Since losing its opening game of the season to Burr and Burton 38-28, the Champlain Valley Union football team has gone on a tear, outscoring and shutting down opponents over the next six games 242-21.
The last two games fit into the pattern established in the previous four games with the Redhawks’ same offensive and defensive domination; and with coach Rahn Fleming preaching the same insistence for his players to not get swept up in those numbers.
“None of that means anything come 7 p.m. in Middlebury this Friday night. What we’ve done so far is already in the rearview mirror,” said Fleming. “Everything other than that is just exhuberant conversation.”
On Friday, Oct. 20, CVU travels to Middlebury Union High (5-2) to face the Tigers on their home field for the final game of the regular season. This is a rematch for the teams that faced each other in the state-title game last season, a game the Redhawks won 24-19 to take their first state football championship in school history.
Both teams have lost to Burr and Burton this year. The Tigers’ only other loss came against unbeaten No. 1 Hartford, a team the Redhawks don’t face in the regular season this year.
CVU 33, Rutland 0
On Oct. 7, Champlain Valley entertained Rutland in a game that Fleming characterized as “a glorious, messy mud bowl,” played in constant heavy rain. It was a game that was not hospitable for the visitors and barely tolerable for CVU’s celebration of Senior Day.
“It was rainy and muddy enough that, in our mind, everywhere on the field was four-down territory, meaning unless we were backed up flush against our own end zone, we were running plays on all four downs,” Fleming said.
The opening kickoff went to Rutland, and then the Redhawks’ defense went to work, forcing the visitors’ opening drive to stall after three downs.
CVU took just a handful of plays to score, with Jacob Bose bursting through the line and cruising over 40 yards down the left sideline to the end zone.
The Redhawks’ second possession ended after the normally sure-handed Jacob Armstrong had two slippery passes slide through his hands, and Rutland took over inside their own 20. CVU’s turnover on downs didn’t matter because a couple of plays later Rutland coughed up the ball.
On CVU’s ensuing possession, quarterback Ollie Cheer found George Taylor of Charlotte in the end zone for his first high school touchdown.
The rest of the game proved to be more of the same with both teams getting too many penalties, interceptions and fumbles in the muddy cold and, most significantly, slippery conditions.
Cheer accounted for two scores, throwing a 12-yard touchdown pass and running it in from a yard out.
Anderson McEnaney notched two rushing touchdowns, one a 55-yarder and another from four yards out.
CVU 49, Colchester 7
Colchester started the game looking like it might have found a path to a different destination than other opponents of late have reached against the Redhawks when the Champs scoring on their opening drive.
But Colchester’s first possession was the last time the team scored.
CVU quickly got back into its usual groove. At halftime the Redhawks were up 42-7.
As in other games, Champlain Valley’s scoring has featured multiple players reaching the end zone.
“Our scoring has been distributed to a dozen or more offensive contributors, on the ground and in the air,” Fleming said.
The coach said the scoring represents his team’s “Ubuntu” mentality. Ubuntu is a southern African philosophy of belief in a bond of sharing connecting all, according to Wikipedia.
Another big factor in his team’s success has been special teams’ play. Besides scoring a handful of touchdowns, the Redhawks’ special teams have played “lock down” on punt and kickoff coverage, resulting in making opponents regularly having to start within their own 30-yard line.
Fleming said credit for CVU’s record should not just go to the 11 starters, there are 16-20 contributors to the Redhawks’ dominance on the field.
Cheer was 5 of 8 in passing, accounting for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
Brian Rutherford had a 37-yard touchdown catch, and Armstrong added a 22-yard touchdown catch.
Bose scored on runs of 10 and 6 yards, while Dylan Frere notched a 28-yard rushing touchdown and Nolan Walpole punched it in from 9 yards out.
McEnaney had a 75-yard kickoff return.