It was a tale of two halves when the BFA-Fairfax/Lamoille football team hosted Mt. Mansfield on Wednesday afternoon.
The Bullets had some struggles in the first half, as they fell behind 28-7 before mounting a comeback and taking a 30-28 lead with a couple of minutes to go in the game. However, the Cougars hit a big play on their final drive that got them downfield and ended up scoring a touchdown with 13 seconds left on the clock, as they came away with a 34-30 win over the Bullets.
“That’s the way we have been all year, just a little slow out of the gate for some reason,” said Fairfax/Lamoille coach Craig Sleeman. “When we start to feel the pressure, the guys seem to feel that and kick things into overdrive, which we did again in the second half today. You will win some of these games and you will lose some. That’s just the way it is.”
Will Mlcuch finished the game completing 15 of 27 passes for 165 yards and three touchdowns with 130 of those yards and all three scores coming in the second half and also added an interception on defense. He also added three extra points and a 27-yard field goal. Cooper Harvey threw for 11 completions for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Shaun Gibson finished with 100 yards receiving on five catches and a big 32-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter to make it a 28-27 game at the time. Ryan Goodman (67 yards, one touchdown) and Kenny Salls (40 yards, one interception on defense) also had five receptions a piece for the Bullets. Riley Greene and Gabe Cotnoir each added a touchdown reception.
After clawing their way back into the game, it was a tough way for the game to end for Fairfax/Lamoille, who held the Cougars to 44 yards of total offense until their final game-winning drive.
“It was great to see them step up under pressure like that in the second half,” said Sleeman. “We executed better and just played great defensively in that second half.”
The Bullets stepped up in a big way going against a team that had a clear height advantage, but that didn’t stop them from battling all game long and making it an exciting contest.
“We are a Div. III school playing a number of sophomores and freshmen and no matter how much you downplay it, you look over and see you are playing a Div. I team with all juniors and seniors,” said Sleeman. “Sometimes our guys get a little wide-eyed, but we showed in that second half that we didn’t care what the height difference, speed, what division they came from, we just went out and battled and did a great job.”
Things didn’t look great going into the second half for the Bullets after trailing 28-7. But that was just where they started to turn on the jets on both sides of the ball.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Bullets took over on downs on their own 11-yard line to start the fourth quarter. They drove 89 yards down the field capped off 5-yard score from Mlcuch to Greene to make it a 28-14 game.
Mlcuch then came up with an interception during Mt. Mansfield’s next offensive drive, setting up Fairfax/Lamoille at midfield to start its next possession. Mlcuch wasted no time hitting Gibson up the sideline for a 49-yard pass to get the Bullets deep in the Cougars zone. Mlcuch then hit Cotnoir on a 5-yard score to make it a one-score game at 28-21, as the Bullets took all the momentum.
It didn’t take long for the Bullets to get the ball back, as Gibson intercepted Mt. Mansfield on its second play of its next drive and got it back deep into the Cougars’ territory. Fairfax/Lamoille only needed one play to score on its next drive as Mlcuch put a perfect drop pass into Gibson in the endzone. The PAT was blocked making it 28-27 midway through the fourth quarter.
Mt. Mansfield couldn’t do much on its next drive, as it turned the ball over on downs after Greene made a great defensive play on a 4th-and-1 to give the Bullets the ball back. After a few plays got the ball deep into Mt. Mansfield territory, Mlcuch knocked a 28-yard field goal through the uprights giving the Bullets a 30-28 lead.
The Cougars did just enough on their next drive to go ahead, as on a 3rd-and-4, Owen Trudeau hit Dante Samuelsen for a gain of 53 yards to get them into the redzone. The Bullets held strong, but Trudeau connected with Austin Wilcoxen on a 2-yard touchdown pass to make it a 34-30 game with only 13 seconds left on the clock.
“We just needed another minute in the end,” said Sleeman. “The guys did a great job doing what they had to do to come back and hold them to only one score in the second half. Yeah we did some good things offensively, but really it was defense that got everything rolling with a few interceptions and some good stops.”
The Bullets are back in action on Saturday when they travel to Mt. Abraham.