MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School football team used a passing attack to earn 14 fourth-quarter points on Friday and rally past visiting Fair Haven, 14-6, in a Division II contest.
Junior quarterback Brendan Burrell hit senior wideout Devin Bradford as the quarter opened and sophomore halfback Marshall Hastings with 1:07 to go. Junior halfback Jerry Hoffman also tossed a two-point conversion to Bradford on an option play.
In all, Burrell completed seven of 10 attempts for 99 yards, including five of seven for 75 yards in the fourth quarter. Senior co-captain and two-way lineman Jimmy Danyow agreed it’s unusual to see the Tigers rely on throwing the ball. But he didn’t mind doing some pass-blocking.
“It’s surprising me, too. But it’s working, so let’s keep it up,” Danyow said. “It’s nice to finally pass it, because they can’t just stack the box with nine people expecting us to run every time.”
Coach Dennis Smith said his young Tiger team can’t line up and blow people off the ball, and may keep throwing. They rushed 35 times for 140 yards, including two Hastings runs for 81 yards. In their other 33 rushes, they averaged about 1.5 yards.
“We don’t have the kind of offense where we can just run someone over right now. So we’ve got to do what we need to do to keep things rolling,” Smith said.
The MUHS defense held the Slaters to 235 yards, 177 yards on the ground on 33 carries and 58 passing yards as two quarterbacks — one of them Orwell’s Jessie Maynard — combined to complete six of 10 attempts.
“We hung in there,” Smith said. “We bent a little bit. We didn’t break.”
The Slaters took the lead at 1:47 of the first quarter. Maynard completed a key third-down pass to keep the 64-yard drive alive, and David Atkins (8 carries, 52 yards) ran 24 yards to the Tiger 6-yard line. Maynard ran in from the 2 for the score, but the Slater pass for the conversion failed.
The Tigers marched 77 yards to the Slater 2 in the second quarter, with Burrell tossing a 22-yard pass to Bryan Ashley-Selleck and Hastings ripping off a 39-yard run. But Ryan Foley couldn’t handle a Burrell pass at the goal line, and Nick Bruno made a diving interception at 2:02.
Foley redeemed himself as the first half expired, making a touchdown-saving tackle of Kody Bardin at the Tiger 2 to prevent the Slaters from extending their lead.
After the Tigers denied Maynard on a fourth-and-one sneak at the MUHS 35, they marched for the tying score. Burrell hit Hastings for 11 yards on one third-and-11 play, and Hastings also broke loose for 52 yards to the Slater 15.
Soon afterward, Burrell found Bradford at the back of the end zone, and Bradford did well to keep his feet in bounds. Burrell’s kick missed, and it was 6-6.
The Tiger defense held the Slaters twice, once because Austin Quesnel recovered a fumble.
Finally, the Tigers got the ball back on their own 16 with 4:32 to go.
Then they moved 84 yards in 3:25. First downs came on a Kaden Odell run, a pass to Hastings, a pass interference call, and a 23-yard pass from Burrell to Hoffman at the Slater 17. After a run lost three yards, Burrell rolled right, picked up a block from Odell, and hit Hastings on the 10. Hastings raced in for the lead, and Hoffman hit Bradford with the conversion to make it 14-6.
Hastings sealed the win by intercepting Bruno as time expired. Hastings, a sophomore, finished with four catches for 61 yards to go with eight carries for 87 yards.
Fair Haven, which includes a number of other players from Orwell (linemen Jordan Bradish and Luke Lendway, and freshman Dakota Euber and Cody Bradish), dropped to 1-1, 0-1 in D-II.
Danyow believes the 1-1 Tigers will gain confidence by not only winning, but also making progress after their opening loss at Colchester.
“We made fewer mistakes this game than we did last game, and it’s starting to click,” Danyow said. “The younger players are starting to step up big.”