By Mal Boright
His Redhawks may have two wins in their first two outings, both on the road, but Champlain Valley Union High head football coach Jim Provost was seeing a busy week of practice work for his team starting Monday afternoon.
Burlington High (1-1) will bring its dark blue and white colors to the CVU football emporium Saturday at 1 p.m. for the Hawks’ initial home contest of 2013.
“We have a lot of things to take care of,” Provost said Sunday, in the wake of Friday night’s wild and whacky 27-19 final-minutes victory at Essex High.
In those same hours, the Seahorses nipped visiting (1-1) Brattleboro Union High 7-6 at Burlington. The previous Friday night, BHS bowed 34-0 to South Burlington High’s offensive-minded unit.
“We know we can’t take anyone lightly,” said Provost, noting that Burlington won this past week.
The Redhawks also won, but in a game that had more twists than a pretzel factory. Each team coughed up five turnovers to go with a total of 21 penalties for 184 yards. For all of that, the contest was a thriller, the lead changing twice in the closing six minutes, miscues playing a big role.
CVU carried a shaky 14-13 advantage lead into the fourth quarter but gave Essex a break when a fourth-down gamble at starting at the Redhawks’ 41 came up a yard shy of a first down.
Provost told media representatives after the game that the idea was to try and draw the Hornets offside but he failed to call a timeout when Essex didn’t bite.
Quarterback Brendan Gleason (89 yards rushing, 116 passing) then led a seven-play Hornet drive to the end zone, finishing it off with a 10-yard scoring pass to halfback Joey Robertson. A pass for the two-point conversion fell incomplete leaving Essex up 19-14 with five minutes and 50 seconds remaining.
After Essex got penalized twice for booting the kickoff out of bounds, CVU took over on its 43 with sophomore Drew Pitcher at quarterback. Senior starter Steele DuBrul had left early in the second quarter with a leg injury.
Pitcher opened the drive with a 13-yard run and, with halfback Jason Cora adding three carries for 15 yards, got CVU to the Essex 16 before fumbling the ball away. Essex then bobbled it right back on its second play, defensive back Alex Bulla stripping the ball while lineman Sam Belisle fell on it for what became a game changing recovery.
Cora, who had a monster night of 30 carries for 116 yards and three touchdowns, ran for 10 yards and a first down and then powered into the end zone from the 2 and CVU was once more in front, 20-19. A two-point conversion pass try was stung by the Hornets.
Then came, as Provost said Sunday, Bulla time. From the Essex viewpoint, The Terminator had showed up, ending its rally hopes.
On Essex’s first play from its 20 after the kickoff, Bulla snared a Gleason pass and returned it 30 yards for the score. Max Whitcomb booted the point-after for the 27-19 CVU lead. It was Whitcomb’s eighth straight successful point kick.
The score took much of the air out of the Essex side of the field. Just to be sure, Bulla (again!) and then Jack Frost intercepted Hornet passes in the closing two minutes to seal the deal.
Pitcher, who appeared to gain confidence as the game went on, finished with three completions in 10 tries for 54 yards. He ran for 31 yards in six carries. Tight end Lucas Aube hauled in two passes for 28 yards and a pair of first downs.
Before leaving the game, DuBrul ran eight times for 40 yards.
Provost praised the defense, saying it “came up big when it had to.” Essex, which ground out 138 yards in the first half, was held to just six via land routes in the second half. Linebackers Cora and Matt Goldsborough paced the stubborn defense.
Gleason scored both earlier Essex touchdowns on a 59-yard dash in the first quarter and a 14-yard run just before halftime.
Cora’s second and third period scores came on bursts of two and four yards.
First downs 13 12
Total offense 260 256
Rushing yards 210 144
Passing yards 54 116
Passes att. com. int 10-3-2 25-12-3
Fumbles-lost 4-3 5-2
Sacked 1 (-4) 1 (-4)
Return yards 104 26
Penalties-yds 10-100 11-84
Punts-ave. 4-28 4-35
CVU 0 7 7 13 – 27
Essex 7 6 0 6 – 19