BRATTLEBORO -- Five years after they were on the same staff during a North-South game, head coaches John Callahan and Bob Lockerby will be facing off for the first time ever when Brattleboro hosts Bellows Falls in Friday night’s varsity football season-opener on Natowich Field at 7.
"I know it will be a challenge," said Lockerby, whose team from Westminster made it to the championship game last season. "They are a Division 1 team and we are Division 2. Our school is about half their size. We haven’t beaten them for about 20 years."
When the Grape Ape cartoon was being shown in the 70s, the Terriers and Colonels regularly met as members of the Southern Vermont Football League. But while Prince was working on his Purple Rain album and Oprah was acting in the Color Purple during the mid 80s, the two schools went roughly 20 years without meeting. And just after Randall Cunningham and Randy Moss helped the NFL’s Vikings to a 15-1 record in 1998, the nearby schools battled it out in back-to-back years -- Brattleboro beat Bellows Falls 44-24 in 1999 and then 63-6 in 2000.
Another Violet Collision is scheduled for Friday night, when the teams that share the same jersey color will square off again following a 12-year break.
"I’m hoping that we can do a good job defensively of stopping their run. I’ve heard that they have a good running game," noted Brattleboro coach John Callahan, who has taken over a team that went 3-6 last season. "On the offensive side, it will be good to control the football and establish a running game."
But this isn’t a ground attack that BUHS fans are used to. The man that once led MSJ to a state championship, has brought his triple option to town. And first-year quarterback Kyle Patno will be directing it.
"He is athletic. I think he will do a good job. He has maturity and he understands what we’re trying to do," said Callahan, adding that Patno threw the ball well in a recent scrimmage against Keene, N.H.
Patno, who had some big pass plays in his team’s scrimmages, will be looking for ends Tanner Freeman and Ryan Duford when he gets the chance to unload. But most of the time, he will either be giving the ball to fullback Colby McGinn, pitching to halfbacks Jake Gaborault and Kassidy Rameriz, or running the ball himself.
"The offensive line is coming along. Their technique is getting better and better," stated Callahan.
They will be taking on a Bellows Falls defense with lots of new faces. The Terriers, who lost 16 seniors from last year’s team, should be anchored by Matt Conkey, Kyle Record, Austin Stack and Brian McAnuff on that side of the ball.
"I don’t know much of anything about Brattleboro," said Lockerby. "Callahan’s forte has always been to run the ball. I expect Brattleboro to be much better than they were last season."
Lockerby’s stable of running backs will likely be led by Carson Fullam, who rushed for over 700 yards in 2012. Others getting touches will be Kyle O’Rourke, Kyle Record, Austin Stack, Jacob Mead and Ian McKeen.
Ethan Illingworth will be under center for a second consecutive season.
"He got better and better last year and got us to the state championship game. I have a lot of confidence in Ethan. He is a year older, bigger and stronger. His strengths are his intelligence, that he understands the game, and the way he controls the ball for us," noted the Terriers coach.
Lockerby rated his scrimmages against Fall Mountain and Newport as so-so. If his line -- led by senior tackle Matt Conkey -- comes together, he likes his chances with Illingworth throwing to ends David Dunbar, Brian McAnuff and Bandera Swastano.
Week 1 Vermont high school football games: Friday at 7 p.m. -- Bellows Falls at Brattleboro, Burlington at South Burlington, CVU at Colchester, Essex at Middlebury, Hartford at MAU, Lyndon at Burr and Burton, Mascoma NH at Springfield, Mt. Mansfield at BFA-St. Albans, North Country at Milton, St. Johnsbury at Rutland. Saturday at 1 p.m. -- BFA-Fairfax at MSJ, Fair Haven at Otter Valley, Mill River at Windsor, Rice at Spaulding, U-32 at Mt. Abraham, Winooski at Oxbow, Woodstock at Poultney.
Shane Covey can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.