogs had a chance to put the game out of reach when Lisai was intercepted at the Bulldog 27 with a minute to play, but again, the BF defense answered the call and kept Stalcup from scoring.
Burr & Burton had the ball to start the second half, but had to kick the ball away. BF then responded on its first play from scrimmage with a 67-yard touchdown run by Bullard. Clark ran in the two-point conversion for a 14-7 lead with 9:27 left in the third.
This time, the Bulldogs would quickly respond to a quick BF score as Stalcup scored on a 35-yard run on the ensuing possession. The point-after kick was good to tie the game with 8:10 left in the quarter. However, the defenses then tightened up and the third quarter ended with the score tied 14-14.
BF had the ball as the fourth quarter began and was driving for a touchdown when a Lisai pass into the end zone on fourth-and-goal was knocked down by Bulldogs defensive back Carter Vickers.
The BF defense forced a three-and-out for the Bulldogs on the ensuing possession and, aided by a pair of penalties, the Terriers got the ball, drove down the field, and eventually got the go-ahead score on Cota’s run.
Given the opponent and the recent history between them, this was a sweet victory for the 10-1 Terriers. And, like the other wins this season, it was accomplished through the steady leadership of coach Bob Lockerby and his staff, who put a talented group of players into a position to succeed.
Senior bowling roundup
• Week 11 of the fall season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League saw Team 5 (36-19) in sole possession of first place. Team 9 and Team 1 are now tied for second at 33-22, with Team 3 (32-33) just one game back in third. Team 4 (28-27) is fourth, followed by Team 6 (27-28), Team 7 (26-29), Team 10 (24-31), Team 8 (20-30), and Team 2 (15-35).
Team 5 had the high handicap game (891), and series (2,528). Doris Lake had the women’s high handicap game (256) and series (68o), while Jerry Dunham had the men’s high handicap game (234) and Marty Adams had the men’s high handicap series (671).
Adams (617) rolled a 600-series and three 200-plus games (201, 204, 212), while Dunham (595), Fred Ashworth (568), Warren Corriveau Sr. (524) and Charles Marchant (523) had a 500-series. Dunham (207, 210) and Ashworth (203) both had 200-plus games.
At the midpoint of the season, Shirley Aiken leads the women with a 159 average, followed by Carole Frizzell (143), and Sally Perry (141). Ashworth and Dunham lead the men with a 188 average, while Adams has a 185 average.
Biking for Bucks
• Jim Heal, the pharmacist and proprietor of the Putney General Store was recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. His friends say the diagnosis was unexpected and, as a result, has added a tremendous amount of financial burden to the store and the Heals.
In response, a local triathlon team known as the Mud DUX is organizing a benefit, Biking for Bucks, on Saturday, Nov. 19, from 8 a.m. to noon, to help out with expenses. Their goal is to raise $20,000.
You can contribute at youcaring.com/the-putney-general-store-678753, or show up on Saturday and make a contribution in person during the Biking for Bucks event.
Participants will need an indoor bicycle trainer or spin bike. Set-up time is 6:30 to 7 a.m., with the pedaling to begin promptly at 8 a.m. You will be responsible for your own water, sport drinks, and food. For details, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fundraising continues for skatepark
• The Brattleboro Skatepark committee is having a fundraiser on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 5 p.m., at Elliot Street Fish & Chips. They have been busy working raising money so they can break ground and get kids skating in Brattleboro at Living Memorial Park.
Elliot Street Fish & Chips will donate 60 percent of the evening’s proceeds toward the construction of the Brattleboro Skatepark.
If you can’t wait until then to help, BASIC (Brattleboro Area Skatepark is Coming) is selling travel mugs for $20 each, available at the Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department or contact Jeff or Melissa Clark at 802-387-5837. All proceeds go toward the Skatepark.
And, if you don’t like fish and you have a travel mug to keep your coffee or tea warm on the go, visit www.brattleboroskatepark.com and find out other ways you can help.
Extra skating, gym time for Thanksgiving week
• The Nelson Withington skating rink at Living Memorial Park in Brattleboro will be open for public skating from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 21, 22, 23, and 25.
Open Gym and the Game Room at the Gibson-Aiken Center on Main Street will be available from 1:30 to 5 p.m. on Nov. 21, 22, 23, and 25.
Both the rink and the Gibson-Aiken Center will be closed on Nov. 24 for Thanksgiving Day. For more information, call the Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department at 802-254-5808.