BRATTLEBORO -- A trio of football teams will take the field at South Burlington High School today in hopes of completing perfect seasons, while the three challengers will be perfectly happy to play spoiler and return home with a trophy.
The Division 2 championship will begin at 11 a.m., with Bellows Falls (9-1) looking to get revenge for an 8-0 loss to Rice (10-0) in Week 2. That will be followed by the Division 3 title tilt that pits high-powered Woodstock (10-0) against BFA-Fairfax (9-1), and then the Division 1 showdown between Hartford (10-0) and BFA-St. Albans (9-1) -- the Hurricanes are attempting to win their 26th consecutive game.
This will be the 17th finals appearance for the Terriers, who have already captured crowns in all three divisions. But if defense really does win championships, the team that’s basically playing at home has to like its chances.
Rice has shut out four different foes in 2012 and has only allowed 54 total points. Only Lyndon and Burr and Burton -- their last two opponents -- have hung double digits on the Green Knights.
Rice and Milton are the only teams that "the Purple Gang" has held under 14. But the Bellows Falls defense could be peaking at the right time, as defensive lineman Jacob Hodsden and linebacker Tyler Holmes each had three tackles for loss when blanking Milton in Saturday’s semifinals.
Star linebacker Billy O’Brien and the rest of the Rice defense will likely be crowding the box today against a run-happy offense. Bellows Falls tailback Zach Rawling has 1,200 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns, including three-score games against Lyndon and North Country. And Carson Fullam, who recently racked up 203 yards on the ground versus Otter Valley, also hits the holes hard behind the strong offensive line of Kyle Record, Matt Conkey, Danny Armstrong, Zachary Tarvit and Hodsden.
It could come down to which team makes a mistake or which quarterback makes the big play. Charlie Boardman’s 17-yard TD strike to Michael Morrissey was the difference when Rice defeated Bellows Falls 8-0 in Week 2 -- a throw that ruined the Terriers’ first game under the lights at Hadley Field.
And sophomore QB Ethan Illingworth came through in Week 1, when his 43-yard touchdown pass to Mike LaBeau was the difference in BF’s 20-14 upset of defending champion Fair Haven.
Bellows Falls roster: Coaches -- Bob Lockerby, Mike Bennett, Ryan Stoodley, Mike Empey, John Shaw, Matt Tomberg, Jason Ryan, Donald Laurendeau. Players -- Jean St. Pierre, Ethan Illingworth, Chris Armstrong, Brendan Kelly, Kyle O’Rourke, Zachary Rawling, Trevor Wilson, Austin Stack, Michael LaBeau, Ian McKeen, Stewart Shaughnessy, David Dunbar, Ethan Amidon, Jakob Mead, Carson Fullam, Ed Rodriguez, Cody Kerr, Tyler Holmes, Kyle Record, Colby Howe, Jacob Hodsden, Shane Brown, Khol Hitchcock, Dan Armstrong, Anthony Gervais, Tucker Lawrence, Zachary Tarvit, Emilano Ramos, Cooper Newell, Josh Morey, Matt Conkey, Nick Sprague, Nathan Elmore, Kyle Reeve, Isaiah Hopkins, Ben Masure, Brian McAnuf. Manager -- Hayden Riendeau.
Shane Covey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.