Bulldogs' victory a historic one in Vermont

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RUTLAND — Burr and Burton's Division I state championship victory over St. Johnsbury on Saturday night at Rutland High School was a historic one.

BBA became the first team in state history to win the Division II title one year and then move up to Division I and win the championship again.

BBA topped St. Johnsbury, 47-20, scoring 34 points in the second half.

"It's special, it's our first year coming up to Division I," said senior quarterback Joey McCoy. "We [came in] not knowing what to expect, we haven't really played any of these teams. We come out and prepare, through ups and downs. It's truly amazing, I wouldn't want it any other way."

After a run of reaching the Division II final three times in four years, and winning the state title twice in that time, the Vermont Interscholastic Football League made the decision to move Burr and Burton up to Division I based on its formula that takes into account size of school, the boy population (in the case of football) and the records from the past four years (38-4).

Former coach Jason Thomas was worried about the move when it became official last spring. He was concerned that the VIFL would be basing the future on the team's past success.

Fast forward about 10 months and the Bulldogs quashed any of those worries.

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"It's unbelievable to go out this way," said senior receiver John Morgantini. "You couldn't ask for a better group of guys. It's historic and I'll remember it for the rest of my life."

The closest to match BBA's feat was Middlebury, who lost the D-II and D-I final in consecutive years in 2010 and 2011. The Tigers did win the D-I title in 2013 and 2014.

BBA first-year coach Tom McCoy had the unique challenge of leading the team in the new division. After celebrating Saturday night's win, he felt that which division Burr and Burton is in is irrelevant.

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"I think our kids love to play football and we don't get too hung up on what division it is, whether it's 1, 2 or 3," said Tom McCoy. "They like to come out and compete and play to the best of their ability, it just so happens this year, we're in Division I based on our accomplishments of the past few years."

In going 9-1 this season, Burr and Burton outscored opponents 433-211, the lowest amount 26 in Week 1 in a shutout win over Burlington-South Burlington. In the postseason, BBA beat Hartford, Middlebury and then St. Johnsbury to win the crown.

"Division I is more of a grind, but it's just exciting to win, no matter what the division," Tom McCoy said. "I'm really proud of the kids and the school, they've been very supportive of our program. We had a few more kids come out for football, so we had to buy more helmets and shoulder pads. It's exciting to be a part of it. Maybe for others around the state, there will be a few more believers now."

St. Johnsbury coach Rich Alercio said he didn't think BBA moving up and immediately winning was good for Vermont football.

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"You would think that a team shouldn't be able to do that," Alercio said after the game on Saturday night. "Kudos to BBA, they are that good, they outplayed us tonight. But for them to do as well as they did in Division I all year, it's probably not a good statement on football in Vermont that there weren't more teams that could compete with the team that just moved up."

Tom McCoy disagreed.

"The [Vermont Principals Association] and the [VIFL] do an important job of keeping the divisions competitive," Tom McCoy said. "Maybe some of the divisions are closer in regards to competition. But it's tricky, because there's cycles. We're losing a lot of talent next year, but new guys come along and we have a strong youth program. It's not necessarily a bad thing for Vermont."

Regardless, when the season played itself out on the field, Burr and Burton proved that it belonged in the highest division.

"We made a statement," Joey McCoy said. "This means we can compete with these guys. We have young guys stepping up, we have a new coaching staff and I think we can be good for years to come."

Said Morgantini: "We just proved that we're the best team in the state. It's an amazing program, we have so many great coaches and I'm proud to be a Bulldog."


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