ADDISON COUNTY — The local high school sports season kicks off — literally — with two football games on Friday night. One of the first two teams in action this fall was the last team in action in the fall of 2011.
That would be the Middlebury Union football team, a perennial title contender that reached the Division I championship game a year ago in its return to D-I after two successful seasons in D-II.
The Tigers will begin this campaign at 7 p.m. on Friday by hosting Mount Mansfield, another team that moved up to D-I from D-II a year ago, but that unlike the Tigers had never played in the state’s top league before. The Cougars were competitive in 2011, but finished out of the postseason race. The Tigers go on the road in week two, when they play Essex on Friday, Sept. 7.
Also opening on this coming Friday at 7 p.m. will be the Otter Valley 11, which travels to D-II rival Springfield. The Otters knocked off the Cosmos in their home opener a year ago and will be looking to make it two in a row against a Springfield team that is reportedly young and inexperienced. The Otters next host Lyndon on Saturday, Sept. 8.
The cooperative Mount Abraham and Vergennes football team opens at home this coming Saturday, when the joint squad — which plays at Mount Abe under the Eagle banner — hosts D-III rival Montpelier. The Solons upset the Eagles a year ago, but the Eagles rallied for their first postseason appearance since their back-to-back eight-man titles early in the past decade. Mount Abe next has a Sept. 7 evening date at defending D-III champion Woodstock.
The Middlebury, Mount Abraham and Vergennes cross country teams will be seeing a lot of each other early on this season, starting on Sept. 1 at Champlain Valley Union. That school will host its annual CVU Relays beginning at 10 a.m. this Saturday.
On the following Wednesday, the three teams are scheduled to meet again at a “Class Races” event hosted by South Burlington that will pit runners of the same age against one another.
On Saturday the 8th comes the first major test of the young season for the Tigers (who are coming off two successful seasons in D-II, including a 2010 title for the boys), Commodores and Eagles — the Essex Invitational, which will feature many of the top teams from around the state.
The Otter Valley squad has a somewhat less active early schedule: In the first week the Otters will travel to Arlington on Sept. 4.
Two boys’ soccer teams swing into action on Sept. 4. Otter Valley will host Springfield at 4:30 p.m. that day, and then also host neighborhood rival Proctor at the same time two days later.
The VUHS boys also open on Sept. 4, when the Commodores head up Route 7 to take on Rice at 4:30 p.m.
Then the Commodores will join Mount Abraham on Thursday and Saturday, Sept. 6 and 8, at Middlebury’s annual J.P. Carrara & Sons Inc. tournament, with games at Fucile Field and the nearby Legion field.
MUHS will open its season by hosting the Commodores on Fucile Field on the 6th, and the Eagles — coming off a run to the D-II semis in 2011 — will square off against Milton on the Legion field, with both games at 4:30 p.m.
The tournament’s consolation and final will both be played on Fucile Field on Saturday, Sept. 8, at noon and 2 p.m., respectively.
The OV girls’ soccer team kicks off the local season in that sport and has the busiest next week among the local teams. The Otters open on the road at Poultney on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 4:30 p.m., and then on the following Friday and Saturday pay their annual visit to the Black River tournament. At 6 p.m. on Sept. 7 the Otters take on Proctor, and depending on results they will face either Green Mt. Union or Black River in the tourney’s consolation or final at 6 or 8 p.m. on Sept. 8.
The MUHS girls, looking to build on their improved play in 2011, open at home on Sept. 5, when Lamoille will visit at 4:30 p.m.
The VUHS girls went through an injury-plagued 2011, but recovered to win two playoff games. They face a tough opener at D-I Colchester on Sept. 5.
Then, on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 10 a.m. Mount Abraham, which blossomed in the 2011 regular season but was upset in the first round of the postseason, visits the Commodores to renew their rivalry in what will be the Eagles’ 2012 opener.
All three area field hockey teams play twice next week, and all three open on Sept. 5.
The marquee matchup is a rematch of the D-I final, pitting defending champion MUHS — which graduated 10 seniors from its title team — against 2010 champ South Burlington at MUHS at 4 p.m.
At the same time, new coach Stacey Edmunds-Brickell’s Otters will debut at Burr & Burton.
That evening at 7 p.m., Mount Abe will play under the lights at Essex, starting at 7 p.m.
OV returns to action on Sept. 7 at 4 p.m. at rival Rutland, and on Saturday, Sept. 8., at 10 a.m. in Bristol the Eagles and Tigers renew their rivalry.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]