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Tuesday October 21, 2014 Edition
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Middlebury Tigers End Undefeated Season With 51-0 Win Over Burlington

Benn Lussier stops a  Seahorse in his tracks
photo provided
Benn Lussier stops a Seahorse in his tracks
Oakley Gordon has his turn carrying the football
photo provided
Oakley Gordon has his turn carrying the football

Tuesday October 21, 2014

By Bill Hinman

Middlebury played host to the Burlington Seahorses for their final regular season home game hoping to keep alive their perfect season.  As is tradition, instead of announcing starting line ups, the Seniors were introduced prior to the kickoff.  Additionally, Leonard Barrett was honored for his long service to both the School Board and Middlebury community.  A tree was planted in his honor just outside the food booth where he has been a staple cooking up “Lenny Burgers” for the fans.  Burlington won the toss and elected to not press their luck and received the ball.  A good kick followed by an even more impressive return by Mohamed Noor found the Seahorses with excellent field position at the Middlebury 29. An encroachment penalty furthered Burlington’s cause and they were set to test the Tiger defense with a first and five from the 24. A good first series found the Tigers in a position it had not faced since Hartford with Burlington threatening on the 16.  Nose guard Nick Beauchamp would have none of it and sliced through the defense to set the Seahorses back three yards giving Burlington a second and 13.  Burlington, wanting to strike first, went to the air and on a forth and 11 Austin Robinson positioned himself between the Seahorse receiver and ball coming down with an interception in the end zone for a touchback.  Burlington appeared well versed on the Middlebury offense and held the foursome of Robinson, Ritter, Hathaway and Fisher in relative check for several plays.  That is to say Middlebury was forced to convert third and short twice before a 44 yard breakaway from Hathaway gave the Tigers excellent field position on the three.  On the next play Robinson kept the ball running to the left and in to score.  The point after was good.  With six minutes off the clock Middlebury led 7-0.  A quick three and out found Burlington unraveling a bit and the Tigers appeared poised to pounce.  The Tigers went back to the basics to establish the running game with the option. Running up the middle on a second and fifteen Stone appeared to have the first down when the Seahorses stripped the ball and recovered the fumble at the 21 yard line.  Thanks to a hard attack by the defensive line the Seahorse again found no traction and were forced to punt.  Burlington, understanding they needed some breaks against the Tigers, tried for a fake punt but were crushed at the line of scrimmage giving Middlebury the ball on the 30.  The Tiger offensive line provided good stunts and pulling guards to reestablish the ground game and bring the ball to the 13.  On second and 13 from the 16 Robinson went to the air and found Sam Holmes wide open in the back of the end zone for a quick six.  The point after was good leaving the score 14-0 one minute into the second quarter.  On the next possession the Seahorses again went to the bag of tricks and successfully completed an inside screen catching the defensive line off guard giving Burlington some breathing room on its own 37.  Middlebury got the hint and tightened up the secondary which foiled the passing game and Burlington was forced to punt three plays later.  A good series of eight plays hindered only by one holding penalty and Justin Stone ran the ball in from the 10. Score 21-0 with 7:05 left.  Burlington received the ball on their own 25 and went a quick three plays before punting the ball from their 24.  On the next series first play Ritter finally found the seam he was looking for and on a great cross block by the tackle he ran for what appeared to be a 73 yard touchdown.  A blocking in the back penalty negated some of the run and the Tigers were left 27 yards from pay dirt.   Burlington did not quit and the Tiger eleven were forced to be satisfied with a field goal by Nate Lalonde.  Burlington received the ensuing kick and ran it back to the 35.  With just two minutes left nose tackle Nick Beauchamp again sliced through the line and found the quarterback deep in the back field for a sack.  Burlington, fearing another score would put the game totally out of reach decided to punt.  Austin Robinson knelt on the next play to end the half Tigers leading 24-0. Middlebury has always been known as a football town.  From early on all kids are encouraged to try their hand at the game and Friday night the Middlebury fans were entertained with a fourth grade flag football  scrimmage    The rookies showed impressive skill and a glimpse of the quality players the Tigers will see in the future. From the look of the players’ faces after the scrimmage it appeared the kids were as thrilled as the spectators.   For the second half Coach Smith was not ready to rest the starters and all of the first team returned on the offense.  On the first play from scrimmage Ritter got what he was denied in the first.  Running off tackle, he flew by the defenders for a 52 yard score and only 20 seconds off the clock.  The Seahorses at this point knew the game was out of hand and appeared resigned to a loss.  After a quick three and out Middlebury pounded the ball downfield to the 27 where Robinson on an excellent read off the defensive end turned the ball up field and in for a touchdown.  The starters were done.  Score 37-0.  The remainder of the third and fourth quarters would include Gordon leading the offense.  The less experienced Tigers running backs were well supported by the line getting several first downs and a nice pass from Gordon to Ryan leaving the score 44-0.  A tipped pass late in forth was caught by Jerry Niemo for the last of Middlebury’s points.  Final Score 51-0.  On Monday October 20 pairings will be announced for the quarter finals.  One certainty, Middlebury will be ranked first and have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.         

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