The two top teams in Division II football in Vermont faced each other at Hadley Field on Sept. 30, and fans were treated to a game that was not decided until the final seconds.
Fair Haven edged Bellows Falls, 27-20, in the Saturday matinee that likely will serve as a preview of the state title game in Rutland on Nov. 11. The Slaters and Terriers are evenly matched; very little separates these two teams.
"It was anybody's game," said BF coach Bob Lockerby. "We just ran out of time and didn't have as many points as they did. Play another quarter, maybe we win this game. My kids would enjoy to play them again. We're hoping we'll get to do that."
The Slaters opened the game with a long drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Buxton to wide receiver Trey Lee. The point-after kick failed, and Fair Haven had a 6-0 lead with 6:43 left in the first quarter.
BF then immediately tied the game as Walker James returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown. A missed point-after kick left it a 6-6 game with 6:32 to go in the first.
Fair Haven was driving for another score on its next possession, but BF defensive back Blake Bertrand intercepted a Buxton pass with 2:51 left in the first quarter and set up the Terriers for a 13-play, 70-yard scoring drive capped off by a 12-yard TD pass from quarterback Cole Moore to Bertrand, who also plays at running back for the offense. Colby Dearborn's point-after kick was good, and BF led 13-6 with 8:26 left in the second quarter.
The Slaters then came right back with Lee as the catalyst. A good kickoff return by Lee set Fair Haven up at midfield. A few plays later, Lee reeled in a long throw by Buxton for a 40-yard catch. Running back Billy Lussier finished the scoring drive with a 3-yard run. A second missed point-after left BF in front, 13-12, with 6:11 left in the quarter.
Lee made his presence felt on defense as well. He intercepted a Moore pass to give the Slaters the ball on the BF 34-yard line with 1:58 left in the first half. Buxton did the rest as he connected with tight end Phil Bean on a screen pass for a 37-yard touchdown, then ran in the two-point conversion to give the Slaters a 20-13 halftime lead.
BF's first possession of the second half ended with Lee once again making a play, recovering a Moore fumble with 9:14 left in the third quarter. The Terriers then got the ball back when James picked off a Buxton pass near midfield with 4:52 left. This time, BF got to the end zone with a 39-yard pass from Moore to Bertrand to tie the game, 20-20, with 3:08 left.
The teams battled it out in the fourth quarter, but Fair Haven broke the deadlock on its final drive. It started with a 31-yard pass from Buxton to Sam Kyhill and ended with that man again, Mister Lee, who snagged a perfectly placed pass from Buxton in the right corner of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown with 40.3 seconds to play.
However, BF had one last chance to force an overtime. James ran back the kickoff 40 yards, and a 15-yard penalty on the play by the Slaters put the ball on the Fair Haven 43. An 18-yard reception by James made it first-and-10 for the Terriers from the Fair Haven 18 with 16 seconds to play, but Slater defensive back Konner Savage ended the comeback hopes with an interception in the end zone with 7.9 seconds left.
This was a sweet win for Buxton, Lee, and the other seniors on the Slaters squad. None of them had experienced what it was like to beat the Terriers, and to do it at Hadley Field and spoil BF's homecoming weekend made it even sweeter.
The only two losses for the 3-2 Terriers this season have come at the hands of two undefeated teams, Hartford and Fair Haven. BF will host Brattleboro this Friday night at 7 for its final home game of the regular season.
Hurricanes blow down Bears
• The Hartford Hurricanes remain the only unbeaten team in Division I with a 21-0 win over Brattleboro in the Bears' homecoming game on Sept. 29 at a soggy Natowich Field.
Brattleboro put up more of a fight than they did the previous week in their 42-6 loss to Keene, but Hartford's powerful running attack eventually found a way into the end zone.
Quarterback Brayden Trombley scored on a 20-yard run for a 7-0 lead with 4:07 left in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Trombley connected with Austin St. Peter on a 40-yard pass play to set up another 20-yard touchdown run, this time by Brody Tyburski. The point-after kick was blocked to make it 13-0 with 6:37 left in the quarter.
The Bears' offense struggled as turnovers and penalties derailed promising scoring drives. Still, they trailed the Hurricanes 13-0 at halftime and had a chance to pull off an upset.
Unfortunately, Hartford had the first possession of the third quarter and went on a long, clock-eating drive that culminated in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Trombley to Nick Daniels. A two-point conversion run was successful, and Hartford had a 21-0 lead with 6:15 left in the third.
Brattleboro's defense did well to hold the Hurricanes to three touchdowns. But the Bears' offense sputtered in the second half with more penalties and turnovers foiling their chances to score. Hartford improved to 5-0 and remains the top team in Division I. The Bears fell to 1-3-1.
• When Bellows Falls played a scrimmage against Brattleboro in late August, the Bears rolled to a 10-0 win. When the two teams met again on Sept. 27 at Natowich Field, the Bears blanked the Terriers, 5-0.
But as far as BF coach Holly King and her team was concerned, it was a better-than-expected result that was worth celebrating. "Brattleboro is a better-skilled team than we are, but I think our defense frustrated them," she said. "It was a real unified effort tonight."
Bears co-coach Ron Svec agreed. "They took us off the ball and made it difficult for us," he said. "Bellows Falls looks so much better now."
Brattleboro did struggle to get goals, but got them nonetheless. Kaitlyn Pattison got the Bears' first tally in the 16th minute. Sadie Cheslawski followed with another goal in the 25th minute, and Cynthia Velasquez got her first goal of the season in the 27th minute for a 3-0 lead at intermission.
In the second half, Zadie Olmstead scored in the 51st minute, and Cheslawski got her second goal of the game in the 70th minute to close out the Bears' scoring. Goalkeeper Abigail Henry did get challenged several times, but still came away with the shutout win.
The Bears lost to Mount Anthony, 3-1, on Sept. 30 to finish the week at 4-2-1. Bellows Falls lost to Windsor, 10-1, on Sept. 29 to fall to 1-5 on the season.
• Leland & Gray topped Springfield, 2-0, on Sept. 26 in Townshend. On Sept. 29, they traveled to Randolph and played the Galloping Ghosts to a 4-4 tie to end the week at 6-2-1.
• Twin Valley got shut out by Poultney, 4-0, to fall to 0-8 on the season.
• Brattleboro had a pair of wins last week. The Bears journeyed to Claremont, New Hampshire, to take on the Stevens Cardinals on Sept. 27 and came away with a 2-0 victory. Ozzie VanHendrick and Emmett Hoyer were the Bears' goal scorers.
The Bears then defeated Hartford, 2-1, in the Sept. 30 homecoming game that ended up getting played at Fort Dummer Field due to unplayable conditions at Natowich Field after the football game the night before. The Bears improved to 5-1-1.
• Leland & Gray played Springfield to a 2-2 overtime draw on Sept. 27 in Townshend. The game was tied 1-1 at the half as Springfield's Clayton Rousse scored in the 15th minute and Finch Holmes got the equalizer for the Rebels.
In the second half, Springfield's Mateo Fuentes converted on a penalty kick, but the Rebels forced overtime after midfielder Paul Persson scored with 13 minutes left in regulation. The Rebels are now 2-3-1.
• Twin Valley beat Springfield, 5-2, on Sept. 23 and shut out Green Mountain, 6-0, at Hayford Field on Sept. 27 to stay undefeated with a 7-0 record.
In the Springfield game, Cody Magnant scored four goals. Steve Oyer also scored as the Wildcats outshot the Cosmos, 18-3. Against GM, Magnant scored five goals and assisted on another.
• Bellows Falls continued their home-and-home series against Rutland and Hartford, with a 6-1 win over Rutland on Sept. 25 and a 2-1 overtime loss to Hartford on Sept. 26 in Westminster to finish the week with a 4-2 record.
Coming off an overtime loss at home to BF on Sept. 21, Hartford wanted revenge and got it when Sam Brower scored the game-winning goal with 1:08 left in overtime in the Sept. 26 rematch.
Both of the goals scored in regulation time came in the third quarter. Brower scored midway through the third, but BF's Emma Bazin got the equalizer with 35 seconds left in the third quarter. Both goalies - BF's Livie Clough and Hartford's Paige Vielleux - played well as Clough made 14 saves and Vielleux made nine saves.
• Brattleboro is on a two-game unbeaten streak. It began with a 1-0 win over Fair Haven on Sept. 23 and continued with a 2-0 win at Springfield on Sept. 28. A scheduled game on Sept. 30 with Otter Valley was postponed, and left the Bears with a 3-4 record to finish the week.
In the Springfield game, defender Emily LaClair got her first varsity goal off a "scoop-and-score" play in the final minute. Emma Gragen scored in the first half, and Mallory Newton played an excellent game in goal in relief of starting goalie Ericka Fletcher, who left the game with an illness in the first quarter.
Rotary Club of Deerfield Valley plans Winter Sports Sale
• As the winter season approaches, the Rotary Club of Deerfield Valley is bringing back its Winter Sports Sale, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 28, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Sundance Base Lodge at Mount Snow.
This sale is an opportunity for individuals and families to pick up reasonably priced winter sports equipment while supporting the Rotary Club of Deerfield Valley's charitable initiatives.
The club is calling upon the local community to donate their winter sporting gear and equipment for the sale. Donations of gear (no helmets or clothing, please) can be dropped off at the Sundance Base Lodge on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7 and 8, between 8 and 10 a.m.
Senior bowling roundup
• Week 4 of the fall/winter season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League at Brattleboro Bowl on Sept. 28 saw Stepping Stones (17-3) take sole possession of first place with a 5-0 week. Hairiers (16-4) had a 4-1 week and slipped into second place, followed by Skippers (13-7), Four Seasons (12-8), Four Pins and No Splits (both 10-10), High Rollers (8-12), Dumblebor (7-13), and PEWJ (2-18).
Carol Gloski had the women's high handicap game (244) and series (641). Robert Rigby had the men's high handicap game (280), while Skip Shine had the high handicap series (717). Stepping Stones had the high team handicap game (893) and series (2,520).
Rigby once again had the men's high scratch series (708) that featured games of 238 and 245. Skip Shine had a 594 series with games of 232 and 217, while Gary Montgomery had a 532 series with a 190 game, and Warren Corriveau Sr. had a 529 series with a 193 game. Chuck Adams had a 504 series, and Milt Sherman had a 502 series.
Gloski had the women's high scratch series (510) and game (198). She also had a 165 game.
Randolph T. Holhut , deputy editor of this newspaper, has written this column since 2010 and has covered sports in Windham County since the 1980s. Readers can send him sports information at [email protected].
This Sports column by Randolph T. Holhut was written for The Commons.