January 24, 2018

Football team draws top-seeded Hilltoppers in playoff opener

Scott Stanley (58) and Tommy Zych (80) team up to bring down the Middlebury runner  during CVU's game vs Middlebury on Saturday in Hinesburg

Scott Stanley (58) and Tommy Zych (80) team up to bring down the Middlebury runner during CVU’s game vs Middlebury on Saturday in Hinesburg

Tommy Zych (80) looks the pass into his hands during CVU's game vs Middlebury on Saturday in Hinesburg

Tommy Zych (80) looks the pass into his hands during CVU’s game vs Middlebury on Saturday in Hinesburg

By Lauren Read

Observer correspondent

After dropping the final two games of the regular season, the Champlain Valley Union football team will be handed a tough task in the opening round of the Division I high school playoffs.

With a 3-5 record, the Redhawks earned the No. 8 seed in the postseason and a trip to face top-seeded St. Johnsbury on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the D-I quarterfinals.

“We have nothing to lose,” said CVU coach Mike Williams. “We are going to go up there and try to shock the world.”

In order to pull off the upset of the undefeated Hilltoppers (8-0), CVU will have to find a way to contain the top seed’s potent offense. St. Johnsbury has scored 50 points or more in four of its last five games — including a 53-17 win over the Redhawks two weeks ago.

“We don’t have the athletes that they have,” Williams said. “Our defense needs to make them work and not give up the big score.”

The Hilltopper offense is powered by quarterback Jake Cady, who is a threat on the ground and in the air. Mat Roy paces the running game for St. Johnsbury, while Jasper Rankin is one of Cady’s most popular targets.

In addition, the Hilltoppers are motivated. The team, which finished its second unbeaten regular season in four years, lost in the D-I finals to Hartford last season and has been on a mission to return to the title game all year.

Meanwhile for the Redhawks, Jack ZuWallack has emerged as the leader in a rushing game that had been mainly running-back-by-committee.

“Jack is our fullback and a tough kid.” Williams said. “A lot of our success will depend on him.”

The main goal of the offense, whether it be on the ground or in the air with quarterback Graham Walker, is keeping the St. Johnsbury offense off the field.

“The thing that we need to do is to eat clock and finish our drives,” Williams said. “We have to make it as difficult for them as possible.”

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