Courtesy Castleton Sports Information
CASTLETON – The Spartans gave up a touchdown on their opening drive but, a senior-led defense allowed just six points over the final 57 minutes and the offense came alive on the way to a 31-13 victory over Norwich to win the Maple Sap Bucket Trophy for the second consecutive year and the first time at Spartan Stadium.
Castleton outgained Norwich 371-312 in yards, despite running 20 less plays and the defense recorded six sacks and picked off three passes as the team improved to 7-3 and 5-2 in the ECFC to conclude the regular season. The Cadets managed just 144 passing yards on 34 attempts and zero touchdowns as they dropped to 7-3 and 6-1 in conference play.
The senior defensive front of Jay Morgan, Brett Denning, Matt Keir and Luke Quesnell each had at least one sack and combined for 5.5 sacks overall while recording 29 combined tackles to lead the defensive effort. Classmate Derek McAdoo added two interceptions, including a game-changing 54-yard interception return in the second quarter to set up the team’s first touchdown.
Offensively, senior Cyle Machia put together his best game in a Spartan uniform, catching four passes for 72 yards and a pair of scores. Classmate George Busharis was impressive behind center, going 14 of 22 for 207 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Freshman Moe Harris became the first Castleton running back to go over 1000 rushing yards on the season by churning out 135 yards on 29 carries with one touchdown.
Norwich’s Quincy Williams ran hard, gaining 101 yards on 24 carries while Philippe Bazinet rushed 16 times for 52 yards. Bazinet had a tougher time through the air, completing just 17 of 36 passes for 144 yards with three interceptions. Pierre Noel led all Cadet wide receivers with six catches for 68 yards while Matt Mulcahy had five for 35 yards.
Norwich took the ball to start the game and used a 37-yard rush by Bazinet to move inside Castleton territory. The Cadets got a penalty on third down to extend their drive and eventually scored on a 1-yard plunge by Williams with 12:18 left.
Castleton responded on its next possession, using eight plays to move down to the Norwich 13-yard line. However, on fourth down, Bobby Lineberger’s field goal attempt was wide of the uprights to keep the score 7-0.
Midway through the quarter the Spartans received a needed spark on a great play from McAdoo. Bazinet tried to connect on a deep pass but McAdoo picked it off at his 25-yard line and weaved through the defense for a 54-yard return to the Norwich 21-yard line, firing up the entire team.
Corey Brimmer started the drive with three rushes to get Castleton down to the nine-yard line and then on third and goal, Busharis hit Machia on a quick slant in the endzone to tie the game 7-7 with 1:44 remaining in the quarter.
On the ensuing possession, the Cadets again moved inside Castleton territory. However, Bazinet tried to go deep on a 30-yard pass to the endzone and Tyler Higley jumped the route and picked it off in the endzone to end the scoring threat.
The Spartans didn’t produce on their next possession but added one more score before the half. On first down from the his own 47, Busharis lofted a pass down the near sideline and Machia made the catch around a defender at the Norwich 20-yard line, before beating everyone into the endzone for the 14-7 lead at 5:17.
Castleton took possession of the ball to open the second half and moved down inside the Cadet 20-yard line on six plays. Two plays later Harris rushed the ball to the five-yard line, setting up a 4th-and-1. The Spartans elected to kick, and Lineberger converted the 21-yard attempt for the 17-7 lead.
The Cadets responded with a field goal on their next drive as Wesley Medeiros made his 40-yard attempt with 6:52 left to cut it to 17-10.
Castleton needed nine plays on its next drive to find pay dirt, culminating in a 33-yard touchdown scamper by Harris to push the lead to 24-10 with 3:30 remaining in the third.
Norwich added one more field goal before the end of the quarter as Medeiros easily made a 39-yard attempt to trim the lead to 11 points.
The Cadets then got the ball back early in the fourth looking to score. However, they were forced to punt from their 26-yard line on fourth down. On the attempt, freshman Adnane Adossama broke through the line to block the kick and Vince Sorce picked it up and ran it nine yards into the endzone to stretch the lead to 31-13 with 11:50 remaining.
Castleton’s defense did the rest, allowing just one first down in Norwich’s final four possessions as the Spartans earned the 18-point victory.
The Spartans now conclude the regular season with seven victories for the second straight year– matching the program record for wins in a season.
Notes: Moe Harris finished the season with a single-season record of 1,065 rushing yards … Brett Denning’s 2.0 sacks give him a single-season record of 6.0 and owns the program record for career sacks with 13.0 sacks.