Rematch awaits as BBA aims for D-I crown
MANCHESTER — With a subtle drizzle of rain and a bitter chill in the air, the Burr and Burton football team lines up on the sidelines to run sprints at the end of practice.
The sun has fallen and the only thing on the players' minds is attacking the open turf in front of them.
BBA coach Tom McCoy's whistle sounds and they break off the line. As they do, the Bulldogs yell out in unison, a simple word - finish.
That word encapsulates everything about this Saturday for BBA.
A chance to end their season as Division I champions, a chance to get revenge for their lone defeat, all BBA has to do is finish.
In order for the third-seeded Bulldogs to get the storybook ending they seek, they'll need to do something that no team has done this year - beat St. Johnsbury.
"We're thrilled to have the opportunity to play football for another week. It's always great playing in the last game of the season," McCoy said. "The kids are real excited to have another week together and the coaching staff is real proud of the effort they've given throughout the season."
Just getting to this point is something BBA can hang its hat on. Winning a state championship last fall in convincing fashion, the Bulldogs made the daunting jump up to D-I this fall and passed almost every test with flying colors.
BBA isn't just satisfied with making it to the title game though. The Bulldogs can do something that no Vermont high school football team has done if they come out victorious and can win a D-I title a year after winning a D-II title.
The last team to make that move up and play in the state title game two years in a row was Middlebury, who lost in the D-II title game in 2010 and lost the D-I title game in 2011.
The Hilltoppers will provide a massive roadblock in the Bulldogs' title hopes.
Winners of the previous matchup 50-38 on BBA's Senior Night, St. Johnsbury gave the Bulldogs problems that no other team in the state has this fall.
Led by 6-foot-3, 265-pound running back/tight end David Hutchison, the Hilltoppers have rolled over many opponents to the tune of 47.5 points per game.
In that matchup on October 4, Hutchison accounted for six of St. Johnsbury's seven touchdowns.
Quarterback Trey Alercio, running back Nick Guckin and receivers Hunter Palmieri and Austin Fenoff make for an offense that can match the Bulldogs drive for drive.
Slowing the Hilltoppers' potent attack will be critical for BBA to have a chance on Saturday.
"[St. Johnsbury] is well-coached and they're big and strong and they have some athletic kids on the team," McCoy said. "It's not going to be one or two different kids to help us stop them. It has to be a team effort. It's going to take 11 football players on the field in order to stop what they do. If we come out on top, it will be because it was a team effort."
BBA's offense is just as deadly as St Johnsbury's group. Scoring 44 points per game, the Bulldogs can beat opponents through the air or through a successful rushing attack.
Quarterback Joey McCoy has had a standout senior season, accounting for 50 total touchdowns. He's thrown for 2,561 yards and 37 touchdowns, and run for 762 yards and 13 scores.
His favorite target, John Morgantini, has 64 catches for 1,335 yards and 23 touchdowns, and other players like running backs Logan Morgan and Sean Lam and wide receivers Will Moore and Joe Harrington, have been critical to the offensive success.
When BBA lines up opposite of the Hilltoppers, it is bound to be the smaller group in stature.
The Bulldogs are hoping their advantage in speed and their technique can provide them an edge come Saturday.
"Sometimes speed and quickness can be better than big and strong," Tom McCoy said. "You just have to use whatever skills you have to your advantage. Hopefully, that will be an advantage for us. We work hard on conditioning and being in the best shape we can possibly be in."
Championship games are often won in the trenches and BBA is confident in what it has up front. Led by David Keyes and Ethan Simonds, the Bulldogs' lineman group has protected Joey McCoy with great success, only allowing seven sacks on the year.
"Our offensive line is going to be key," Moore said. "We have to be quick off the line and make our blocks. We have to focus on our job and not focus on anybody else."
Kick-off is set for 5 p.m. at Alumni Field on Saturday.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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