Champlain Valley ends state title quest in semifinals

Trickeration transformed the Champlain Valley Union-Burr and Burton Academy state playoff contest into an epic. Coach Rahn Fleming praised his counterpart for Burr and Burton Academy, coach Tom McCoy, for his strategic use of two halfback passes in the fourth quarter that stymied the Redhawks’ hope for a comeback.

“Both of those halfback passes were literally epic. He used our greatest strength — our aggressive, fly-after-it, make-plays defense — and turned it into our fatal flaw,” Fleming said. “That needs to be acknowledged, in not just respect, but admiration, one coaching staff to another.”

“The working wisdom is that you can’t spot a team, as good as Burr and Burton is, to three touchdowns and hope to be in the football game,” said Fleming.

But somehow, remarkably, the working wisdom wasn’t working, and for a time during the fourth quarter, the Redhawks’ faithful did have that hope. It looked like the unthinkable was driving irresistibly toward reality.

But, then, McCoy pulled his trickeration out, and the Redhawks fell for it — twice. Burr and Burton came away with a 34-27 win.

CVU’s dream of repeating as state champs had ended in Manchester in the semifinals.

The first half was all Bulldogs and the Redhawks were behind 20-0. Remarkably, Champlain Valley fought back to a 27-all tie in the fourth quarter.

Late in the final quarter, Burr and Burton scored to take the lead. On CVU’s two ensuing possessions, the Redhawks turned the ball over on downs and by giving up an interception.

From that point, the Bulldogs managed to run down the clock.

“Our guys showed a tremendous amount of character, not hanging their heads, keeping their own and each other’s spirits up and clawing their way back,” Fleming said.

Ollie Cheer threw one touchdown pass but had two interceptions.

CVU found their running game to be effective and put up good numbers sticking primarily to the ground.

Nolan Walpole had tweaked his knee, but Asher Vaughn and Jacob Bose proved to be stalwart runners in the backfield. Bose had rushing touchdowns of 4 and 6 yards. Vaughn ran it in from 20 yards out. Frere scored a 60-yard passing touchdown.

The Redhawks finished the season 8-2.
The Bulldogs went on to the state championship where they won the title with a 35-28 victory over Hartford this past Saturday, Nov. 11.

Fleming is feeling very good about next year. The coach said he wasn’t even off the field and players were running along with him, talking about their commitment to working out during the offseason and getting ready for the 2024 season.