J.P Benoit had something extra to play for, and it showed.
Benoit, a running back for Champlain Valley Union, scored three touchdowns Saturday to help CVU post a 21-3 victory over Mount Mansfield. Benoit’s grandmother, Marilyn Palmer, died two days earlier, and Benoit dedicated the game to her. He switched his number from 21 to 17 for the contest because 17 was the number Palmer wore when she played softball.
“They were really, really tight,” CVU coach Jim Provost said. “She was very involved in his life.
“Her death was sudden, so it really rocked his world. He was very determined to carry us that night.”
Benoit returned a punt 31 yards for a touchdown, scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass. He finished the game with 116 yards rushing on 17 carries.
“J.P. and I have a relationship that goes back a long way,” Provost said. “I was his elementary school principal when he was in third grade. I wish you could meet the kid, because he’s a prince. He’s not my son, but I kind of view him like that. I’m tough on him and he really likes it that way. He likes to be challenged.”
The victory over Mount Mansfield improved CVU’s record to 3-1 overall and 3-0 in Division II. The Redhawks dropped from Division I to Division II following the 2008 season, and lost to Colchester in last year’s Division II championship game.
Up next for CVU is Saturday’s contest at unbeaten Rice Memorial (4-0). Rice is coming off last weekend’s 58-19 triumph over Burlington.
“It’s a big game for a lot of reasons,” Provost said. “It’s just a pivotal game in our league. It’ll definitely have playoff implications because our whole division is really competitive from top to bottom. Plus I coached at Rice for 20 years.
“They’re very diversified offensively. We’ll have to stay away from the big play and make them drive the length of the field.
“It’s gonna be huge, and it will be packed. Our school travels very well.”
It was also a good week for the CVU girls' cross country team, which finished first in the elite division at the Manchester (N.H.) Invitational cross country meet. The Manchester Invitational is a NIKE-sponsored event that attracts some of the top runners in the Northeast.
CVU has won six Division I championships and a New England title since 2003. The Redhawks also won the Manchester Invitational in 2005.
Adrienne Devita (13th), Summer Spillane (14th), Julienne Devita (15th), Taylor Spillane (19th) and Aleksey Jordick (22nd) were CVU’s top five finishers.
Mount St. Joseph Academy has announced that it won’t field boys' or girls' hockey teams this season because neither program has enough players.
MSJ athletic director Marty McDonough made the announcement earlier this month during the Vermont Interscholastic Hockey League meeting in Montpelier.
Bob Johnson, associate director of the Vermont Principals’ Association, said because the news came early enough, teams that were on MSJ’s schedule should have time to schedule additional games.
The Middlebury football team scored on three of its first four offensive plays during Saturday’s 55-14 triumph over Brattleboro.
Brendan Burrell, Marshall Hastings and Steel White scored on touchdown runs of 38, 54 and 47 yards, respectively, to help the Tigers build a 21-0 lead with 4:42 remaining in the first quarter.
The victory raised Middlebury’s record to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in Division II.
Harwood Union girls' soccer coach Jon Hammond won his 100th game as a high school coach when Harwood beat People’s Academy, 2-1, on Sept. 22. Laura Moore scored both goals for the Highlanders.
Two of the state’s top boys' soccer teams will clash when Essex meets CVU on Saturday. CVU, which beat Burr and Burton to win last year’s Division I championship, got off to a 5-0-1 start this season and didn’t allow a goal in those six games. Essex, which lost to Burr and Burton in last year’s semifinals, began the week with a 6-0-0 record.
The Burlington girls' soccer team opened the season with a loss to Montpelier, but posted victories in its next five games. The Seahorses have won the last two Division I championships.
Hartford (7-0-0) and South Burlington (5-0-0) entered the week as the state’s only unbeaten field hockey teams. Both teams compete in Division I.
Roger Brown has covered high school sports in New England since 1992. He currently covers high school and college football in the Northeast for ESPN/Scouts Inc.