Middlebury — The defending state champion Middlebury Union High School Tigers extended their winning streak to 28 straight games, topping the Essex Hornets 34-27 on Friday night on Doc Collins Field.
Middlebury trailed early. After a Tigers three and out and a subsequent short punt into the wind on their first possession, Essex took over at the Middlebury 42 yard line and marched it right down the field, finishing their opening drive on an 11 yard touchdown run by Liam Coulter to take a 7-0 lead just five and a half minutes into the game.
Essex then backed the Tigers up inside their own ten yard line on their next possession, but on a third and five from their own 13 Middlebury quarterback Oakley Gordon found wideout Sawyer behind the Hornets defense and Ryan turned on the speed down the right sideline to complete an 87 yard touchdown pass play and tie the game. Middlebury then took the lead in the second quarter as tri-captain Jerry Niemo banged in from two yards out. It was 14-7 Tigers at the break.
Middlebury added to their lead in the third quarter on Trey Kaufmann’s four yard run, then stretched it to three scores on Niemo’s 61 yard run with 40 seconds left in the third quarter.
Down 28-7 heading into the fourth, Essex refused to quit. Elliot Boutin’s two yard run with 6:19 to play cut the Tigers lead to 28-13. But again the visitor’s would be burned on a big play, as Gordon took the ensuing kickoff deep into Essex territory, set up fullback Parker Gross’ 18 yard run, pushing the margin to 34-13.
But again Essex came back, Boutin scoring from four yards out with 1:55 to play to move within 34-19. After a Gordon pass was intercepted by Essex D-back Nick Fagnant, the Hornets stuck it in the end zone again, quarterback Eli DiGrande finding tightend Colby Trudeau with 14 seconds to play. DiGrande then hit Coulter with a two point pass to cut the Tigers lead to 34-27.
Essex would then recover the ensuing on side kick, but Middlebury would pick off DiGrande’s last second hail mary pass to seal the win.
Now 6-0 this year, Middlebury travels to Rice next Saturday. Essex, now 1-5, will host Brattleboro next Friday night at the Essex Field.