Many coaches and media members identified North Country as the high school football team to beat in Division II this season. So far, the Falcons have done nothing to prove those people wrong.
North Country passed its toughest test of the season and raised its record to 3-0 by defeating Fair Haven 28-26 Saturday.
North Country trailed 26-16 at halftime, but took its first lead when fullback Adam Pothier scored on a 6-yard run with 4:48 to play. The loss dropped Fair Haven's record to 2-1.
“Our expectation were high,” North Country coach Bob Davis said. “We felt this was going to be a very good season. We start mostly seniors, and for a Vermont high school team we are pretty big.”
North Country finished with a 5-4 record and missed the playoffs last season. Tailback Nick LeClair and quarterback Tre Sanville are among the 22 seniors on this year's roster. LeClair and Sanville are both three-year starters. LeClair rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, and Sanville missed half of his junior season with a knee injury.
The team's first two games ended in lopsided victories: 50-0 over Spaulding and 73-6 over U-32.
“We play option football,” Davis said. “When it gets rolling you can really tear up the yardage.”
LeClair, Sanville and Pothier operate behind a veteran offensive line that includes Adam Fortin, Cody Collins, Riley Simoneau, Ben Bonneau, Jason Webster and Lance Buffi.
North Country hasn't won a state championship since 1997, when it captured the third of three-consecutive titles. North Country hasn't played in a championship game since 2004, when it lost to South Burlington.
Davis will likely know even more about his team following Saturday's game at Rice (2-1), which won last year's Division II championship.
“Things are still evolving [in Division II], but I think Rice is definitely a contender,” Davis said. “They're a spread team and our defense is still evolving so the key will be our ability to establish the run.
“I've heard people mention Fair Haven, Milton and Burr and Burton as contenders. I think at the beginning of the year we we viewed as a strong contender as well. Hopefully they'll keep thinking that way.”
WINDSOR FOOTBALL FORFEITS
Windsor began its season with three consecutive victories, but any hope for an undefeated season ended Wednesday when Windsor athletic director Bob Hingston announced that Windsor would forfeit Saturday's non-league game against Division II Bellows Falls.
Hingston cited Windsor's small roster size (31 players) and a concern over player safety as the reasons for the forfeit.
“At this point, given our numbers, we want to remain healthy for our divisional games,” Hingston told the Burlington Free Press. “We haven't played anybody of that caliber. We're not sure we are physically able to go against a team like that for 48 minutes.
“The decision was not made without a lot of gut-wrenching. It's one of the toughest decisions I've made as an AD.”
Bellows Falls, which is 0-3, defeated Windsor in last year's Division III championship game, but moved to Division II in the offseason.
STILL HURRICANE SEASON
The Hartford football team won last year's Division I championship, and is looking like the team to beat again this season.
The Hurricanes improved their record to 3-0 by defeating Mount Mansfield 50-12 last weekend. Hartford rushed for 539 yards in the victory.
Hartford's other victories came against Bellows Free Academy (21-0) and Colchester (41-19).
SOUTH BURLINGTON WINS BATTLE OF UNBEATENS
The South Burlington girls soccer team scored six second-half goals and posted a 9-3 victory over Colchester on Tuesday in a matchup between programs that met in last year's Division I championship game.
Mollie Gribbin and Sarah Shimer each scored twice for South Burlington, which raised its record to 5-0. The Rebels have outscored their five opponents 26-6, and have won nine games in a row dating back to last season.
The loss dropped Colchester's record to 4-1.
COLCHESTER ENDS STREAK
Jackie Sortor and Sarah Amour scored first-half goals to help the Colchester field hockey team defeat South Burlington, 2-1, last week and end the Rebels' 20-game winning streak. It was South Burlington's first loss since 2009.
Colchester goalkeeper Jessica Stough made nine saves.
GIRLS ON THE RUN
The Champlain Valley Union girls' cross country team will be among the teams competing in this weekend's 37th Annual Manchester Invitational, a race held at Derryfield Park in Manchester, N.H. that attracts some of the top cross country programs in the Northeast.
CVU won last year's New England championship and is nationally ranked by several running publications this season.
CVU finished first in the Manchester Invitational's Elite Girls Division last season.
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.