MUHS football tops St. Albans, 28-14

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Union High School took care of business at home on Friday, turning back BFA-St. Albans, 28-14, to complete an undefeated regular season.

The 8-0 Tigers earned the No. 2 seed in Division 1 behind also unbeaten St. Johnsbury, and will host No. 7 St. Albans (4-4) again at 7 p.m. this Friday.

A victory on Friday will mean a home semifinal on Nov. 1 against either No. 3 Burr & Burton (7-1) or No. 6 Hartford (4-4).

BFA did not make it easy for MUHS this past Friday. The game was 13-6, MUHS, when the Bobwhites received the second-half kickoff.

But the Tigers dominated the third period, allowing BFA a total of two yards on three possessions, and scoring on 31- and 14-yard Tyler Buxton runs. Buxton also ran in a conversion after the first score, and the period ended with the Tigers in control, 28-7.

The Tigers were coming off an emotional 42-7 win at Rutland seven days before. Coach Dennis Smith said his team didn’t bring the same passion to the first half of Friday’s game, something he reminded them of at halftime. 

“I told them right off last Sunday it’s getting you back into that frame of mind you had for the Rutland game,” Smith said. “I don’t think we were totally there, not mentally prepared for a game like this. We tried to warn them. We got the victory. That’s the good thing. But we also learned some lessons tonight.”

A bigger question mark for the Tigers heading into the postseason might be their offensive line. On Monday starting guard Jack Rizzo went down with an injury that Smith said was season-ending, becoming the second lineman lost for the duration after center Andrew Hinman was hurt earlier.

But the unit of Trysten Quesnel and Drew Gill at tackle, Colin Bradford and Riley Wright Quesnel at guard and Cooper Laroche at center held up well on Friday, as the Tigers ran for 305 yards. Buxton led the way with 20 rushes for 199 yards, and Ian Ploof (9 carries, 45 yards), Gabe Dunn (6 for 34), Thatcher Trudeau (5 for 25) and quarterback Tim Goettelmann (6 for 19) all did damage.

Smith said the depth is thin if more injuries strike.

“Every week somebody’s down,” Smith said. “All of a sudden we’re re-patching the line again.”

The Tigers moved easily 71 yards for a score on their first possession, the first 53 on the ground and the last 18 on a Goettelmann pass to Bode Rubright in the end zone.

BFA answered behind the power running of Dominic Liscinsky (17 carries, 107 yards) and CJ McCallister (6 for 51), marching 90 yards to make it 7-7 on a 28-yard McCallister run that Smith said was a fullback trap play.

After that drive the Bobwhites found the going tougher as Smith moved Nikolai Luksch back to nose guard from tackle and, he said, the linebackers began to get better reads on the BFA run game, especially the trap plays.

“It’s a hard thing to stop, but for the most part we did stop it after that first series,” he said.

The Tigers answered back, moving 68 yards on the ground for Buxton’s second TD. The Tigers threatened again in the second quarter, but BFA’s Jake Reynolds picked Goettelmann off in the end zone.

The Tigers made no mistakes in the dominant third quarter, with first a 74-yard drive that Buxton finished by breaking and eluding tackles on a weaving 31-yard TD dash. Buxton ran in the two-point conversion to make it 21-7.

Next the Tigers moved 50 yards, with strong running from Ploof and Trudeau setting up Buxton’s diving catch of a five-yard Goettelmann pass on third-and-goal. Goettelmann completed two of five attempts for 23 yards. The Luksch kick made it 28-7.

In the fourth quarter Buxton topped 1,000 yards on an 11-yard run, according to WVTK-FM radio announcer Bjarki Sears, to cap his big evening.

BFA created the final score on a penalty-aided drive finished by a 7-yard Liscinsky run. Reynolds also completed a 16-yard pass on the drive; he finished three of 14 for 39 yards and tossed interceptions to Mason Kaufmann and Ploof. 

Before this coming Friday, Smith said he will remind the Tigers again not to take BFA lightly.

“They’ve given a lot of good teams a lot of good games,” he said.

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