Vermont will hold its three state championship football games Saturday at Castleton State College. It will be the first year all three games will be played on the same day at the same location.
No. 1 BFA-St. Albans (10-0) vs. No. 2 Hartford (8-2), 2 p.m.
No. 1 Middlebury (10-0) vs. No. 3 Rice Memorial (9-1), 5 p.m.
No. 1 Bellows Falls (7-3) vs. No. 2 Windsor (9-1), 11 a.m.
Windsor will be trying to avenge its only loss – a 20-0 setback to Bellows Fall on Oct. 9 – in the Division III matchup. Another shutout seems unlikely, since Windsor running back Matt Rafus gained 437 total yards and scored six touchdowns in last weekend’s 55-28 semifinal victory over BFA-Fairfax.
Rafus gained 375 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, and caught a 62-yard TD pass from quarterback Austin Soule. Rafus has rushed for 1,701 yards and scored 28 touchdowns this season.
“Matt is probably one of the two fastest kids in the state,” Windsor coach Jim Taft said. “He’s a track guy, but he’s really a football guy who does track. A lot of his runs have been for 40 yards or more.”
“If you don’t get (Rafus) right away he’s gone,” Bellows Falls coach Bob Lockerby added. “They have other weapons, but it all starts with him.”
Windsor, last year’s Division III champion, is playing in the Division III title game for the fourth consecutive year.
“We beat them, but it wasn’t as bad as the score indicates,” Lockerby said. “They came within inches of scoring on a couple of pass plays. I know we’re the No. 1 seed, but I’d say Windsor is the favorite. I do think we match up well with them though.”
Bellows Falls advanced to the championship game by beating Oxbow 33-6 in last weekend’s other Division III semifinal. Bellows Falls running back Ryan Hayward carried the ball 14 times for 115 yards in that victory. Hayward has gained 1,313 yards this season.
The game will feature a contrast in styles – at least on offense. Winsdor runs a spread offense, while Bellows Falls usually lines up in a Power-I formation with two tight ends.
“They’re big and physical and we’re all about speed,” Taft said. “The style that wins out will be the team that wins the game.”
Hartford turned the ball over seven times and was held to two first downs in its 42-0 loss to BFA-St. Albans during the regular season. BFA-St. Albans junior tailback Connor Roberts scored three TDs in that game.
Hartford rushed for 444 yards in its 36-7 semifinal victory over South Burlington. Troy Bell carried the ball 18 times for 211 yards. Hartford also received 157 yards on 14 carries from Trevor Wood.
BFA-St. Albans advanced by beating Rutland 28-7 in the semifinals. Sam Rose gained 146 yards and scored two touchdowns in that victory. Roberts added 128 yards on the ground.
BFA-St. Albans will be making its first appearance in a championship game since 1990, and its first appearance in the Division I championship game since 1973. The Bobwhites have not won a state title since 1960.
Middlebury will be trying to put the finishing touch on an unbeaten season when it faces Rice in the Division II championship game. The teams did not meet during the regular season.
Middlebury reached the title game by beating Fair Haven 9-6 in the semifinals. Middlebury quarterback Brendan Burrell was hurt in the first half of that game and did not return.
“Brendan should be cleared to go this weekend,” Middlebury coach Dennis Smith said. “It’s more of a neck issue than a concussion.”
Rice turned in a dominating defensive performance and beat Champlain Valley Union 29-8 in the semifinals. CVU lost starting quarterback Konnor Fleming to a knee injury on the second play of that loss.
The Rice defense held CVU to 13 yards rushing, intercepted three passes and scored on a safety. CVU’s only TD came on a 75-yard fumble return.
Rice quarterback Christian McCormick completed 15 of 31 passes for 240 yards and one TD. He also ran for a TD.
BOYS SOCCER: BIANCHI CARRIES ESSEX TO TITLE
Division I: Paul Bianchi scored twice as Essex beat South Burlington 2-0 in the Division I championship game to win its first outright state championship since 1986. Essex shared the title with Burlington in 1996.
Bianchi scored both of his goals late in the second half. He is the program’s all-time leading scorer with 108 points.
Division II: Chasen LaShure scored twice and teammate Matt St. Amour also collected a goal as Missisquoi defeated U-32, 3-1, to claim the Division II championship. U-32 allowed a total of six goals in its previous 17 contests and had not allowed more than one goal in any other game.
Division III: Noah Chapin scored twice to help Leland & Gray defeat BFA-Fairfax 2-1. It’s Leland & Gray’s first state championship in boys soccer.
Division IV: Mike Judkins scored the game’s only goal with 12:10 to play as tenth-seeded Danville upset top-seeded Proctor 1-0.
GIRLS SOCCER: REBELS WIN WHEN IT COUNTS
Division I: South Burlington reached the state championship game for the first time since the Vermont Principals’ Association began sanctioning a girls soccer tournament in 1981, and the Rebels took advantage of their opportunity.
Freshman Shannon Flaherty scored in the first half and senior Jen Arnold added a goal on a penalty kick in the second half in South Burlington’s 2-1 victory over Colchester.
South Burlington (11-7) won four consecutive tournament games after failing to win back-to-back games during the regular season. Colchester beat South Burlington 2-1 and 5-2 earlier in the year.
Division II: Despite being outshot 21-3, Harwood received a goal from Liza Mackey and beat two-time defending champion Milton, 1-0, in the Division II championship game. Harwood did not allow a goal in the postseason.
Division III: Monday’s championship game between second-seeded Green Mountain (14-3-0) and fourth-seeded Stowe (11-3-3) was postponed because of poor traveling conditions. The game is scheduled to be played Wednesday (6:15 p.m.) at Castleton State College.
Division IV: After the first nine shooters failed to score, Brianna Woods capitalized on a penalty kick as Rivendell won its first state championship by beating Arlington 2-1.
FIELD HOCKEY: SOUTH BURLINGTON ENJOYS PERFECT ENDING
Division I: Ashley McDonald scored twice as South Burlington capped an unbeaten season (17-0-0) by defeating previously unbeaten Hartford, 1-0, in the Division I title game. It’s the first time a South Burlington team has posted an unbeaten season in the program’s history.
Division II: Goals from Katie Martin, Sarah Reid and Sophia Lisaius carried Harwood to a 3-1 victory over Otter Valley in the Division II championship game.
Division III: Rice celebrated its third consecutive Division III championship after it beat Missisquoi 3-1 in penalty strokes. The contest was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation.
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.