Vermont Footbal Semi-finals Are Upon- Us

by Bill Murphy

It’s Final Four time in all divisions. Four unbeatens in three divisions have to be considered favorites and the question now is, ARE all or any of them going to move on to the finals. Looking from this vantage point, the chances look good, that there will be more than one undefeated CHAMPION when titles are decided next week.
If forecasts can be believed, it will be quite cold for the Friday night affairs, BUT, will warm up a little for the Saturday afternoon match-ups. I like the way both the Division II and III games are set-up as each division has one game Friday and one Saturday, allowing fans to take in both IF they like. I assume, the schedule falls to the preference of day to the higher seed, so in a perfect world, IF Division I was forced into a two day scheme, Middlebury would have to move to Saturday, BUT, as everyone knows the world is not perfect. This weeks schedule is:

Division I:

  • Champlain Valley Union at Rutland Friday 7 p.m.
  • Hartford at Middlebury Friday 7 p.m.

Division II:

  • Burlington at Bellows Falls Friday 7 p.m.
  • Milton at Burr + Burton Saturday 1 p.m.

Division III:

  • Woodstock at Union 32 Friday at 7 p.m.
  • Mill River at Otter Valley Saturday at 2 p.m.

GAMES WHICH ARE LOCKS- The list here becomes smaller every week. The only lock is Otter Valley and even if they don’t focus they should walk away with this one. Jim Hill’s team will score early, late and often.

GAMES OF THE WEEK- Here we point to both Division II games. From this perspective, we think Burr + Burton IS the class of this division, BUT, we also believe Division II is the only one of the states three divisions, where any one of the teams has a chance to win two in a row and capture all the marbles. The home teams are expected to win setting up a Burr + Burton-Bellows Falls rematch, BUT, no one is a lock. Remember. this is the only division where all teams meet each other during the regular season.

APOLOGY TO OXBOW- Last week we forecast a number of happenings, BUT, one was way off base. Thus, we would like to give credit where credit was due. Woodstock defeated Oxbow, as we expected, BUT, we thought this time around the Wasps would show, they were far and away the better team. The exact words we used a week ago were “Woodstock only won 21-16 the first time around. All we can say is, it won’t be that close this time around.” The truth IS, it was exactly that close. Woodstock prevailed 38-33. The Olympians may not be moving on to the semi-finals, BUT, they were a very good team this fall.

ONE REMATCH THAT ISN’T THE SAME- CVU is at Rutland Friday night and these two teams played in Week 2,when Rutland came away a 28-7 winner. Both coaches feel that that was eons ago and that their opponent has improved a great deal since then. This makes sense as the idea is for teams to get better as the season goes along, reaching their peak in time for the seasons most important game.

CVU coach Barry Williams is in his first year since coming over from Bellows Free Academy (Fairfax) and it takes time to learn your new team. Rutland Coach Mike Norman expects a more experienced team in Williams way of doing things later in the season. He told The Northeast Sports Network, “I can remember back to my first year and it takes some time to get to know each other. They have improved greatly and we will not be taking them for granted.”

On the subject of improvement, Williams sees that ingredient coming through in Norman’s Raiders. He says, “they are playing so well the last two weeks. They have gotten so much better since the last time we met. They are a very good football team. It is a formidable task to take them on.”
Williams was basically awed by his own team last week. They were the only Vermont play-off team to win on the road in the first week of the postseason. “We had a real gritty performance to win that game on the road. Some people have said that our kids were not tough enough to grit it out like that. They certainly showed what tough is,” he remarked, referring to the 19-16 victory at Brattleboro.

Norman may be seeded number one and has home field advantage, BUT, he note again he states clearly, “we will not be taken them for granted. They are a good team and Mike is a good coach.”
One last interesting note from Williams. “Any team forms it’s identity during the season.It doesn’t matter how long the coach has been there, each team finds their own, he said , BUT, e did admit, “it is quite different in your first year.”

How does Norman look at the field from atop? Is it an advantage or disadvantage to be the number one seed?
“It depend what day it is,” he says, adding, “it can bring confidence, BUT, there certainly will be teams out there wanting to beat you. We control what we can control and that is what you have to do.”

WOODSTOCK’S CHALLENGE- “If you take a look at the Division III schedule, we are the only team in our division, who played all of the top six contenders. Playing good teams, makes you get better and we have had a challenge every week,” Woodstock Coach Ramsey Worrell told us.

Worrell likes also, for the most par,t how his team has grown, BUT, his experienced team (many juniors who played as sophomores) may have that experience, BUT, they are still young and growing. They are also the only Vermont team, who has played two teams they met in the regular season, two weeks in a row in the play-offs. They lost 14-13 to Union 32 in Week 5.

“We may have had many of our players last year, BUT, they are still not experienced in alot of game situations. They still have to learn, like, if your offense is clicking and you are starting the second half, you have to start all over. Things don’t automatically start the same. There are no breaks in this game.You have to learn to play four quarters every week. This has hurt us at times,” he says.

Can they find two points to win on the road against Union 32? Worrell kind of avoids the question, BUT, tells us, “This is going to be a great football game. If you are a fan, this is one you will want to see. In the end though, I can tell you, it is going to come down to execution and who takes care of the football.”