RUTLAND — I had a sense of pride on Wednesday night watching the Mount Anthony Union High School football team play in the regional championship against Rutland.
The Patriots came out on the losing end on the scoreboard, but for me, that was only part of the story.
Four years ago, in the fall of 2016, I volunteered to help out as a coach for the MAU middle school team with coaches Frank Gaudette, Geoff Silver and David Kelley. The group of seventh and eighth graders we had were a good group, you could see the talent radiate in all facets of the game — quarterback, running backs, receivers, linemen.
I assisted Kelley with the linemen, using my knowledge as an offensive and defensive lineman in both high school and college to help the next generation of Mount Anthony football players.
We played Rutland, Poultney, Fair Haven, Mill River and Burr and Burton — and for the life of me, I can’t remember our record. It really doesn’t matter.
Austin Grogan was our quarterback as a seventh grader. Brody Bossong was our star running back, I do remember one play where he just overpowered a tackler and scored a long touchdown.
Jack Ware and Kaiden Simpson were receivers on that team. For the linemen, Frank’s son Hayden was there. This is before he started winning three straight wrestling championships later on.
Adam Matunas and Michael Stratton were lineman for us as well, and we were a strong group, always working hard and moving the pile. Running the ball was never a problem for the Patriot middle school team.
I know I’m missing some, my memory isn’t all that good. But almost all of them continued to play football for MAU. Through it all, the team stayed together. In 2017, they went into high school to start their careers at the same time as coach Chad Gordon took over as the head coach for John Martin. We knew back then if the team would stay together and grow together as a group, there were big things on the horizon.
Fast forward to Wednesday night. All those people I mentioned are now juniors and seniors that led Mount Anthony to its first championship game appearance since 1994. They had worked hard, not just this year during a global pandemic — not knowing if they’d even have a season, let alone one where they did so well — but over the past four years.
The ending wasn’t storybook, Rutland took care of that with a 28-14 victory under the lights at Alumni Field. But for a little while on a chilly night in Rutland, I turned back the clock to September and October 2016 and remembered the fun times I had trying to teach these guys a little football and a little about life.