Home opener on Saturday
Sept. 17, 2009
By Mal Boright
After two victorious road engagements, the Champlain Valley Union High football team will get its first appearance on home turf at 1 p.m. Saturday against 1-1 Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax.
Courtesy photo by Terri Zittritsch
Champlain Valley Union High running back Eric Palmer (30) carries the ball against Rice Memorial High on Saturday. The Redhawks cruised to a 33-8 victory over Rice.
One of the smallest schools in the state to offer varsity football, the always tough Bullets opened with a 32-8 home loss to Milton High despite 254 rushing yards. Then, last Saturday, BFA-Fairfax scored a 32-26 triumph at Mill River Union High in Clarendon.
The Redhawks are coming off an emotional 33-8 victory Saturday at Rice Memorial High, head coach Jim Provost’s alma mater and where he coached the longtime football power to a state crown in the 1990s.
“We played great,” Provost said of his CVU team after the game. “We got a couple of breaks and took advantage of opportunities for the second week in a row.”
And for the second straight week, the leading provocateur was junior quarterback and captain Konnor Fleming. In the opening 39-20 victory over Burr and Burton in Manchester, Fleming ran for four touchdowns and threw for two more. At Rice, he ran for another four scores and lofted one pay dirt pitch.
That’s eight rushing six-pointers and three scoring throws in two games, serious numbers anywhere.
Against the Green Knights, Fleming scampered for 168 yards and passed for 145 for 313 yards total offense. He also punted four times, averaging 36 yards a boot.
“We rely on our running game,” Fleming said. “Coach kept calling the keeps and they worked.”
Fleming’s touchdowns came on a 70-yard third period jaunt and earlier sneaks of 4, 1 and 6 yards.
His sidekick in the ground division was halfback J. P. Benoit, who had 42 yards on 10 lugs.
First year Rice head coach Neil Brodeur — he played for Provost there — thought the game turned in the very first quarter as the Green Knights took the opening kickoff and began marching down the field.
Staying on the ground, Rice moved from its 43 to the CVU 7 for a second down when Redhawks’ defensive end Matt Long played Wyatt Earp and put away the opposing dudes.
First, Long dropped the Knights’ rolling out quarterback, Chris McCormick, for a 7-yard loss on second down. On the next play, Rice took a 5-yard penalty that set it back on the 18 for third down. Long then nailed McCormick for a 7-yard loss. On fourth down and 22, Long then chased the quarterback to the sideline, where defensive back Drew Nick finished him off.
“I like to play defense,” Long said.
On offense, he caught two passes for 16 yards and a first down.
CVU took over on its 28 and Fleming established the offense on the first play with a 35-yard turf pounder off tackle to put the Redhawks in Rice territory. Four plays later — one of them a 33-yard pass completion to Derek Goodwin — Fleming bolted over from the 4 for the first score. Brian Cherhoniak kicked the first of three points-after.
Led by the line play of Dale Conger and Dan Thabault, among others, the CVU defense kept Rice under wraps until midway through the fourth quarter while leading 26-0.
Evan Healy’s 45-yard return of a CVU punt gave the Knights the ball at the Redhawks’ 13. McCormick launched a first down scoring pass to Nicky Elderton and then hit Evan Hathaway for a two-point conversion.
CVU came right back to score its final touchdown, taking the ball at the 50 and moving into the end zone in three plays, Fleming’s 21-yard scoring toss to Ian Solomon the finisher.
Goodwin wound up with two receptions for 58 yards while Collin Teator, who hooked up with Fleming for a 94-yard bomb in Manchester, combined with the quarterback for a 50-yarder Saturday.
CVU’s second touchdown, late in the first quarter, came from an opportunity produced by the tandem of Long and Nick. Long tackled a Rice ball carrier at the Knights’ 40 and forced a fumble, which an alert Nick picked up and returned to the Rice 5. On fourth-and-one, Fleming sneaked into the end zone and CVU had a 13-0 lead, which it took into halftime.
The Hawks are two-for-two in their first encounters as a Division 2 team.
CVU 13 0 13 7 – 33
Rice 0 0 0 8 – 8
First downs 8 9
Rushing yards 243 100
Passing yards 145 69
Return yards 55 141
Comp-Att 6-11-1 8-20-1
Punts-avg 4-36 6-46
Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 5-45 4-50