How do you build a successful high school sports program? If you look at the teams that are consistently successful, they usually have coaching continuity, a feeder system that helps younger players learn the fundamentals as they move up the ranks, and an esprit de corps that comes with being part of a winning tradition.
Bellows Falls field hockey checks off all those boxes. Bethany Coursen has been the head coach for 16 years, and is a product of the Terrier field hockey tradition dating back to when she was playing for Jayne Barber back in the 1980s.
In 2008, Coursen started up a youth field hockey program in the elementary and middle schools in Bellows Falls, where the current varsity players help with the coaching and mentoring of their eventual successors.
By the time the younger girls reach high school, they know all the drills and know their roles when they take the field. A lot is expected of a Terrier field hockey player, and Coursen is a stickler for doing it right in practice as well as in live competition.
That builds the esprit de corps - the feeling that all the hard training, preparation, and bonding as a team means being able to take on any situation and be confident of success.
And that's why the Terriers have been in five consecutive state championship games, winning four straight years and being runners-up last year.
Not even the disruptions of the COVID-19 crisis have put a dent in the Terriers' winning ways. They ended last week with a 6-0 record, capped off with a 7-1 home win over Brattleboro on Oct. 10.
To Brattleboro's credit, the Colonels held BF to just one goal in the first quarter. Grace Wilkinson got the first of her two goals in game with 8:28 to play, assisted by Grace Bazin.
But the relentlessness of the Terriers' attack wore down the Colonels, and they scored five goals in the second quarter for a 6-0 halftime lead.
Maya Waryas got the first of her two goals of the day, an unassisted strike just 43 seconds into the quarter. Jules McDermid got an unassisted goal with 9:51 left, Bazin got a goal set up by Waryas with 6:10 to play, Waryas got her second goal about a minute later, and Ashlynn Boucher scored with just 42 seconds left in the half.
The Colonels were whipped, but coach Erin Cooke implored them in her halftime talk to not give up. The team took those words to heart and held the Terriers scoreless in the third quarter, while Kathyrn Janis spoiled the shut out bid with a drive from the top of the circle with 43 seconds left. Wilkinson later scored BF's last goal with 7:48 left in the fourth quarter.
Brattleboro, which defeated Springfield, 2-1, on Oct. 8, ended its week at 2-3. Brittney Wright made 13 saves in goal for the Colonels, while BF goalie Jaia Caron finished with five saves.
• While the success of the field hockey program overshadows the other fall sports in Bellows Falls, the BF boys' soccer team is quietly having a good season too.
After getting beaten up by their neighbors, the Green Mountain Chieftains, in a 4-1 loss on Oct. 5, the Terriers bounced back with a 3-1 home win over Otter Valley on Oct. 10. Jamison Nystrom scored twice for the Terriers and Mack Ross also scored. Jack Cravinho and Ross were credited with assists.
Coach Eric Nystrom says his team has a lot of seniors on it, and the experience they bring is paying off this season. BF ended the week at 2-2.
• The word is getting out around the Southern Vermont League - you have to shut down senior midfielders Riley Barton and Matt Emerson if you want to have a chance at beating Leland & Gray.
Unfortunately, Barton, Emerson, and the rest of the Rebels are too fast and too skilled for most of their opponents. Against Springfield, the Rebels scored five goals over a span of 12 minutes on the way to an 8-0 victory in Townshend on Oct. 8.
Barton scored all three of his goals in the first half, while Emerson and Jordan Persson each had two goals and two assists for the Rebels. Goalkeeper Hunter Fillion was scarcely tested, only needing to make one save to earn the shutout in goal.
The next day in North Clarendon, Mill River put up more of a fight, but Leland & Gray still came away with a 5-2 win over the Minutemen. Barton put on a show, scoring four goals in the first half. Emerson scored off a penalty kick in the second half as the Rebels ended the week with a 2-1-1 record.
• Brattleboro bookended a pair of road losses around a 3-0 home win over the Stratton Mountain School Bears on Oct. 8. The Colonels had their first loss of the season against Keene, N.H., 3-0, on Oct. 6, and lost to Burr and Burton, 2-0, in Manchester on Oct. 10 to end the week at 4-2.
• Twin Valley pulled out a 1-0 win over Arlington at Hayford Field on Oct. 6 in a rematch of last season's Division IV championship game. Colin McHale converted a penalty kick midway through the first half for the only goal of the game.
On Oct. 10, Twin Valley beat Stratton Mountain School, 2-1. Colin McHale scored twice to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead, with Finn Fisher getting an assist on the second goal. Nick Sheid got an unassisted for the Bears with 10 minutes remaining. Wildcats goalkeeper Liam Wendell made six saves as Twin Valley ended the week at 4-1. Jake Jacobi made 14 stops for the Bears.
• Ansley Henderson scored the game-winner in the 57th minute, assisted by Mary Sanderson, to give Leland & Gray a 3-2 road win over Bellows Falls on Oct. 6.
Henderson scored two goals, Abby Towle added another, and Hannah Landers had two assists for the Rebels. Breanna Stockman and Jenna Dolloph each scored for the Terriers, with Izzy Stack and Emma Graham were credited with assists.
Leland & Gray goalkeeper Makaila Morse made five saves to earn the win, while Corina Mitchell made 12 saves for Bellows Falls.
• Bellows Falls got shut out by Rivendell, 2-0, on Oct. 10 to finish the week at 0-5.
• Brattleboro is having a pretty good season under first-year coach Ron Svec. The Colonels lost a close one on Oct. 5 at Natowich Field, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Mount Anthony.
Two days later, the Colonels needed overtime to beat Green Mountain, 1-0, at Natowich Field. The Colonels ended the week at 3-2.
• Twin Valley got pummeled by Proctor, 7-0, in Pittsford on Oct. 5. The Wildcats are winless so far this season.
• After losing their 7-on-7 touch football home opener to Windsor, Brattleboro bounced back with a sweep of the Woodstock Wasps last week.
Coach Chad Pacheco is now divvying up the quarterback duties between Devin Speno and Henry Thurber, and that move seems to have paid off.
On Oct. 6 at Natowich Field, the Colonels beat Woodstock 35-28 in overtime. Cobe Mager, Trinley Warren, Alex Kendall, and Spencer Lawrence all had a touchdown catch in regulation time as Speno and Thurber each threw for two touchdowns.
The Colonels got the ball first and started overtime at the Woodstock 10. They scored in three plays as Warren caught the game-winning TD in the end zone. Brattleboro's defense followed up that big play by stopping the Wasps from scoring.
Three nights later in Woodstock, Brattleboro rolled to a 28-7 win. Speno threw a pair of touchdown passes to Thad Sawyer, while Thurber connected with Tristan Evans and Gavin Howard for touchdowns. Reed Sargent kicked four extra points as the Colonels ended the week at 4-1.
• Bellows Falls continues to struggle to adapt to playing 7-on-7 touch football. After getting swept by Hartford in Week 1, the Terriers were swept by Windsor last week. The Terriers lost 34-14 at Hadley Field on Oct. 6 and fell to the Yellowjackets in Windsor, 34-7, on Oct. 10. BF headed into Week 3 of the season with an 0-4 record.
Senior bowling roundup
• Team 4 (18.5-7.5) is in first place after Week 6 of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League at Brattleboro Bowl. Team 6 (18-12) is in second place, followed by Team 3 (15.5-14.5), Team 1 (14-16), Team 5 (11-19) and Team 2 (8-22).
Nancy Dalzell had the women's high handicap game (224) and series (641). Pete Cross had the men's high handicap game (250) while Wayne Randall had the high handicap series (675). Team 6 had the high team handicap game (879) while Teams 2 and 6 both had the high handicap series (2,518).
In scratch scoring, Robert Rigby had games of 198 and 192, as part of his 569 series to once again lead the men. Also rolling 500-plus series were Warren Corriveau Sr. (552), Duane Schillemat (537), and Randall (525). Corriveau had a 212 game, Cross rolled a 200, and Schillemat had a 192 game.
Josie Rigby rolled a 182 and a 177 as part of her high scratch series of 514 to again lead the women. Dalzell had a 171 game.
Will there be a winter sports season?
• While Vermont has so far gotten through the fall season without any disruptions by COVID-19, high school officials around the state are warily looking ahead to the winter season.
At a Oct. 10 news conference in Montpelier, Secretary of Education Dan French spoke on progress regarding guidance for the winter sports season.
A task force had hoped to publish the state's guidance for winter sports by Oct. 15, but French said the guidance will now come at the end of October.
French said that practices for winter sports will not likely start until after Thanksgiving, and games would likely begin in January, or about a month later than normal.
He said the winter guidance will be similar to fall sports, where there will be general provisions for all sports, as well as specific guidance for individual sports.
Nordic and alpine skiing would likely take place with few disruptions. There is speculation that basketball and ice hockey games may take place without spectators. French said the task force is weighing its options for those two sports.
The wrestling and indoor track season will likely be canceled, French said.