Clear
72°
Clear
Hi 88° | Lo 60°

Buzz-Worthy: Wasps Sting Otters, Return to Division III Title Game

  • Woodstock's Tom Baumann, right, gets weighed down by Otter Valley's Derek Bassette, left, during their Division III semifinal in Woodstock, Friday November 1, 2013. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Woodstock's Tom Baumann, right, gets weighed down by Otter Valley's Derek Bassette, left, during their Division III semifinal in Woodstock, Friday November 1, 2013.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nehemiah Wood of Woodstock looks for an open man as Carson Leary of Otter Valley tries to bring him down during their Division III semifinal in Woodstock, November 1, 2013.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Nehemiah Wood of Woodstock looks for an open man as Carson Leary of Otter Valley tries to bring him down during their Division III semifinal in Woodstock, November 1, 2013.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Woodstock Wasps leave the field to cheers as they head to states after their 34 - 0 Division III win over Otter Valley in Woodstock, November 1, 2013. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    The Woodstock Wasps leave the field to cheers as they head to states after their 34 - 0 Division III win over Otter Valley in Woodstock, November 1, 2013.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Woodstock's Tom Baumann, right, gets weighed down by Otter Valley's Derek Bassette, left, during their Division III semifinal in Woodstock, Friday November 1, 2013. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Nehemiah Wood of Woodstock looks for an open man as Carson Leary of Otter Valley tries to bring him down during their Division III semifinal in Woodstock, November 1, 2013.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • The Woodstock Wasps leave the field to cheers as they head to states after their 34 - 0 Division III win over Otter Valley in Woodstock, November 1, 2013. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Woodstock — During its three-year, 30-game winning streak, the Woodstock Union High football team has usually counted on its offense to run overworked defenses ragged. In sending Otter Valley home on the down side of a 34-0 Vermont Division III semifinal defeat on Friday night, the Wasps let their defense do the talking for a change.

Uncharacteristically stumbling out of the gate, top-ranked Woodstock (10-0) turned the pigskin over three times after scoring a routine, game-opening touchdown on its first possession. While the offense floundered, however, the Wasps’ defense intercepted one OV pass, stopped the fifth-ranked Otters (6-3) at the Woodstock 1-yard line and held the visitors to just 105 total offensive yards on the night.

From the trench work of junior Will Gault to the aggressive linebacking of Oliver Kaija and the shutdown pass coverage of defensive back Chris Flynn, the Wasps — at least on the defensive side of the ball — could do no wrong. They’ll go for a second straight undefeated championship season next Saturday at Rutland High School against today’s semifinal date between BFA-Fairfax and Mill River.

“Certainly, this was a defensive game,” Woodstock coach Ramsey Worrell said. “It took us a while to figure things out offensively. This team is used to peeling off big chunks of yards. When they’re only getting four yards, five yards, it feels like they’re not getting anything. …

“I didn’t think we’d throw a shutout, I’ll tell you that much. I think we played sound defense from all 11 guys.”

The Wasps rolled to a quick 7-0 lead by marching 71 yards in 10 plays on the game’s opening possession, with quarterback Nehemiah Wood scoring on a three-yard keeper. It appeared Woodstock would do to the Otters what it had done against most of the last 29 opponents: Score early and often.

Then the errors came. OV’s Derek Bassette picked Wood off deep in Otter territory to kill one drive. A Sidewinder missile of a punt from John Winslow clanked off the facemask of Woodstock’s Zach Cole and into the waiting arms of Otter Valley’s Michael Winslow for another giveaway. The usually sure-handed Kaija fumbled at his own 21, with the visitors making the recovery at the Woodstock 9.

OV pushed to the 2 with that turnover, reaching fourth down. John Winslow (8-for-23 passing, 61 yards) hit Carson Leary in the right flat, but defensive back Sam Cole knocked the running back down at the 1 to regain the football on downs.

Otter Valley also had a potential blocked punt wiped out when officials ruled someone ran into Wood, even though the Woodstock junior had to scramble to secure an off-the-mark snap.

“Early on, momentum plays such a big role in a big game,” OV coach Jim Hill said. “Those were two big momentum killers. We had opportunities, and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities.”

Gradually, Woodstock did.

Helped by a wind-aided 54-yard punt from Wood, the Wasps finally saw the other side of midfield late in the first half. Following a short OV kick, Kaija (23 carries, 132 yards) closed a 45-yard drive with a 19-yard dash around the right side for a 14-0 lead that carried into halftime.

The Woodstock that has dominated D-III for three autumns arrived with 20 third-quarter points. A John Winslow pitch to nobody turned into a 10-yard Will Gault TD fumble return three plays into the period. Sam Cole’s second pickoff of the night prefaced a 28-yard Kaija touchdown gallop. Cole added a 19-yard TD before the period ended, restoring the accustomed order around Worrell’s charges.

“When you’re undefeated, that’s always a challenge, and when you’re really undefeated, like when you’re on a super-big win streak, it’s always a challenge,” Worrell said. “But I think they were ready. These guys came out fighting.

“It felt like a real football game. I’m proud of them. I’m real proud of them.”

Audibles: All 321 of Woodstock’s offensive yards came on the ground. Tom Bauman finished with 13 carries for 75 yards before leaving with a fourth-quarter injury. Sam Cole ran nine times for 73 yards and the one TD. … OV, which turned the football over three times on the night, had only 55 rushing yards. Kaija sacked Otters quarterback John Winslow twice, including a 10-yard loss in the fourth quarter after Winslow had guided OV to the Wasps’ 10. … Woodstock wide receiver Matt Poljacik and defensive tackle Kyle Longley both went down with apparent leg or foot injuries during the contest, but both eventually returned to action. … In addition to Kaija’s two sacks, Gault and defensive lineman Austin Waterman led a group that tackled OV runners for losses eight times. … The combination of the game and a women’s hockey tournament at neighboring Union Arena put a premium on parking. A number of vehicles were forced to park on Route 4 when spaces on school grounds filled up.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.