Otter Valley a Strong Number 1 in Division III Football

By Bill Murphy

Up until last weekend, everyone expected a two team fight for the Division III title. The 2015 edition of Vermont D-III football has as many as six respectable teams, BUT, when one is talking about state title caliber elevens, the discussion started and stopped with Otter Valley and Union 32. Now, there is no discussion. Otter Valley 55 Union-32  14 took care of that. To boot, the game was played at U-32.

Otter Valley fell just short in 2014.  They bowed to Mike Williams’ Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax team 42-30 in the title game and the Otters could not wait for this season to start. They were chomping at the bit. They have a high powered offense and with the exception of one game, they have scored a minimum of 53 points a game. That one game was a 35-7 victory over always tough Woodstock. They average 56 (yes you read that correctly 56) points a game and their average margin of victory is almost 47 points a game. One might say the Otters are dominant.

In the end, people want to know how dominate? Does anyone stand a chance at all? If anyone would know what it takes to win a D-III state title, certainly it would be the coach of the reigning champs, Mike Williams. We thought that Williams would have the most objective look at the division as well, because he has moved on to coach in the Division I ranks at Champlain Valley Union, where his team is presently sitting in a possible home field advantage spot in the D-I world after back to back big victories.

Williams began talking to us about Otter Valley from the perspective of what he saw last November, when his Bullets captured that top honor. Williams said, “I knew they would be a pretty good team from what they had coming back. They did lose good senior leadership, but they had several key players returning, especially (Carson) Leary at running back. He is at or near the top of the list of all of the running backs in the state. They are scoring plenty of points, so you have to look to see, if there is anyone who might be able to stop them.”

The veteran Williams went on to say, “Looking at what has happened so far, Woodstock held them to their lowest point total. It is a tough system to defend, so if someone is going to have a chance, it will be someone who can control the ball against them. I have a lot of respect for Woodstock and they held them to their lowest point total (the only one to hold them under 53 remember), so they probably would have the best chance. Then again, U-32 has plenty of offense (averaging 30.5 per game), so possibly they would have a chance too. It all comes down to IF anyone can defend them.”

This week Otter Valley has a chance to play up a division. They travel to Division II Mount Abraham, BUT, chances are, it will not make a difference at all. The Otters are 6-0 and as a result of last weeks outcome have a one game lead over Union 32. Woodstock, because of the schedule they play, is third, despite a 4-2 mark, followed tightly by both Mill River and Woodstock at 4-1. There are two weeks to play in the D-III regular season schedule and one of those teams will fall short of qualifying for any home field advantage in this years play-offs. Oxbow (3-3) presently sits sixth in the divisional standings with Springfield and BFA Fairfax both 2-4.Those are the eight teams which would make the post season IF it began today.

Obviously there are teams below the play-off possible brethren and the good news is that everyone has WON at least one game. Many times, in any league of play, when everyone does not play a round robin schedule, when the wins are few and far between, there are teams which go winless. In the 2015 world of Vermont Division III football, everyone has had the opportunity for the thrill of victory. Unfortunately. at the same time, way more often than not, those same teams have experienced the agony of defeat.

Winooski, Poultney, Spaulding and Mount Saint Joseph all have one win with Winooski hitting the road on Friday night traveling to Springfield in hopes of challenging the Cosmos for their play-off slot. Poultney will be at Mill River on Saturday afternoon with hopes of better aligning themselves and looking to put a jolt in the host’s chances of grabbing a home advantage for the second season. A similar situation applies for Windsor at Spaulding at 6 p.m. Saturday, when the Jacks attempt to keep up their battle with Woodstock (who is idle this week) and Mill River for third and fourth place and Spaulding looking to sneak into the eight spot. All games this week are at either 7 p.m. Friday or 1 p.m. Saturday, unless otherwise noted in this column.

U-32 is at BFA Fairfax Saturday at 2 p.m., knowing if they win out, they will have home field until the neutral field of the title game at Rutland. Under winning circumstances, they will be the number two seed for the post season behind the Otters. Oxbow can clinch a play-off position with a win at Mount Saint Joseph Saturday afternoon.

To conclude, everyone in reality in D-III is still alive and in the play-off hunt. Now with the weather getting colder and rain expected for many Friday night games, the underdogs are looking for any possible help, to keep their Division III season alive.