Column: Loss to elite team, a gut check for BBA, Cambridge

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In one fell swoop, the two remaining undefeated football teams in the Banner coverage area lost this past weekend.

On Friday night at Applejack Stadium, Burr and Burton (5-1) couldn't shut down a potent Saint Johnsbury attack, and less than a day later, Cambridge-Salem (4-1) felt a similar fate against Class B power Holy Trinity.

Two teams that were dominant throughout the first half of their season had met their match, a team that could counter everything they did well, and at times, do it better.

Nobody wants to lose a game, but even though those undefeated dreams were thrashed this past weekend, I contend there is a lot to take from these losses.

They served as a midseason barometer for both BBA and Cambridge and they gave Bulldogs coach Tom McCoy and Indians coach Doug Luke, and their respective coaching staffs, a view of what their team can improve on moving forward.

Talking to Luke after Saturday's loss to the Pride, the longtime Cambridge coach had some words that support that thought.

"We talked about this game being a meaningless game in the standings, but a very important game in our schedule, just to see what we are made of," Luke said. "I would rather play games like this every week, than play against a team that we win 50-0. This a lot more fun in our estimation."

There's a saying that 'iron sharpens iron.'

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Sure, Cambridge could blow out a team like Hoosic Valley, as they did earlier in the season and they could beat up on a rival Hoosick Falls team that is undermanned this fall.

The same goes for BBA with its wins against the Seawolves and a younger Mount Mansfield squad, that isn't as strong as its state title team of 2018.

You can take something from those wins and build on what you did well, but you can't see what your team can do in an adverse situation.

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If the Indians want to win their third state title in four years, they'll be playing games like they did Saturday afternoon. In the Class C sectional tournament, they'll be favorites, along with Stillwater, to make it to the state tournament, but they'll run into a myriad of tough tests from there, if they keep on advancing.

Saturday against Holy Trinity, Cambridge ran into some tackling issues and penalty issues and a strong Pride team took advantage of those mistakes.

They couldn't stop a mobile, strong-armed quarterback Joe Tortello and it showed on the scoreboard at the end of the day.

The Bulldogs, in their first Division I season, have shown they are already among the elite, and their offense, led by Gatorade Player of the Year contender Joey McCoy, is among the best in the state.

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But Friday night, their defense struggled at times. While BBA had a great goal line stand in the first half, as the game went on, they had no answer for SJA's David Hutchison, who used his large frame to power through the Bulldogs' defense.

There is a clear top tier in D-I football. BBA, SJA, Rutland and Middlebury have established themselves as the teams to beat in the state.

If the Bulldogs want to get through any of those teams in a state semifinal or final, they'll need to tighten up their play.

With perfection dashed, both teams can focus on what they need to do better to make sure these losses don't happen when the games really matter.

Games like these are ones that both teams will see often come late October and early November, and to realize their state championship dreams, they'll need to work out those kinks and come out on the winning side.

Now, that they've had a taste of defeat, how do they respond?

Adam Aucoin can be reached at and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.


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