ANTHONY LABOR JR. – MESSENGER SPORTS

JERICHO – Special teams and defense was the difference during Saturday’s Division I regular-season opener between BFA-St. Albans and defending champion Mt. Mansfield.

Two Kam Dunsmore field goals and a blocked punt by CJ McAllister that set up the Bobwhites’ only touchdown separated them from the Cougars during BFA’s 12-8 win.

“The defense was very good today,” said BFA coach Geoff Murray. “We talked about ramping up our intensity and they did that. I thought we played hard, had good attitude and effort, which is the only thing we can control, and I thought we did a good job of that. Our coverages were good and we got pressure on their quarterback.”

Neither offense could muster consistent drives throughout the game with the defenses standing tall.

In the end, two field goals by Dunsmore from 22 and 30 yards out proved to be the difference in the game.

“We are pretty confident once we get down around the 25 or 30-yard line that we have a good shot to get points because of Kam,” said Murray. “It’s not easy to do what he does playing soccer and then kicking for us, so it is a tremendous luxury to have someone who is as poised and talented as Kam. Not a lot of teams have that luxury and that was a big difference in today’s game.”

Late in the first half, with BFA holding on to a 3-0 lead and the Cougars backed deep into their own zone, McAllister broke free into the backfield and blocked the punt attempt. Dan Ellis picked up the loose ball and advanced it to the 1-yard line.

McAllister (18 rushes, 79 yards) punched it in from there for the Bobwhites’ lone touchdown of the game to give BFA a 9-0 lead going into halftime.

“I got through the line clean, right off the snap,” said McAllister. “I just tried to get back there and got a pretty good hand on it, which kind of pumped us up in a big moment of the game.”

CJ Mcallister takes a hand-off while his teammates work to open a lane.  Photo: Rob Liscinsky

Mt. Mansfield didn’t go away quietly despite not being able to put together any drives in the first half. The Cougars came out early in the second half and put together a 13 play, 71-yard drive that was capped by an Owen Trudeau 12-yard touchdown pass to Mason Combs in good coverage.

The Cougars converted two fourth downs on their scoring drive, including a 4th and goal from the 12 for the score. Trudeau hit Seth Westover on the two-point conversion to make it a 9-8 game.

“We just tried to slow down the game for our quarterback in the second half,” said Mt. Mansfield coach Nick Michaud. “They were bringing pressure in the first half and the offensive line started to communicate better in the second half.”

Both teams went back and forth without scoring through the rest of the third quarter. The Bobwhites started the 4th quarter with the ball at Mt. Mansfield’s 40-yard line. They went 27 yards in 10 plays, but were able to knock over six minutes off the clock and capped the drive with a 30-yard field goal from Dunsmore to make it 12-8.

The Bobwhites defense stepped up from there allowing Mt. Mansfield to accrue only 3 yards on six plays in its final two drives that ended with a punt and a fumble recovered by Josh Reynolds.

The defense was led by Nick Voyer up front who was causing havoc in the backfield all game long.

“Nick is very tough to block and he can be a force out there like he was today,” said Murray. “They had trouble handling him and drew a flag late in the game. If he continues to play like he did today, he will keep making big plays and drawing those holding penalties because that is all they can do against him. And when you get defensive line play like that, it makes it much easier on your second and third level.”

With injuries to key players, including Hunter Tabor and Dominic Liscinsky, the Bobwhites spent the week shuffling some players around to try and fill those gaps.

With some seniors out due to injury, a couple of underclassmen stepped up to fill some voids on defense to provide some depth. James Harrison (freshman) and Isaac Parah (sophomore) each had some big tackles throughout the game.

“We called up some young players because they are talented, have good attitudes and they got some good experience out there today,” said Murray. “They made some nice plays today and that is going to be big for us throughout the season to develop depth throughout the roster.”

The Bobwhites (1-0) will hope to get some of their injured players back next week when they host Colchester, who took down Division II Milton on Friday in its opener.

“It was your typical first game of the year today,” said Murray. “We would do something well and then we just wouldn’t finish it off. They always say offense takes longer to develop and I think we are close, but we are thinking a little too much out there, so we just have to learn from today and continue to get healthy going forward.”