Patriots, Bulldogs square off in rivalry tilt

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BENNINGTON — Thanks in part to Mount Anthony football's move down to Division II this season, the Patriots and the Burr and Burton Bulldogs will face off for the first time since 2014.

Friday night at Applejack Field, the 6-1 Bulldogs will host the 3-4 Patriots in the final game of the regular season.

And even though it's been a few years since the varsity teams have faced off, both teams will be familiar with each other.

"They play Manchester in the youth program and the middle school and JV, these guys have played against each other for a long time," said MAU coach Chad Gordon.

"MAU is probably our closest rival, we played them [three] years ago, and the kids all played growing up and in other sports. We don't like them and I'm sure they don't like us," said BBA coach Jason Thomas. "It's a 'circle game' [on the calendar]. You never want to look ahead, but we're aware MAU is on the schedule."

Burr and Burton is led by senior quarterback Jay McCoy, who has thrown for nearly 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns against six interceptions. On the ground, McCoy has run for 900 yards and seven more touchdowns as he has been a terrific replacement for 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year Griff Stalcup.

"Jay, he's one of the better football players in the entire state," Gordon said on Wednesday as the Patriots practiced. "On video, from what I've seen he's a good ballplayer. On defense too, he's a heck of a linebacker. You have to account for him, but they have a lot of other weapons they don't really talk about, it's more than a 1-player team."

"BBA is a good team, very well coached, very disciplined, they don't make a lot of mistakes," Gordon continued. "They are where we need to be, we cant keep making mistakes like we have been and still expect to compete with a team at that level."

McCoy has spread the ball around, with four of his receivers having at least 200 yards receiving. They are led by Connor Simonds, who has nearly 300 yards receiving this season and Cam Hedberg, who has 13 catches for 246 yards and five touchdowns. John Morgantini has stepped in as well, with four TD catches. Jay's brother, Joey, a sophomore, has 15 catches for 245 yards and three scores.

"As coaches, we knew going into the season we would be losing key players, but a lot of good players were coming back," Thomas said. "We had to get the mix with the older guys and who could come in and step up, so there were a lot of new faces early in the season."

BBA lost its opener against Burlington, but since then, they've won six in a row and have outscored opponents 240-64.

"We made a lot of mistakes against Burlington, we've tried to correct those mistakes," Thomas said. We've mixed and matched players in the lineup and some of the kids have really filled in nicely."

Mount Anthony is doing well when they control the clock, using the triple option offense to wear down opposing front sevens.

"When we've had success, we've controlled the ball and [quarterback] Will Fischer has had big days," Gordon said. "We have to find some of the other guys, like Shane [Wood], Carson [Morgan] and Aaron [Mattison] to fill those roles as well."

Defensively for the Bulldogs, the task of stopping Fischer and the rest of the Patriots offense falls to defensive ends Connor Simonds and Mark Wade. Wade leads the team with 6.5 sacks.

"Mark does a nice job of setting the edge, and against MAU, we have to keep a very active quarterback in the pocket," Thomas said.

On paper, many believe the game will be a rout, but Gordon doesn't believe that will happen.

"Two of our four losses are by one score or less, another one by two scores," Gordon said. "You can't look at records or scores with a team like BBA. They are a geographic rival, so we don't have to motivate the guys much. If you can't be prepared for this game, you probably shouldn't show up."

The game will be at 7 p.m. Friday at Applejack Field in the Dana Thompson Rec Park.

"It's our senior night, we always try to play one game at Applejack and it should be a fun environment," Thomas said.


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