by Bill Murphy



There are basically twenty-five days left in the Red Sox baseball season and who would have really thought that Toronto, Baltimore and the Sox would be tied up in the knot that they are. It is actually even more amazing to see the Yankees just a hop and a skip and a jump behind. This should really be an exciting September. It only adds to the excitement to see the Sox playing all division opponents the rest of the way.


Before moving on to talk about the blowout week 1 of Vermont High School football, here are some observations about the Sox, etc. gathered over the first five months of the season:


It is easy to draw comparisons between Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada. Bogaerts was brought up in the heat of the 2013 pennant race and is now a veteran performer, while Benintendi and Moncada have been certainly getting their feet wet in another race for the post season.  Obviously Benintendi found himself in an awkward situation running the bases and injured his knee and is still resting on the disabled list. Moncada is presently finding life a challenge, BUT, either one could end up being a postseason staple, just like Xander did. The Red Sox farm system has produced at just about the level promised. The second highest level in my existence to date.


While every day players have seemed to flourish for the Boston nine coming up through the organizational ranks, not the same can be said for pitching prospects. IF that area does not improve in the next year or two, it would seem to me that something ought to be blown up. EITHER, make changes in the approach OR clean out many of the people guiding the prospects in that area.


Ben Cherington of Lebanon, (Meriden) NH, better be awarded a ring IF the Sox happen to win a title in the next few years. The patience he showed, in not making deals, when everyone wanted most of the Sox prospects, was a strong trait of the former General Manager. Every GM in baseball, regardless of where they rank in the hierarchy of a pecking order, has strengths and weaknesses and it came a time, that John Henry decided he wanted someone with more experience, calling the shots, THUS, the owner turned to Dave Dombrowski, who had previously worked with Henry in Florida. Cherington certainly knows how to develop a farm system, BUT, I guess Henry’s question marks surrounded IF Cherington could pull the trigger to build a long term competitive team when push came to shove. REMEMBER, the Sox did not fire Cherington. They wanted him to continue, basically working in the same direction, BUT, Dombrowski would now set direction with Cherington’s full input.


The walk-off loss the Sox suffered a couple of weeks back when Heath Hembree could not handle Travis Shaw’s toss when he was covering first and the Brock Holt bobble last weekend on a caroming ball in left field were the ball club’s fourth and fifth walk-off losses of the season. Boston is the fifth best fielding team in the American League, BUT, four of those walk-off losses have been caused by errors.


Another twist of how sometimes numbers don’t add up; the Red Sox are first in the league in runs scored BUT in the next to last spot in average with the bases loaded. Tampa Bay is the only AL team below them. The Sox are also 25th in that department among the thirty teams in baseball. Stats are a big part of the sport, BUT, sometimes the numbers just don’t add up.


VERMONT FOOTBALL NUMBERS REALLY ADD UP- IF you really wonder how the opening week of high school football week in Vermont went last week, the answer is AWFUL. Yours truly picked 15 of 16 games correctly and that is not because I am close to being the brightest bulb in any room, it is BECAUSE there was no competition.


The winning teams outscored the losing teams a lot (668) to a little (157) and twelve of the sixteen winners scored 40 points or more, while ten of the sixteen losing teams tallied less than ten points. The game we missed predicting correctly, was the only game outcome decided by less than fourteen points (Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans 20 Rice 18) and easily was THE GAME of the Week in the Green Mountain State.


Were there any other games which featured even the smallest of surprises? I do believe so. Although I felt CVU would defeat Rutland (which they did 22-6) I expected a last minute thriller. I gave the home team the benefit of the doubt and forecast them to win. There were no other outcomes that in any way shocked me BUT, I did expect the Middlebury 49 Mount Anthony 23, Essex 40 Colchester 6, Woodstock 29 Union-32 7 and Mill River 28 Oxbow 14 games to be closer.


All three divisions should be exciting this fall, BUT, Division I should have the most surprises. I have no idea who to call the favorite and I think every D-I team which won on opening week plus Rice, Rutland and Brattleboro stand a chance of earning a home field seed in the first round of the play-offs. IF you have not taken the time to count, that is nine teams believing they could land in a top four spot. That should be fun.


We spoke to no less an authority than defending state champion coach Mike Norman of Rutland and he said “some people got big wins in Week 1, BUT, I do believe there is a lot of parity in our division this year. I think much of it will play out in the next three weeks or so. I know we are going to have to play better to be a part of that.”


I expect the Middlebury at BFA game Friday night to be the biggest game with the big boys Friday night, BUT certainly St. Johnsbury at Brattleboro, Rice at Burlington bare a close look the same night. Rutland will have their hands full playing Concord-Carlisle in Concord, Mass., and Mount Anthony travels to Essex, and Hartford is on the road at Colchester to complete the D-I Friday night card with Champlain Valley Union hosting South Burlington in the lone Saturday contest. Friday kick-off times are7:00, while the Saturday game is at 1 p.m.


Division II looks much like it did at the beginning of last season. Defending champion Burr + Burton came out of the gate strong and most feel like runner-up Bellows Falls, Fair Haven and Burlington will be in the mix once again with the same question out there that was present at the start of 2015. Can Milton wrestle one of those spots away? Division II is the only league which has four postseason teams. The other two divisions have eight.


Jason Thomas is back at the helm of the Bulldogs and the former University of Massachusetts gridder thinks “it’s really too early to tell, BUT, I guess I can’t disagree with anything you say. Early on it is easy to see it that way. No I would say that in the end, it should come down to four or five teams looking for those four spots..”


Thomas’ team jumps into the D-II Game of the Week Friday, when they travel to play Fair Haven at 7 p.m. This will also be one of the D-II Games of the Year. For anyone interested in attending this Showcase Game, set your GPS for Castleton. The Fair Haven Field was reseeded this summer and they are playing the contest on the colleges turf field. Concerning the fact such a big game is played so early, Thomas says, “I’m not complaining, BUT, I think both of us would certainly like to know a little more about each other.” I think he is right.


Bellows Falls will be in action under the lights at Mount Abraham on Friday and as already mentioned in the D-I section, Burlington will host Rice in not just a rivalry game, BUT, one of crucial importance for both teams. In one other Friday night match up, Lyndon takes the short trip to North Country. On Saturday at 1 p.m. Milton will be at Mount Mansfield.


Otter Valley was kind of the start to finish champion one year ago in Division III. Carson Leary graduated, BUT, he was not alone. Otters coach Jim Hill tells us “we lost four players in the offensive line and we need to develop players at that position. We have five seniors to work into those spots. I believe underclassmen can win football games, BUT, it takes seniors to win championships”


Hill had made the same statement earlier when he was speaking about what a challenge the Woodstock Wasps would be to the entire division. Hill said, “they are loaded with senior talent. They showed last week (a 29-7 victory over Union-32 in the opener) what a difference that can make.” Hill also warned “that was a tough opener against a good team on the road. Don’t count U-32 out.


Division III will have a number of teams contending for the top four seeds this fall and you should watch for Windsor, Mill River, Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax and Oxbow to join Otter Valley, Woodstock and U-32, meaning seven teams could gain the home field edge in the next seven weeks.


Most of the action in D-III comes on Saturday at 1 p.m. this week with the Windsor at Oxbow game clearly the most attractive encounter. Other Saturday get-togethers include U-32 at Missisquoi and Otter Valley at Mount Saint Joseph/Poultney, On Friday evening, Mill River will be at Spaulding and Woodstock will be at Springfield.


Chances are the extreme number of one sided contests will diminish this week, BUT, stay tuned. We are looking for less teams to score 40 points and more teams to tally 10 or more. Let’s see what happens. From this position, we see St. Johnsbury, CVU, Hartford, Concord-Carlisle, Bellows Falls, Milton, U-32 and Woodstock as clear cut winners. This means we see six football games, as compared to one last week, that should be decided by less than 14 points. In those games, we see BFA of St. Albans bowing in a close one to Middlebury, balancing off a two point BFA win a week ago.  Essex will use their home field advantage to turn back Mount Anthony, Rice will go from a tough setback in Week 1 to a nail biting win, North Country will win a defensive struggle with Lyndon, Windsor will hand Oxbow their second straight second half loss and in the absolute highest scoring game of the week, Burr + Burton will take advantage of a Fair Haven neutral field home game, to win a game that puts over 80 points on the board.


Yes, week 2 should be a more competitive football card.