CVU football team in Milton on Friday
Oct. 21, 2010By Mal Boright Observer correspondent
With the Division 2 playoff race waxing hotter than a Phoenix heat wave, the Champlain Valley Union High football team heads for a nocturnal block and tackling session at Milton High at 7 p.m. on Friday.
The Redhawks (5-2 overall, 5-1 division) shook off their second loss of the season, which came Oct. 8 in Middlebury to the unbeaten Tigers (7-0, 5-0), by bumping off defending Division 2 champ Colchester High 23-14 on Saturday. The game put the Lakers at 3-2 in the highly competitive grouping.
“Milton will be fighting for its (playoff) life,” CVU head coach Jim Provost said Monday. “They will throw everything they have got at us.”
Milton is 4-3 overall, 2-3 in Division 2.
Last Friday night at home, the Yellow Jackets scored on an 8-yard pass play with 13 seconds left to snap a tie and win 18-12 over visiting North Country Union, which fell to 2-3 in the division.
CVU’s prescription for victory on Saturday was a smoothly operating offense early and some stubborn, all-hands-on-deck defense in the second half that blunted serious Colchester threats.
Helping things along was the presence of 23 cheerleaders in the red colors, the first CVU enthusiasm-building squad in years.
The contest teetered on the brink of a shaky 16-14 lead for the Redhawks until sophomore linebacker Tyler Barnes halted a fourth quarter Laker drive. Colchester had reached the CVU 31 before Barnes made a critical pass interception and 62-yard return for a touchdown with 3:11 remaining.
Tucker Kohlasch knocked through his second extra point of the day for the final nine-point margin. Kohlasch, Old Thunderfoot, had booted a 35-yard field goal in the first half.
Primary threat and gray hair producer for the CVU coaching staff was Colchester’s Devon Grammo. The all-state halfback legged out 144 yards in 20 carries and returned a kickoff 88 yards for a score the first time he touched the ball in the first period.
“He never stops,” CVU linebacker Konnor Fleming said of the apparently slight 5-foot-8, 155-pound Grammo. “He twists and turns and is strong and hard to bring down.”
CVU defenders did keep the little dynamo out of the end zone after the long kickoff return, although Grammo got loose for runs of 40 and 30 yards in Laker drives.
“If you had told me before the game that we would hold Grammo to 144 yards I would have taken it,” Provost said.
CVU had some churning legs of its own, led by Fleming with 166 yards in 20 totes. The quarterback’s stats included a second period, 86-yard scoring dash around right end on a keeper that, with the point after, put CVU up 16-7.
The Redhawks had opened the game with a nifty, all-tools 64-yard scoring drive, with Fleming and Barnes running and Fleming hitting three-for-three in passes to end Taylor Gingras. It was Gingras on a slick run, delay and then scoot pattern down the right sideline who got loose for a perfectly placed pass from Fleming for the touchdown.
After a missed extra point, Grammo made his long sortie and Colchester had a 7-6 lead.
Fleming and Barnes produced some ground pounding and CVU rolled right back to the Colchester 19, from where Kohlash booted his field goal for a 9-7 CVU edge.
The Lakers did not get their offense untracked until late in the first half. After recovering a CVU fumble at their 8, Colchester rumbled 92 yards in 12 plays, Grammo putting up runs of 16 and 30 yards. Alec Kozlowski plunged 3 yards for the six-pointer.
In the second half, the CVU defense bent but did not break.
A lethal-looking Colchester clock-killing 14-play drive in the third quarter ended in a failed field goal try from the 10. Barnes had tackled Grammo for a 6-yard loss on a play that started on the 4, and an incomplete pass failed to convert on third down.
A Grammo pass interception (his second) gave Colchester the ball on the CVU 46 early in the fourth quarter. That thrust stalled at the 23 following sure tackles by Fleming, Barnes and hefty defensive lineman Dale Conger on consecutive plays. The middle of the CVU defense then rose up to deny a fourth-and-one plunge by occasional quarterback Taylor St. Germain.
“The whole team really played well on defense,” Provost said.
“Our coaches had us well prepared,” said veteran lineman and co-captain Crawford Morris, who thought the action in the trenches went well for CVU.
Barnes slammed into the Laker line for 24 yards in 11 carries while J.P. Benoit had 15 yards in seven lugs. Gingras caught eight balls for 83 yards and the touchdown.
The pass defense and rushing of the passer held Colchester to three completions for 31 yards, and two interceptions (Gingras had the other) in 13 throws.
Provost said one of the overlooked big CVU plays was Fitzgerald’s only punt of the day, a 42-yarder that knocked the Lakers back to their 25 with 4:57 to go in the fourth quarter.
Colchester 7 7 0 0 – 14
CVU 9 7 0 7 – 23
First downs 16 10
Rushing yards 246 211
Passing yards 31 83
Return yards 136 98
Comp-Att-Int 3-13-2 5-11-3
Punts-avg 1-41 1-42
Fumbles-lost 5-1 2-2
Penalties-yards 1-5 4-45