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Redhawks persevere for football win over Rice

Undefeated Middlebury next for CVU

Oct. 7, 2010

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent
Champlain Valley Union High quarterback Konnor Fleming goes on the run against Rice Memorial on Saturday. Fleming rushed for 114 yards, passed for 99 yards and made key defensive plays to help the Redhawks defeat Rice, 30-22. (Courtesy photo by Hank Bauer)

That minefield of a schedule that Champlain Valley Union High head football coach Jim Provost has been talking about these past weeks gets even more hazardous Friday night, when the 4-1 (4-0 in Division 2) Redhawks roll down to Middlebury Union High for a 7 p.m. nocturnal collision.

“The next four teams we play have a collective record of 17-2,” Provost said in a Monday telephone conversation.

That includes the Tigers, who take a 5-0 record into the Friday contest following a 25-13 victory Saturday in Bennington over Division 1 Mount Anthony Union High.

“It will be another battle,” Provost added.

It will also be the second straight week of playing a previously unbeaten foe on the road. On Saturday, the CVU defense rose up to shut down Rice Memorial High in the second half to help the Redhawks to a 30-22 victory. The Green Knights led 22-13 at intermission.

“That was a game for the ages,” said Provost, a Rice graduate and former head coach. “They (Rice) are every bit as good as billed.”

The Knights were 4-0 going in.

Led by bazooka-armed senior quarterback Chris McCormick, Rice unleashed a first half aerial bombardment that racked up 196 yards. The assault included scoring passes of 8 yards to sophomore Casey Tipson and of 8 and 36 yards to senior wide out Austin Robinson, leaving the CVU defense somewhat shocked and awed.

“At halftime, coach (Provost) gave us a call-out,” said lineman and punter Cameron Fitzgerald, adding that the team, as it usually does, responded.

And how! The Redhawks held the Knights scoreless over the final 24 minutes, limiting Rice to just 89 yards of offense. The pass rush, led by linebacker-defensive end Eric Palmer and linebackers Ryan Fleming and Drew Nick, made life miserable for Rice quarterbacks McCormick and Evan Healey. Meanwhile, the secondary defenders tightened up on potential receivers.

The offense also responded, marching 60 yards for a field goal after Taylor Gingras picked off a McCormick pass in the end zone. The interception killed a Rice march after the second half-opening kickoff. Tyler Barnes’ 20-yard burst (and a 15-yard Rice penalty), sandwiched by quarterback Konnor Fleming’s 16- and 12-yard keepers, got the ball to the Rice 15. CVU then stalled and called for Tucker “Thunderfoot” Kohlasch, who knocked a 37-yard field goal way high and over the uprights.

“The Rice guy I was beside at the time and I just looked and said, ‘Wow,’” said CVU halfback J.P. Benoit.

Benoit had scored CVU’s first two touchdowns on a 1-yard plunge in the first quarter and 3-yard Konnor Fleming pass over the middle in the second. Those gave him five sixers in the past two games.

Now trailing 22-16, CVU’s defense held Rice to a three-and-out deep in Knight territory. The offense then started a drive from the Rice 40. Konnor Fleming and Barnes did the lugging, getting to the 1 in four plays. Fleming (28 carries, 114 yards) then smashed in for the score. Kohlasch’s kick for the point-after put the Redhawks on top 23-22 and into the lead for the first time.

Moments later, after holding Rice to another three downs and punt, CVU got to the Knights’ 8 before being stopped on a fourth-and-three.

With just six seconds remaining in the period, Rice tried a running play around its left side. Nick broke through and tackled the Knights’ runner, stripping the ball, which popped into the air right in front of an onrushing Fitzgerald. The 255-pound lineman grabbed the leather and high-stepped into the end zone for his second touchdown of the season.

Kohlasch nailed his third extra point and the scoring was finished for the day with a quarter to go.

Rice came close midway in the final reel but came away empty when Fleming came from nowhere to bat away a Healey pass from the CVU 23 to the right side of the end zone.

“I got over there to help out,” said Fleming, who was at safety on defense.

Fleming later recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass to keep matters under control.

The CVU quarterback, along with his running game, hit 10 of 19 passes for 99 yards and two interceptions. Leading receivers were Barnes with two catches for 49 yards and Gingras with four for 26 yards.

McCormick, who went out of the game after a blow to the head early in the fourth quarter, had one second quarter long bomb of more than 50 yards caught out of bounds at the rear of the end zone. The play had started on the CVU 36 and the Rice signal caller was at least 5 yards behind the line when he uncorked the missile.

“We gave the momentum right to them and we couldn’t get it back,” Rice head coach Neil Brodeur told media representatives after the game.

The Knights lost four fumbles and two pass interceptions while the Redhawks had two passes intercepted.

Fitzgerald punted four times for a 39-yard average, including a 53-yard masterpiece in the first quarter that put Rice back on its 3-yard line and eventually led to favorable field position, from which the Hawks scored their initial touchdown.

CVU-RICE, Stats

CVU 6            7            17            0   –   30

Rice 8            14            0            0   –   22

CVU                        Rice

First downs                        16                        15

Rushing yards                  164                        89

Passing yards                     99                        268

Return yards                      24                        75

Comp-Att-Int                 10-19-2            23-45-2

Sacked-Yards lost            0-0                        1-13

Punts-avg                          4-39                        4-28

Fumbles-lost                    1-0                        6-4

Penalties-yards               3-35                        8-80