Redhawk defense stymies Mount Mansfield
Sept. 30, 2010By Mal Boright Observer correspondent
A little more than a year ago, a new-to-Division 2 Champlain Valley Union High football team rolled into Rice Memorial High for its first intra-divisional contest of the season and left with a surprisingly one-sided victory, helped by a large turnout of red-shirted supporters.
This year, with a 3-0 Division 2 record in hand, the Redhawks return to Rice, which is also a title challenger in the division and coming off a Friday night bashing of Division 1 Burlington High.
“They run and pass very well,” CVU head coach Jim Provost said of the Green Knights.
He called this fifth week of the season “a huge pivotal week” for teams with Division 2 playoff aspirations, of which there are many.
Under the current rating formula, CVU ranks second behind Middlebury Union High. U-32, Milton High, Rice and North Country Union are third through sixth in that order with defending champion Colchester High seventh.
The lone common foe for CVU and Rice is Burr and Burton. The Redhawks whacked the Bulldogs 56-26 in their season opener at Hinesburg while Rice lashed the Dogs 37-27 in Manchester on Sept. 10.
CVU goes into Saturday’s contest coming off a spiffy and defensively solid 21-3 blunting of Mount Mansfield Union High Saturday at the Hawks’ hangout.
The Red Darter, J.P. Benoit, led the offense with three touchdowns and daylong romps. The CVU defensive line — paced by the pachyderm pack of muscular Crawford Morris, Cameron Fitzgerald and Dale Conger, with contributions from ends Ian Solomon and Taylor Gingras — kept the Cougars offense under tight wraps.
MMU gained just 64 yards of offense and five first downs, only one first down in the second half. The Cougars misfired on all eight of their pass attempts.
“We controlled the line,” the 260-pound Conger said.
“We used our speed to shoot the gaps and get into their backfield, which really messed them up,” added the 255-pound Fitzgerald, who praised the schemes of assistant coach and defensive guru Kevin McCarthy.
Benoit, grieving for his grandmother Marilyn Palmer of Hinesburg, who passed away two days before the game, had a spectacular afternoon. He scored all three CVU touchdowns on a 31-yard return of an MMU punt, a 1-yard untouched run and a 9-yard pass from quarterback Konnor Fleming.
In all, the Darter ran through and around MMU defenses for 116 yards in 17 carries, 22 yards pass receiving and 37 yards in kick returns.
“It felt like I had 12 guys blocking for me,” Benoit said after the game. “It was an amazing day.”
Provost said if there was a game-changing series it came just before halftime. MMU, deep in CVU territory for the only occasion all day, got stopped for a 2-yard loss on a second and goal from the seven by linebacker Drew Nick. A third down pass was then broken up by defensive back Nick Meunier.
The Cougars’ Paolo Rossi then kicked a fourth down, 26-yard field goal to bring MMU within 14-3 at the break.
Fleming had another efficient day at the controls of the CVU offense, completing eight of 12 passes for 83 yards while running for another 43 yards in 10 lugs. Gingras had four catches for 36 yards and Matt Bauer grabbed a 33-yarder.
Ground pounders for the Cougars were Nate Tomlinson with 42 yards in 15 carries and Mike Williams with 23 yards in 15 sorties.
CVU kicker Tucker Kohlasch went three-for-three on point-after tries.
MMU 0 3 0 0 – 3
CVU 7 7 0 7 – 21
First downs 5 11
Rushing yards 73 185
Passing yards 0 83
Return yards 57 59
Comp-Att-Int 0-8-0 8-12-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-9 0-0
Punts-Avg 8-37 5-34
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Penalties-yards 3-25 4-20