On a beautiful late September day at Alumni Field, everything seemed normal. There were stretching lines, receiving drills being run and a palpable sense of excitement in the air. Football was on the docket.
Rutland hosted Poultney in the opener of its 7-on-7 touch football season, winning 37-0.
The big boys laid the groundwork for a nice day for the Raiders. Sophomore Owen Traynor did the quarterbacking and put the lineman group in great positions to succeed.
On Rutland’s first drive, the Raiders drove 61 yards and capped it off with an 11-yard pass from Traynor to senior Toby Jakubowski.
Traynor made another game-changing play on Poultney’s second drive picking off Levi Allen and found Jakubowksi again, this time from 14 yards, to put Rutland up 14-0.
“Other than the quarterback, we had all linemen kids out there. We found a couple kids who can catch the football,” said Rutland coach Mike Norman. “The credit goes to them because a year ago a guy like Toby Jakubowski and Joe Pratico were in three-point stances, dive blocking people and now we’re asking them to learn formations and learn route combinations.”
Poultney was in business on the ensuing drive with junior Taite Capman in at quarterback, finding Allen twice to get the Blue Devils into Rutland territory and Grant Schreiber to get close to the red zone.
But just as Poultney was driving, the Rutland defense responded again. Sophomore Jonah Bassett picked off Capman to deflate the Blue Devils.
Poultney responded, intercepting Raiders quarterback Evan Pockette, but the Blue Devils didn’t take advantage and went 3-and-out on the ensuing drive.
A great 35-yard pass from Pockette to Slade Postemski put Rutland up 21-0 heading into the half.
The Raiders drove into Blue Devils territory to end the third and quickly scored in the fourth on a Pockette to Jack Coughlin connection, before adding a Coughlin field goal and Anthony Cavalieri touchdown pass to cap off a convincing win.
Even in the losing effort, Poultney coach Dave Capman liked some of the things he saw from his side.
“It took us a while to get into the speed of the game because we can’t create that stuff in practice,” coach Capman said. “After a while, I think we did well. I think we might have got tired by the end.”
The 7-on-7 game is completely pass-oriented, which is quite the adjustment for the Blue Devils who historically run the ball a lot.
“It’s an opportunity to have people see different things,” coach Capman said. “For us, we run the ball 75 percent of the time, so to throw is a whole new mindset for me. It’s a learning process for us and them.”
A good thing about 7-on-7 is that it allows coaches to give guys more reps at the varsity level than they may normally get.
Rutland used four different quarterbacks on Saturday, while Poultney used three.
For Rutland, Traynor passed for 199 yards, Evan Pockette for 121 yards, Eli Pockette for 78 yards and Cavalieri for 59 yards.
Jakubowski had 92 receiving yards to lead Rutland, along with the two scores. Practico picked up 76 yards.
For Poultney, Taite Capman had 90 yards passing, Allen had 60 yards and Gabe Wescott completed one pass for 12 yards. Schreiber led the Blue Devils with 49 receiving yards, followed by Alt with 43.
Just getting out on the field is a blessing. With the pandemic in full force, full contact football was pushed aside for the year, with 7-on-7 taking its place. While it isn’t what most expected, it’s something, and in that sense, it’s good. “All the credit goes to the kids and the community doing a great job allowing us to get out here,” Norman said. “Many months ago I said if we were able to fit helmets, that would be an accomplishment. If we were able to practice, it would be an accomplishment, and to get a chance to compete would be a super accomplishment.
“It’s what makes Rutland Rutland. Hats off to Poultney. Both teams are trying to figure this out at the same time.”
“They always want that competitiveness, regardless of what it is. Having 7-on-7 is better than nothing,” coach Capman said.
Rutland (1-0) heads to Mill River for a Tuesday game at 4 p.m, while Poultney (0-1) plays at Burr and Burton Wednesday at 4 p.m.