By John Bonnette
JERICHO – It wasn’t always pretty, and it wasn’t always perfect, but in the end, Bellow Free Academy did just enough to gut out a 12-8 victory over defending state champion Mount Mansfield, Saturday afternoon, in Jericho.
“Let’s give credit to Mount Mansfield, boy did they play hard,” BFA Coach Geoff Murray said. “They tackled well and they really caused us a lot of problems on offense so they deserve a lot of credit.”
“It was kind of a game one feeling. It wasn’t perfect but we got out of someone’s home field, who just won the state championship, who is fired up and has a chip on their shoulder because they believe they have something to prove and we were able to get out of here with the win.”
The Bobwhites (1-0) controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the afternoon as BFA held the ball for over 30 minutes on offensive thanks to a trio of senior backs combing for 204 yards on 55 carries. C.J. McAllister (17-67, TD) led the way for BFA while Parker Gratton (15-60) and Owen Bonnette (10-35) helped keep the Cougar offense on the sideline.
“We have a saying when we play these spread teams which is if we have the ball they don’t,” Murray said. “So, we like to grind it out and we have some grinders with Owen, Cj, Parker, and Dom (Liscinsky). These guys run the ball hard, and they are good athletes, and if we just get them some space, we should be able to move the chains and set some stuff up outside.”
The Bobwhites took the opening drive of the game and marched 46 yards to the Cougar six-yard line before settling for a 21-yard field goal by Kam Dunsmore to open the scoring with 7:17 left in the first quarter. Bobwhite quarterback Robert Gamache set up the field goal when he rambled 34 yards down the right sideline to the Mount Mansfield 11-yard line.
After that, the first half became a defensive battle as neither team was able to move the ball offensively until McAllister made the play of the game with just under two minutes left in the first half.
Coming out of a BFA timeout, with the Cougars facing a fourth-and-21 from their own 24-yard line, McAllister broke through and blocked the punt which BFA’s Guy Ellis recovered and returned to the Mount Mansfield four-yard line. On the next play, McAllister then took the handoff inside right tackle and found the end zone to give the Bobwhites a 9-0 lead at the half.
“That was huge because that kind of won us the game in a lot of ways,” Murray said of the blocked punt, “It turned it (the game) because outside of our first drive nobody really had a shot to score so it was huge.”
Despite being down at halftime, the Cougars came out ready to roll and had their best drive of the game to open the second half as they marched 68 yards on 14 plays to cut the Bobwhite lead to 9-8.
Mount Mansfield converted two fourth downs on the drive including a gutsy play on the touchdown as Trudeau hit Seth Westover on a quick slant at the Bobwhite two yard line before Westover then bulled his way through a tackle for the score.
“We preached fight and fight to the whistle all week, and those perimeter guys are the ones who we will rely on this year,” Mount Mansfield Coach Nick Michaud said. “I wish things got clicking a little earlier, but we are very happy how we came out in the second half.
“Coming into it, we knew they were a ground and pound football team, so we just tried to get the mentality all week that it was a fight for 48 minutes and certainly the defense showed up to do that.”
Dunsmore would add a 28 yard field goal with 6:11 left to finish the scoring as the Bobwhite defense locked down the Cougars for the rest of the game.
BFA finished the game holding the Cougars to just 63 total yards and sacked Trudeau three times. The Bobwhites also tallied an interception and a fumble recovery to go with the blocked punt.
“I thought our defense played pretty well,” Murray said, “We got a blocked punt, and we took advantage of that. We didn’t blow a lot of coverages at all and it was really good all day defensively. We challenged our de-line, this week, in that we were going to need to get some pressure and we were able to do that. I thought Nick (Voyer) was pretty good but he was not the only one, we were getting other guys in there as well.”
“Our guys were taking pretty good angles on the blitzes when we went to man. We were trying to change up the looks a little bit and confuse them but mostly we just wanted to get pressure. I thought our de-backs did a pretty nice job of coverage and kept everything in front. We did not get beat with the big one.”
Although pleased to get out of Mount Mansfield with the win, Murray said his team will need to improve offensively before their home opener on Friday against Colchester.
“We are going to have a tough game next week,” Murray said after the Saturday game. “We are playing a team that is going to bring it physically, so we are going to have to be ready and recover from this game. We had trouble getting things going today and we are making too many mistakes offensively.”
“We don’t have eleven guys doing the same thing on every play, so we just need to work at it and clean that up. Once we are comfortable with that, I think we will be able to expand some things and do some other things. They really worked hard, their attitude and effort were there. We need to get back to practice and get some guys ready to go and clean that up.”