by Bill Murphy

Champlain Valley Union High School we apologize. We gave you the kiss of death last week by picking you to be Division I regular season champions this season. While we are at the point of saying I am sorry, Essex, we will send one your way too. We believed you would finish third and earn homefield advantage for the postseason, so we were bold enough to tab you third. What were we thinking?

I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same thing,” St. Johnsbury Coach Rich Alercio said of my failed choices atop the league. The fifth year leader of the Hilltoppers went on to say, “it could be one of those years, when just about anybody can beat anybody on any given week. I don’t know what to expect Saturday.”

Saturday, Alercio’s team hosts Essex at 1 p.m. The St. J eleven upheld our choice of a victory over Hartford in Week 1 22-19, but, “we started out very slow, but, once we started to play fast, we shifted into gear. That was a good first win for us,” the head man told The Northeast Sports Network. When one looks at the differences in a close game, there are many ways to evaluate what was most important, BUT, Alercio pointed out, “their penalties (Hartford totaled 125 yards in the game) and the difference in the experience of the two quarterbacks were both certainly important.”

Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans 34-7 victory over CVU certainly has people talking. One thing the outcome showed was that there are a number of possible strong teams in Division 1. This week the Bobwhites travel to Mount Mansfield, who were yet another DI team, which bucked most peoples odds by distancing themselves from Rice 34-14 in the opening week. The two meet on Saturday at 1 and these two DI matches will draw plenty of attention. This corner sees the Hilltoppers winning their game without getting stung by the Hornets 34-16, while Mount Mansfield nips BFA 32-30 in overtime.

There will be a third Saturday showdown when CVU hosts Rutland at 1 p.m. and plenty of eyes will also be on this one, which we see the Raiders winning 35-12. It is certainly unusual for DI to have four Saturday afternoon games, BUT, that is what is in store for this week as the Rice-Burlington rivalry is restored at Rice, with the home team coming through in Saturday’s second overtime contest 16-14.

On Friday night in Division I, South Burlington, who shocked everyone with the 21-6 triumph over Essex, heads to a decent Colchester team for a 7 p.m. kick-off and Middlebury is at Hartford. Both games are close to toss ups, BUT, it says here Colchester prevails 19-18 and the Tigers hand the defending champions their second straight loss to start the season 30-26.

Division II Bellows Falls hosts the remaining DI team Brattleboro on Friday night at 7 and the Terriers win the battle of the Purple and White schools 40-22. Fair Haven was the pick here to replace BF as champ in 2017 and the Slaters go on the road for their second straight new DII opponent at Otter Valley on Saturday at 1. Give FH another win 52-22.

There are two other DII Friday night games with Lyndon traveling to Mount Anthony and Milton at North Country, both with 7 p.m. starts. First week results have left us wondering how each of these match-ups will turn out. Our best bet is the Bennington edition of the Patriots will do what they could not do in front of the home folks a week ago, win. This time it will be 28-22. Milton will make their way to 2-0 and keep people wondering how far they are back. The final will be Yellow Jackets 56 North Country 24.

Saturday in D II, Union 32 travels to Burr + Burton for a big early season 1 p.m. game. The Northeast Sports Network spoke to Bulldog Coach Jason Thomas and he was stuck still on the missed opportunities his football team had in a 14-9 loss against D I foe Burlington. “I like our chances in any game,” Thomas told us,” BUT, you don’t usually win a game when you have 105 yards in penalties, drop 8 balls and give up a first down on fourth and 25,” all items B&B surrendered in the close loss.

We asked Thomas how difficult it was to replace the Stallcup brand, which he has had running his teams’ offense for the past seven years and the Bulldog mentor said, “he (Jay McCoy) isn’t a Stallcup, BUT, he led a team to 304 yards of offense, completed 60% of his passes and rushed for 126 more, so he certainly is not the reason we lost. It all comes down to you can’t make that many mistakes against a good team and win.”

Thomas thinks Fair Haven is a good football team, BUT, wonders how all the forecasters have them rated well ahead of the field. Thomas told us, “I don’t know what they’ve done to warrant that tag. We’ll be glad to settle it on the field with them. I do know DII is going to be really good and we have a tough schedule with no weeks off.” The Bulldogs somehow became the only team in their division with two D I opponents on their dance card. The final game on the weekend involving a D II team is a crosover game with Mount Abraham hosting D III defending champ and presently 1-0 Windsor. Mt. Abe, who gave U-32 a stronger than expected battle in the opener, will face the Yellow Jackets at 7 p.m. Friday in what should be a strong battle. We see homefield making the difference in a 33-32 thriller.

Most fans in the know think the entire D III season will be spent to determine which team will have the chance to upset Windsor in the title game. Last week a committee decided to expand the D III postseason to a seven team affair because of Oxbow’s departure from varsity status. Now everyone hopes to avoid seeds four and five hoping to increase their chances of reaching the finale.

The only Friday night contest in III is Woodstock at Springfield. Woodstock fell to an out of state foe Warrensburg in their opener and starts their push for the title game with a 46-14 triumph over the Cosmos. The two Saturday daytime get togethers in III have Mill River at Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax in an encounter which will likely allow the winner a home field seed in the postseason, while the other action has Missisquoi at Mount Saint Joseph/Poultney in a game which may decide which team does not finish in the basement. Expect BFA to turn back Mill River 37-28 and the Poultney two step to prevail 29-22.

We spoke to MSJ/Poultney Head Coach Dave Capman and the dean of Vermont coaches with thirty-six years of being in charge should be the difference in his teams clash with the Thunderbirds. Capman said despite the Blue Devils 34-0 defeat to BFA last week, “we are improved and I expect that we will get better.” Capman who played for the University of Vermont in their waning days added, “we made mistakes when we were down 6-0 and putting a drive together and when you really get behind, we don’t have the type of team that can bounce back from that. We are a grinder and after those mistakes we were too far behind to get back in it.”

This corner started off 11-4 last week, BUT, the four losses included two teams we expected to gain homefield advantage in this years’ play-offs and in those two cases, we likely missed the boat. HOWEVER, one team does not a season make, thus we move on to Week 2 in what looks like a very challenging year of predictions.