by Bill Murphy

It is Vermont Football Day on Saturday in Rutland. What was born a few years ago (2010 if you lost track) in Castleton has continued to be the shining star of the gridiron season. Six teams and a large crowd gather for one day to showcase the games best teams in each division, as they compete for the right to wear their divisions championship crown.

This years spectacle gets underway at noon, when defending champion Otter Valley (8-2) faces this years hottest (and best to date team) the Windsor Yellow Jackets (10-0). What more could you want, that is unless you felt that Woodstock and Windsor, the two 8-0 teams, which met in Week eight, must have a rematch following their exciting 27-20 earn the top seed showdown. Obviously, that all came tumbling down last week when OV shocked much of the football world by upsetting the Wasps in Woodstock in the semi-finals. How could that happen? After all, this was the Otter Valley football team, who lost 96-27 in a combined two week period to Woodstock and Windsor in Weeks three and four respectively.,

We asked Windsor coach Greg Balch that question and he said, “Otter Valley is a totally different team right now. Without a doubt, they are a team that is deeper than us and even though we beat them the first time( 55-13), that game was the one game, of all the games I have ever coached, that every single break went our way. It started off, when our kicker missed connecting with the ball on the opening kick-off and it hit one of their players and we recovered. There were a number of things like that, all day long and that was why the score was the way it was. They have also become much better, have all kinds of seniors and this is also the team who rolled over us two years ago (43-14) in the semis. We know that earlier score cannot be in any way thought of, as who this Otter Valley football team is. Of course, we have gotten better too, so we just know the score will be 0-0 when we begin play Saturday and we try to avenge our loss from two years ago.”

Otters coach Jim Hill agrees with Balch’s assessment of his team and simply states, “we are a different team than when we played them before. We are playing our best ball now and because we are playing this way, we are very optimistic looking at Saturday. We have naturally become better, but, we also made a lot of adjustments. We have reviewed film, know their strengths and weaknesses and we are ready to play. I am hoping this game willlbe a good show for everybody there to see.”

One person we didn’t have to check with about the improvement of this Otter Valley team is Ramsey Worrell. He and his team found out first hand last week, that the Otters were new and improved. The question now IS, does Windsor have enough on film from that one, to adjust to this oncoming freight train?

Burr + Burton and Bellows Falls meet for the second time this season at 2:30 and the question IS: can anybody stop the Bulldogs, who have owned the past two falls’ in Division II?

This scribe believes B+B coach Jason Thomas has it right when he says, “Bellows Falls is a pretty good football team you know.” They are big and physical and they could beat a number of Division I teams. This is a good team we are playing.” Thomas made sure he didn’t sell his own team short though as he remarked, “we are a good football team too. We may not be big, but we are physical and we are athletic. We have many players in the skill positions, who consistently make plays, which make me look good. Truth be told when our athleticism shows through, it makes us a little more dynamic. That has little to do with coaching.” Thomas gives his athletes loads of credit, but, Division II foes clearly know, you can’t listen to everything Thomas says, because clearly they know, he certainly has athletes, but just as certainly, he can out right coach.

Bellows Falls knows what they are up against. For the second season in a row, the two teams advanced to Week eight with unblemished records. They are meeting in the Division II title game for the second straight year and the only losses the Terriers have suffered in those two fall campaigns, are at the hands of the Bulldogs. Burr and Burton defeated them on an inclement evening in the Falls three weeks ago 34-14 and the wounds in BF are still fresh from last years title defeat 28-7.

Terrier coach Bob Lockerby has said on more than one occasion, “I have told you guys, (the media) that it is going to take our best game to beat this team and we haven’t had our best game yet. ” Echoing the words of Thomas, Lockerby says, “we are a good football team and they are too. In games of this type, the team that makes the fewest mistakes has a good chance to win.” Referring to Burr + Burton, Lockerby said, “this is a football team that hasn’t lost a game in three years.Obviously they do a lot of things right. For us to beat them, we will also have to do a lot of things right . Mistakes will be key. They lead to time of possession and if we could control that part of the football game, that would be big for us.”

This is the one repeat title game and with that factor, certainly there is intrigue. The question of how much intrigue and whether it can cause the type of upset the political world gave us this week, remains to be seen.

When the natural light goes down and the artificial ones come on, it will be time for the Game of the Day, the Division I title clash between Hartford and St. Johnsbury. It says here, this will be one fans will not want to miss.

The two teams met in Week eight and the Hurricanes came from fourteen points down to come away with the victory 35-20. As if that comeback wasn’t enough to prove their mettle, Hartford fell behind Rutland by 20 and lived to tell about it, squeaking out a 34-33 triumph in Rutland. To summarize, Matt Trombly’s eleven, has proven they can be two touchdowns behind St. Johnsbury and wiggle their way out of the mess and three touchdowns behind, on the field they are actually playing on for the title game and do the same, so……..

So the truth is, all that means nothing this time around. Trombly told us, “certainly we have proven we can come from behind, but I think we fall behind sometimes because it takes us awhile to get use to the flow of the game and to what we see. Then if that is the where it is, we make the adjustments we need to and play the game just like we always do. Hartford has been the same for years, since Mike (Stone) was here. Nothing different. We just play Hartford football and see what happens. We have a good group of guys, who play it the same every game. We just go out and play our game.”

Hilltopper coach Rich Alercio says “the first game was about short field situations. We gave them too many short fields, both in the first half and then again in the second and you can’t do that and expect to win. We slowed down a little near the end of the season but we have now made some adjustments and corrections and the kids are determined to show how good a football team we are. Saturday we will see.”

These two teams have strong offenses and strong defenses and appear to match up well. Chances are, when one looks at the order of the games, the schedule maker may have saved the best for last. Kick-off is at 5:00 Saturday.