College Football: Norwich Retains Sap Bucket, Topping Castleton 35-14

Courtesy Norwich Sports Information

CASTLETON –– The Norwich University football matched its best start to a season since 2004 with its fourth-straight win as the team captured the 11th annual Battle for the Maple Sap Bucket on Saturday afternoon at Dave Wolk Stadium by upending Castleton University 35-14. The “Bucket” returns to Norwich for the second consecutive year and gives the Cadets a 7-4 edge all-time in the series.

Norwich (4-0) jumped on the board first on its opening drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass as junior quarterback Matt Dunn (Rockland, Mass.) connected with freshman wide receiver Trevor Chase (Eliot, Maine) down the middle for an early 7-0 lead.

On Castleton’s fourth drive of the game, the Spartan’s first pass of the drive was promptly intercepted by junior defensive back Tavares Ward (Sunrise, Fla.) at the Spartans’ 36-yard line giving the Cadets excellent field position. However, the visitors’ were unable to capitalize turning the ball over on downs.

With the Cadets starting a drive deep in their own end, Dunn connected on his second touchdown pass of the afternoon on 3rd and 8. Junior wideout Manni Romero (Phillipsburg, N.J.) ran a post pattern catching the 15-yard pass just on the left hash marks then busted a tackle and got great blocking from his fellow receivers to sprint down the left sidelines for the score.

Norwich defense flexed its muscle in the first half holding the Spartan offense to 74 total yards, while the offense compiled 255 total yards, 254 of those coming in the passing attack.

Senior running back Connor Bourque (Goffstown, N.H.) continued the Cadet scoring in the second half finishing off an eight-play, 80 yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown run to the left side to extend the Cadets’ lead to 21-0 with 9:40 remaining in the third quarter.

Castleton’s (0-4) junior wide receiver Jared Brockway (Framingham, Mass.) scored on a 35-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Jacob McCarthy (West Yarmouth, Mass.) to cut the deficit to 21-7 with 3:53 remaining in the third stanza.

Norwich ripped off its second 70+ yard play from scrimmage on the following drive as senior running back Aaron Conner (Daytona Beach, Fla.) delivered a 76-yard touchdown run on 1st and 10 from the Norwich 24-yard line.

With Norwich driving from its own end, Castleton forced a fumble on a sack. Junior defensive lineman Chris Rice (Bethel, Conn.) picked up the ball and returned it 32 yards to the house to cut the Cadets’ lead to 28-14 at the 9:34 mark of the fourth quarter.

The Cadets closed out the scoring on the afternoon with another touchdown pass from Dunn to Chase, this time for 36 yards.

Dunn continued to lead the potent Norwich passing attack completing 25-of-40 passes for 365 yards. Conner and Bourque combined for 180 yards on the ground with Conner rushing for 109 yards on 13 carries, while Bourque carried the ball 11 times for 71 yards. Romero led the receivers with four catches for 151 yards, including a touchdown. Chase tallied a pair of touchdowns on nine receptions for 108 yards.

The Cadet defense was stout throughout the contest limiting the Castleton offense to 217 total yards. Senior linebacker Chris Ryan (New Milford, Conn.) led the team in tackles with 6.5. Sophomore linebacker Isaiah Williams (Apopka, Fla.) registered 5.5 tackles including two tackles for loss and a sack.

Norwich remains on the road next Saturday as it battles New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) rival Springfield with kickoff set for 12 p.m.