The sting from Friday night’s Division 1 quarterfinal 54-6 loss to top-seeded Middlebury Union High at the Tigers’ den no doubt remained on Sunday, but Champlain Valley Union High head football coach Jim Provost was already looking ahead to next season.
The eighth-seeded CVU unit finished with a 3-6 record. The team lost its last two contests including the previous weekend’s regular season finale at St. Albans against Bellows Free Academy. Before that, had come a two-game win streak.
“We have a lot to build on for next year,” said Provost. The Redhawks lose 20 seniors but have 34 varsity members due to return, including quarterbacks Andrew Bortnick (junior) and Jake Evans (sophomore), plus 1,000-yard rusher Rich Lowrey, a junior.
At Middlebury, against the now 9-0 Tigers, who extended their overall win streak to 20 games, Lowrey plunged a yard to give CVU an early 6-0 lead, a touchdown set up by Bortnick’s 41-yard scurry on a keeper after the Redhawks had taken the game-opening kickoff.
CVU held Middlebury on downs and had further opportunities to do more damage, but fumbles and penalties proved costly
Helped by a CVU giveaway, Middlebury did move a short distance to go in front 7-6 on a 14-yard Austin Robinson scoring pitch.
But a short time later, taking over on their 7-yard line, the Tigers handed the ball to their whippet, diminutive back Bobby Ritter. The dude with a lot of gone sped around left end and zipped 93 yards into the end zone, and the Tigers were suddenly in full chomp.
The Redhawks never saw the end zone again, while Ritter scampered for two additional touchdowns while racking up 218 yards on just six carries. His average of 36 yards a lug was one of the most efficient performances of the campaign.
Provost said that the Hawks inability to make further inroads early in the game when they had chances was very costly. Ritter’s gallop then turned the game.
“We had a good offensive year,” he said, “but giving up the big plays was our Achilles heel.”
The coach praised Lowrey, who had a solid year running the ball, for his off-season dedication and work in the weight room.