ST. ALBANS — The punt snap sailed over Garrett Davine’s head and the play looked doomed. The Raiders senior had to race back deep in Rutland territory to retrieve the ball but when he tried to kick, a BFA-St. Albans defender was right in his face.
Davine improvised. He danced away, then scrambled toward the right sideline, and on the run completed a 26-yard pass to Luke Ragosta down the sideline for a stunning first down at the Bobwhite 20.
Owen Perry later capped the bonus drive with a 3-yard scoring pass to Ragosta to make it 21-6 and give Rutland some separation in a very physical game.
But it was hardly all chance and razzle-dazzle in Rutland’s 35-13 victory in Division I football Friday night.
The Raiders cleaned things up after a mistake-filled first half and played well on both sides of the ball. The passing game looked better. The running game looked better.
And boy, did the defense ever look better.
After giving up the first score of the game and 165 yards in the first half, Rutland’s defense played its familiar shutdown style and held BFA to one first down and 34 yards while building a 35-6 lead.
Playing in St. Albans has not been kind to the Raiders over the years, making Friday’s victory all the more satisfying.
“It’s a long trip and they’re a good team and program. Anytime you leave St. Albans with a ‘W’ it’s a good day,” said coach Mike Norman.
Furthermore, the Raiders are 5-1 and in control of their playoff destiny. BFA, which had been coming on, fell to 3-3.
Perry threw four touchdown passes with Ragosta his favorite target. Including Davine’s toss, Ragosta had eight grabs for 149 yards and three scores and Perry was 11 for 24 and 165 yards.
Hunter Postemski ran 8 yards for the last TD and Matt Noel caught a 20-yard scoring strike.
It was one of those night-and-day games. BFA started strong with a bruising running attack led by Dom Liscinsky (66 yards) and C.J. McAllister (50).
“They got it together and we’re happy to be 5-1,” said Norman.
“I think we’ve improved but we’ve got to come out from the get-go and play strong.”
Liscinsky gave BFA the lead with a 33-yard burst up the middle at 6:37 of the first period. The point-after failed.
Several dropped balls vexed the Rutland offense coming out of the gate but they made use of a short field after a punt and major penalty set them up at the BFA 23. A Postemski run for 6 yards, a Perry burst for 12 and Perry’s 5-yard dart to Ragosta tied the game and Brady Kenosh’s kick put them ahead for good 10:52 before the half.
BFA threatened but Rutland was resilient, forcing a 40-yard field goal try that missed. BFA’s last possession of the half ended when quarterback Jake Reynolds’ pass from the 10 went high.
That was the closest BFA would get to the end zone until the game was decided.
Rutland padded the lead to 14-6 with a brisk drive as Perry heated up. His four passes covered 64 yards with the last, to Noel, set up by a pump fake.
Rutland went on to score on four straight possessions. The one that dancing Davine kept alive ended with Perry’s 10-yard toss to Ragosta.
Malike Hendrickson’s nifty punt return, when he was set free for 20-plus yards by a nice spin move, ended with Perry’s 27-yarder to Ragosta, with made it 28-6 with 36 ticks left in the third period.
Postemski (87 yards on 17 carries) capped a 65-yard drive helped along by two runs around the end for 20 yards by Hendrickson with 8:28 to play.
BFA scored against Rutland’s second defense when Carter Commo went 41 yards with 2:52 left.
Rutland was out-gained 165-107 in the first half but won the overall, 315-267.
Rutland will host Middlebury on Friday and cap the regular season at Hartford the following Friday.