By Mal Boright
Its foes have not lost a football game since the 2012 season, but the Champlain Valley Union High football team hopes to end that string Friday night when it travels to Middlebury to meet the top-seeded, 8-0 Middlebury Union High Tigers in an opening round playoff.
The eighth-seeded Redhawks, edged 41-34 by Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans last Friday night, finished the regular season with a 3-5 mark.
The defending Division 1 Tigers, playing at home, ripped Burlington High 51-0 Friday night.
“We are going to Middlebury to win,” said CVU head coach Jim Provost. “I am thinking that if we can fix some things defensively, we can play with anybody.”
The problem Friday night was the same as when the Redhawks met the Tigers at CVU’s homecoming a few weeks ago: giving up too many big plays.
When Middlebury came to Hinesburg, the Tigers scored a 48-21 victory with four first-half touchdowns coming on runs of 25 and 55 yards, a 61-yard scoring pass and a 95-yard interception return, which blended into a 41-7 halftime lead.
While Middlebury owned the end zones, the game statistics showed CVU with a 17-9 advantage in first downs and a 74-44 edge in plays from scrimmage. But, it is times in the end zone that decide games.
Running and passing quarterback Austin Robinson and diminutive but swift halfback Bobby Ritter led the Tigers on both sides of the ball.
At St. Albans, the Redhawks struck early for 14-0 and 21-6 leads. However, BFA’s ability to rip off long gains on wide sorties around the ends put the Bobwhites in eventual command. The demon dude was Robert Simon, who scampered for 183 yards in six carries. A trio of those came on lengthy, practically untouched jaunts, twice around left end and once down the right sideline.
BFA’s Robert Kelly rumbled for 96 yards overland, including a 53-yard burst with just over six minutes to go in the game to put BFA ahead for good. He had a previous scoring dash of 17 yards.
But the turf-thumping pacesetter of the night was CVU’s hardworking, line-shattering halfback Rich Lowrey, who set a Redhawk single-game record by barging through BFA would-be tacklers for 283 yards of real estate and four touchdowns. The six-pointers came on runs of 11, 38, 9 and 7 yards.
Provost praised the work of Lowrey and the offensive line that pushed some Bobwhites around to give him running room. The coach believes that the big night puts Lowrey in the exclusive club of 1,000 yards for the season, a probable CVU program first.
Sophomore Jake Evans was at the quarterback controls and had an early game nine-yard touchdown pass to end Trevor Kingston.
The winner in Middlebury would then meet either fifth-seeded Colchester High (6-2) or fourth-seeded Rutland High (5-3), who tangle Friday in Rutland.
Provost said that going into the week’s practice sessions the Redhawks appeared to be healthy and set to go for the Friday test.