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Rutland’s Malik Hendrickson drives with the ball, trying to dodge two Colchester defensive players during a game last month at Alumni Field in Rutland.

Last year's 42-7 Rutland victory at Middlebury was an anomaly in this series and not one coach Dennis Smith and the Tigers have forgotten.

"I remember that feeling last year," Smith said this week. "We were beaten in all aspects: offense, defense and special teams and physicality.

"I just think our kids weren't ready, especially for their running back (Dakota Peters) last year. We'd hit him at 2 yards and he'd run for 5 more. And their quarterback (Ryan Moore). ..."

Moore and Peters have graduated but the 6-0 Tigers anticipate the same kind of Raiders team (5-1) when they meet Friday night in a big Division I game at Alumni Field.

Rivalry aside, there is plenty on the line. Both teams are chasing St. Johnsbury in the D-I rankings and are mindful of Burr and Burton just behind them as well. The winner will have the inside track on a No. 2 seed in the upcoming tournament.

St. Jay will host Hartford on Friday and close the regular season at rival Lyndon next Saturday.

Rutland finishes the regular season at Hartford while Middlebury will host BFA-St. Albans.

Among other Week 7 games on Friday, 1-5 South Burlington/Burlington will be at 2-4 Colchester, 2-4 Mount Mansfield will visit 3-3 Essex, 4-2 Bellows Falls visits 1-5 North Country, 3-3 Fair Haven is at 6-0 Brattleboro; 1-5 Spaulding visits 1-5 Milton and 4-2 Springfield visits 0-6 Woodstock.

On Saturday, it's 3-3 BFA-St. Albans at 0-6 Rice, 3-3 Hartford at 6-0 St. Johnsbury, 3-3 Mount Anthony at 3-3 Lyndon, 4-2 U-32 at 1-5 Mount Abraham, 1-5 Mill River at 6-0 BFA-Fairfax, 5-1 Poultney at 3-3 Oxbow, 1-5 Windsor at 4-2 Otter Valley (7 p.m.) and 2-4 CVU at 5-1 Burr and Burton.

Middlebury turned right around last year after its embarrassment at home and beat Burr and Burton on the road. It was BBA's only setback on the way to the D-II crown.

"I don't think they lost another game until the playoffs," said Rutland coach Mike Norman.

Middlebury returns its backfield skill players and another year behind center has quarterback Tim Goettelmann in a rare place in his program's history. He is only the second or third Tigers QB under Smith to have the freedom to evaluate defensive sets and call audibles.

He is dangerous as a runner and passer, and Middlebury has other prolific ballcarriers in Tyler Buxton and Thatcher Trudeau.

"(Coach) Dennis Smith and those guys do a very good job," said Norman. "Throw the records out the window; we're going to have to play our best.

"They are as advertised. They're good, well-coached, tough and athletic."

As always, the Raiders defense will have to be mindful of playing assignment football against a versatile option offense.

Smith says the same is true for the Tigers defense, which will deal with a Raiders team that is fast to get the line of scrimmage and snap the ball.

That offense has made significant strides in the past two weeks under the direction of senior Owen Perry, who has enjoyed two very good passing games back to back. That's taken some pressure off a running game where Hunter Postemski racked up a series of 100-plus yard games earlier in the season.

"Everybody has got to be disciplined and stay at home until they know where the ball is," Smith said. "Rutland will keep working to find a soft spot" in the defense.

Middlebury averages 39 points on offense and the Raiders 34. Both defenses are also allowing just 11 points a game so a low-scoring affair is a possibility.

But 42-7? Very unlikely this time around. In any case, either team would be happy with a one-point victory.

Saturday is a special day at Otter Valley as football returns to its once-a-year nighttime start (7 p.m.).

This is a big game for another reason for OV; the Otters are currently fourth in the D-II rankings and are trying to nail down a home playoff berth. They'll be facing a Windsor team that can score a lot of points so there is the potential for a shootout.

Plus, the Otters would like to be packing a 4-3 record when they close out the regular season at unbeaten BFA-Fairfax next Saturday.

But they can't look past a Windsor team that is coming off a 37-36 loss at Oxbow after having beaten Mill River 44-13 for its first victory the week before.

Follow Bob on Twitter: @Bob_Fredette

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