Bulldogs, Terriers aim for spot in title game

MANCHESTER — Winners of eight straight after an opening night loss to Division I's Burlington, the Burr and Burton football team has one more obstacle in its way in order to go back to the Division II championship game.

Standing in its way is Bellows Falls, the team that beat BBA last year in the D-II championship, and the Bulldogs are ready to knock the Terriers out in the semifinal.

"At this time in the season, we don't have to fire up the kids, they are internally fired up because they have the eyes on the prize," said Burr and Burton coach Jason Thomas. "We're taking it one game at a time, we're not worrying about next week, not worrying about last week, we're worried about BF and that's it. They are a good football team and we always play each other tough. We know what we're getting. Guys line up and be physical and we have to line up and match that physicality."

The two teams met in Week 3 at Bellows Falls, with BBA taking a 20-0 lead at the half en route to a 23-6 victory.

The Terriers and Bulldogs are familiar with each other in the postseason as well. In the 2016 final, BF edged the Bulldogs 20-14 to foul BBA's chance as another perfect season, but in 2015, BBA took an early lead and ended the season 11-0 after a 28-7 victory.

But that's in the past — the only game in the Bulldogs' sights is at Taylor Field at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

"We're just trying to execute our stuff," said senior quarterback Jay McCoy. "They have a lot of formations and we just have to make sure we have our checks on defense and cues down. We're focusing on our plays and ourselves, we have to play our game."

Defensively, the Bulldogs will have to keep a close eye on running back Shane Clark and quarterback Logan Cota. Both have put up a lot of points for an offense that leads Division II in scoring with 419 points — an average of more than 46 points a contest.

BBA, on the other hand, is the best scoring defense in the Division, allowing only 91 points. In the last month, they've been even better, allowing 26 points in four October contests.

"We practice on defense a lot, we probably put more into the defense then the offense, honestly," said McCoy, who leads the team in tackles from his linebacker. "We're a defensively sound team and that's what we take pride in. The points come later, the defense wins the big ones, offense puts the points on the board."

Bellows Falls is a grind-it-out offense, content to get yards in small chunks. That type of play can wear a defense out.

"This is one of the weeks where the front seven has to grind and stay low and keep them inside," Thomas said.

Offensively, BBA is third in scoring, and they've outscored opponents 340-91. From his quarterback spot, McCoy has carried for more than 1,150 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he's just as versatile staying in the pocket to throw the ball — he's thrown for more than 1,500 yards and 19 scores.

Cam Hedberg and John Morgantini lead the way on the outside, while Connor Simonds has been a strong option as well.

"I'm just the guy running and throwing the ball, it's the line blocking for me, it's the receivers catching it, the running backs behind me, they have a big part," McCoy said. "I'm just there spreading the ball around and hoping to get some movement while they execute what's going on."

After McCoy, Chevaughn Brownie and Logan Morgan each have more than 300 yards on the ground, including Morgan's 141-yard effort in the quarterfinal against North Country.

"We knew we had to be strong running the football this year," Thomas said. "Last year against BF in the final, we didn't do a good job of running the football. If you want to win late in the season, you ahve to able to run the football, so we made a commitment this year to do that. We have a lot of athletes, some new faces on the offensive line, and we felt that we would get better as the season went along and we have."

The strong play on both sides of the ball have BBA one win from a third straight title appearance, something that some pundits didn't believe could happen after the graduation of all-state players like Griff Stalcup and Carter Vickers.

"When we lost 12 or so seniors, we didn't look at it like we're not going to be good, we're not going to play like we did with Griff or Carter," McCoy said ."The game in Burlington was a tell, we came out and weren't the team we are supposed to be. But guys have stepped up in a major way this season."

"This is what we all play for, it's what they work for all off-season to have this opportunity," Thomas said. "It's about cashing in on what we've worked on all year."


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