Noah Brock’s 49-yard run set up the only touchdown in BFA-Fairfax/Lamoille’s 6-0 victory at Poultney early this season.
As much as the game was a defensive struggle neither team will be waiting on pins and needles for the big-play shoe to drop when they meet Saturday in the Division III football finals.
“We want to stop their run and play defense and play the way we’re capable of. That’s the way we approach everything and that hasn’t changed at all,” said Poultney coach Dave Capman.
“Our offense is designed to win close games,” said BFA/Lamoille coach Craig Sleeman.
That’s the 2 p.m. middle game of a day-long football fest at Rutland High School’s Alumni Field and it’s perceived as the best chance for a low-scoring contest.
The first kickoff is at 11 a.m. with No. 2 Bellows Falls facing unbeaten No. 1 Brattleboro in the D-II finals, and the last at 5 p.m. when unbeaten No. 1 St. Johnsbury faces No. 3 Burr and Burton for the D-I crown. Bellows Falls and Burr and Burton have something in common with Poultney; all three will be trying to avenge their only losses of the season.
BFA/Lamiolle’s game at Poultney in Week 2 was all about defense and field position and now the two run-loving teams will bring their show to the artificial turf.
The Bullets out-gained Poultney in yards from scrimmage, 217-159, with the difference being Brock’s big run.
The No. 2 Bullets did something few teams have been able to do: shut down Poultney speedster Levi Allen, holding him to 32 yards on 14 carries. Quarterback Caden Capman led the top-seeded Blue Devils offense that day with 76 yards, while Brock had 101 for BFA/Lamiolle and Jaxon Shaarschmidt another 40.
The teams combined to complete only four passes (two apiece by Capman and the Bullets’ Cam Meunier) and none were factors.
So it’s all about running the ball, with Poultney’s big line holding a size advantage and Sleeman giving his team the edge in speed.
“They are much bigger and stronger than us,” Sleeman said.
Yet the Bullets were the statistical winners in the first meeting in field position, total yards and time of possession.
BFA is 9-1 after avenging a 38-36 loss to Otter Valley in the semis, 20-6. The regular-season meeting was by far the worst showing for a rugged BFA defense which, like Poultney, commonly holds opponents to single-digit scoring.
Poultney, 9-1, has won eight straight games since the loss in September.
Both teams had more chances to score in that game but turnovers intervened.
With the game scoreless, Poultney’s Lucas DuPell recovered a Bullets fumble and a Capman swing pass to Allen positioned Poultney at the BFA 7, but an interception by Patrick Roling killed that threat.
BFA had a chance to pad the lead provided by Brock’s 5-yard run when, at the Poultney 29, the Blue Devils’ Lane Gibbs came up with a fumble. Poultney had four turnovers that day to the Bullets’ two.
BFA won its last title in 2014 while Poultney, which last won in 2007, is eager for a crown after falling one score short against Woodstock in the 2018 finals.
This game could turn on any snap of the ball so it’s possible that a less-heralded player like running backs Ty Garon of BFA/Lamoille and Poultney’s DuPell could emerge the hero.
In D-II, Bellows Falls is trying to replicate the 2016 season when the Terriers avenged a regular-season loss to Burr and Burton with a victory over the Bulldogs in the finals. Now BF faces a Brattleboro team that has squashed its opponents all year, including 49-26 over BF in the season opener.
Brattleboro, 10-0, won its last championship in D-I in 1973 and is trying to cap a perfect season in its first year in D-II.
A Burr and Burton victory would provide a rare daily double for the 2019 fall season. The Stowe boys soccer team moved up to D-II this year and won the title after taking the D-III crown last season. Now BBA looks for a D-I crown after winning the D-II title last year.
The same fete was accomplished last season in field hockey by Bellows Falls in its first year in D-I.
The 9-1 Bulldogs face a 10-0 St. Johnsbury team that defeated them in Manchester 50-38 this season.
Last year BBA lost to Middlebury at home and ran the table on its way to a championship.