The Rice Green Knights completed an undefeated season and won their second state Division II football championship in three years on Saturday, but the Bellows Falls Terriers made them work for it.
Second-seeded BF battled toe-to-toe with top-seeded Rice until the final quarter in a 23-14 loss at South Burlington High School. The Terriers were undone by five fumbles and a knee injury to their star running back Zach Rawling.
The game started with a bang for BF as Ethan Amidon intercepted Rice quarterback Charlie Boardman near midfield on the first play of the game. But BF couldn’t capitalize on the turnover, as Rice’s Chris Jansen knocked the ball out of quarterback Ethan Illingworth’s hands as he was attempting a pitchout. Jansen recovered a fumble on the Rice 26 with 8:46 left in the first.
However, Rice gave the ball right back when Boardman fumbled and BF recovered on the Rice 40. This time, BF turned the turnover into points as Rawling burst up the middle and ran for a 40-yard touchdown. The conversion failed, but the Terriers has a 6-0 lead with 7:41 to go in the first.
But a couple of plays later on the defensive side of the ball, Rawling badly hurt his left knee. The senior co-captain never returned to action and spent the rest of the game with a big ice pack on his leg. Losing a player who scored 20 touchdowns and rushed for 1,200 yards was a big blow for the Terriers.
Not long after Rawling’s injury, Rice scored on a six-yard run by Billy O’Brien, and with the two-point conversion, Rice took a 8-6 lead with 13.7 seconds left in the first.
BF continued to have problems hanging on to the ball in the second quarter. Jansen recovered a fumble early in the quarter, and Mike Morrissey picked up a BF fumble with five minutes left. Neither turnover hurt the Terriers, but neither could BF get its offense going as Rice held on to its lead at the break.
The defenses clamped down in a scoreless third quarter, and Rice started the fourth quarter with a strip-sack of Illingworth by Jansen. Matt Maynard recovered for Rice, and then caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Boardman. O’Brien scored on the conversion to up Rice’s lead to 16-6 with 10:37 left in the game.
But BF rallied back as Ian McKeen scored on a 15-yard run and David Dunbar caught the conversion pass from Illingworth to cut the lead to 16-14 with 5:53 left. BF then tried an onside kick, but Jansen was there to recover the ball at midfield.
Rice then put the game away when O’Brien ran 47 yards on a third-and-2 play for the deciding touchdown. Cameron Cousino kicked the extra point for a 23-14 Rice lead with 4:12 to go.
O’Brien finished with 111 yards of rushing to go with his two touchdowns, while Maynard had two other receptions to go with his touchdown grab.
With Rawling out for most of the game, Carson Fullam and McKeen picked up the slack for BF. Fullam ran for 58 yards, while McKeen picked up 50.
This was the 17th time that Bellows Falls has played for a state title in football. The good news for BF is that Fullam and Illingworth will be back to lead a solid core of this season’s sophomores and juniors for another run at a championship.
MVL All-Stars announced
• The local schools were well-represented on the Marble Valley League’s soccer and field hockey all-star teams that were announced last week.
In boys’ soccer, Leland & Gray had four selections to the B Division first team — Tanner Karg, Zach Wilkins, Mike Bergeron, and Corey Nystrom, while senior Billy Nupp made the second team. The Rebels finished the season at 11-4 and were upset by Stowe in the Division III quarterfinals.
Twin Valley juniors Colin Lozito, Eli Park, and Dal Nesbitt were all named to the C Division first team. This trio powered the Wildcats to the Division IV championship game, where they lost of Proctor in overtime. Brattleboro’s Jackson Batchelder, Jordan Renouf and Galen Finnerty were all named to the A Division’s first team.
In girls’ soccer, Leland & Gray’s Ashley Goddard and Chelby Nystrom each made the C Division first team, while Stevie Roberts was named to the second team. Bellows Falls put three players on the D Division first team — Enny Mustapha, Corina Stack and Addy Dailey.
Brattleboro’s Halie Lange and Maddie Rollins each made the A Division first team, while Twin Valley’s Hannah Swanson and Savannah Nesbitt were C Division second-teamers.
Bellows Falls had three players selected to the field hockey B Division All-Stars — Sarah Wells, Mariah Barnett, and Kya Coursen. Brattleboro junior Kayla Savage was named to the A Division All-Stars.
Ski season off to slow start
• November has been warmer than usual in Vermont so far, and snowmaking has been hit or miss at the early bird resorts — Okemo and Killington. They were the first to open, but both have only a couple of trails open covered with 1-3 feet of icy bits, otherwise known as “loose granular.”
Mount Snow tried making some snow last week and put down enough of a base to open one trail for snowboarders, Launch Pad, over the weekend. Proceeds from the weekend’s lift ticket sales were earmarked for helping victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The West Dover resort hopes to open more of the mountain for skiing and riding by Thanksgiving weekend, but that will depend on the return of temperatures that are cold enough to make snow, and cold enough to keep it from melting.