Redhawks win defensive battle against Middlebury (10/1/09)

CVU to play at Otter Valley gridiron Saturday

Oct. 1, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

Fired up by four straight victories, the Champlain Valley Union High football team will invade Brandon at 1 p.m. on Saturday to encounter a group of Otter Valley Union High Otters, who will be fired up for a different reason.


    Courtesy photo by Steve Palmer
Nathan Mills of the Champlain Valley Union High football team sets up to block during Saturday’s game against Middlebury Union High. CVU extended its winning streak to four games with a 7-0 victory.

Now 1-3 for the season, Otter Valley, playing at home Saturday, apparently had a victory all sewn up when visiting Mount Mansfield Union missed a go-ahead, 46-yard field goal try in the closing seconds. An Otter Valley player recovered the ball, but spiked it before time ran out. An alert MMU player then ran the ball eight yards into the end zone to give his team a 20-16 triumph.

It was the third straight defeat for the Otters after they opened with a 56-7 drubbing of Mount Abraham Union. Prior to Saturday, they fell to U-32 (40-18) and Bellows Falls Union (14-6).

The Redhawks, playing before a large and enthusiastic Spirit Day turnout Saturday, had just enough offense plus an opportunistic defense for their 7-0 victory over 2-2 Middlebury Union High.

J.P. Benoit (45 yards, 15 carries) slashed off the left side from 4 yards out with 32 seconds left in the first period for the game’s touchdown. The play concluded a 12-play, 57-yard drive kept alive by a fourth down, 19-yard Konnor Fleming to Ryan Busch aerial hookup to the Tigers’ 4-yard line. Four plays later, Benoit swept to pay dirt.

Brian Cherhoniak kicked the point-after.

From then on, CVU’s defense took charge, never allowing the Tigers inside its 22. Middlebury’s one penetration came in the second period, but was ended by a massive stop of a Brendan Burrell quarterback sneak by the muscular trio of linemen Dale Conger and Cameron Fitzgerald, joined by linebacker Eric Palmer.

Standout defensive moments were many for CVU.

The Tigers’ hopes to get their aerial game going (all five of their touchdowns this season came on scoring passes) got nullified later in the second quarter when 6-foot-5 defensive end and severe obstacle Matt Long sacked MU’s rollout specialist Jerry Hoffman for 8- and 6-yard losses twice in three plays.

Long had a total of four individual tackles for MU losses, plus assists in other stops and was in general a pain in the plans of the visitors.

Fleming, who dashed for 59 yards on 11 carries and passed for 44 yards before leaving in the third quarter with a barking ankle, also had two pass interceptions from his defensive position. The second came with seconds remaining in the game and ended Middlebury’s hopes of forcing overtime.

“I like playing defense,” said Fleming, who had returned to the field of battle for the final defensive stand deep in Tiger territory.

On the play prior to Fleming’s grab, linebacker Drew Nick rushed into the Tiger backfield untouched and smacked a rolling out Hoffman to the turf for a 7-yard loss back to the Middlebury 11.

“I saw him rolling out my way and went,” Nick said. “Mikey Bean (tackle) cleared the path for me.”

Nick took over at quarterback when Fleming went to sidelines. Fleming was three plays into a drive that Nick continued, resulting in 17 plays that covered 73 yards and most of the third period into the fourth. The drive ended at the Tigers’ 5 on a Deven Bradford interception.

The long drive was critical in that Middlebury was never able to get good field position in the final reel to mount a serious threat to the CVU lead.

Nick finished with 35 yards on nine carries. Palmer, the smasher from his fullback slot, rumbled for 43 yards in 11 battering crashes into the trenches.

Overall, the CVU offense ran 66 plays — compared to 50 for the Tigers — and piled up 198 yards rushing. Middlebury ran for 123 yards and was zip-for-seven in passes.

“Middlebury was tough,” CVU head coach Jim Provost said. “Our defense played very well. We made some uncharacteristic mistakes, but we recovered.”

The Redhawks are 3-0 against Division 2 opposition.


MU-CVU, Stats

MU    0    0    0    0   –   0

CVU    7    0    0    0   –   7

                            MU        CVU

First downs            7        13

Rushing yards        123        198

Passing yards        0        44

Return yards        33        6

Comp-Att-Int        0-7-2        4-9-1

Sacked-Yards Lost    4-27        1-7

Punts-Avg            3-36        3-32

Fumbles-lost        4-1        3-2

Penalties-yards        2-20        1-15