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A Perfect Ending

  • The Wasps pose with head coach Jim McLaughlin after defeating BFA-Fairfax 38-18 for the Division III Vermont high school football championship.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    The Wasps pose with head coach Jim McLaughlin after defeating BFA-Fairfax 38-18 for the Division III Vermont high school football championship.
    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

  • Woodstock’s Ed Doton navigates his way to the end zone for a Wasp touchdown in the state championship game. Doton lead the team with 27 touchdowns for the season.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)<br/>

    Woodstock’s Ed Doton navigates his way to the end zone for a Wasp touchdown in the state championship game. Doton lead the team with 27 touchdowns for the season.
    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

  • Woodstock captains Hunter Schmell and Ed Doton hold their team’s championship trophy after defeating BFA-Fairfax for the state championship.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)<br/>

    Woodstock captains Hunter Schmell and Ed Doton hold their team’s championship trophy after defeating BFA-Fairfax for the state championship.
    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

  • Woodstock's Tom Baumann makes a clean run to the end zone against BFA-Fairfax in the state championship game.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Woodstock's Tom Baumann makes a clean run to the end zone against BFA-Fairfax in the state championship game.
    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

  • Woodstock's Zack Cole wraps up BFA-Fairfax's Kris Wehner by the knees in the state championship game.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Woodstock's Zack Cole wraps up BFA-Fairfax's Kris Wehner by the knees in the state championship game.
    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

  • Woodstock's Ed Doton waits with his teammates for the awards ceremony after winning the Division III state football championship.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

    Woodstock's Ed Doton waits with his teammates for the awards ceremony after winning the Division III state football championship.
    (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

  • The Wasps pose with head coach Jim McLaughlin after defeating BFA-Fairfax 38-18 for the Division III Vermont high school football championship.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • Woodstock’s Ed Doton navigates his way to the end zone for a Wasp touchdown in the state championship game. Doton lead the team with 27 touchdowns for the season.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)<br/>
  • Woodstock captains Hunter Schmell and Ed Doton hold their team’s championship trophy after defeating BFA-Fairfax for the state championship.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)<br/>
  • Woodstock's Tom Baumann makes a clean run to the end zone against BFA-Fairfax in the state championship game.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • Woodstock's Zack Cole wraps up BFA-Fairfax's Kris Wehner by the knees in the state championship game.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)
  • Woodstock's Ed Doton waits with his teammates for the awards ceremony after winning the Division III state football championship.<br/>(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

The character of a team is born, not out of its triumphs but out of its struggles. And as the second half of the Vermont Division III state championship game began, Woodstock certainly was struggling.

But these Wasps had the character of champions within them. Shrugging off an early two-touchdown deficit to BFA-Fairfax, the defending state champs showed their pedigree, roaring back to score four touchdowns in the fourth quarter and complete a perfect season giving veteran coach Jim McLaughlin his ninth state title.

“We haven’t had a lot of close games, and there were a lot of ups and downs,” said McLaughlin. “When you get down, sometimes your heads go down.

“BFA is a good team and tested our football IQ.”

The Wasps came through the test with flying colors —just as they had done throughout this special season. Just look at the numbers:

∎ Heading into the title game, the Wasps were averaging nearly 50 points per game, never being challenged.

Running back Ed Doton led the Upper Valley with 24 rushing touchdowns while running for more than 1,200 yards. He was supported by guys like Zach Cole with 600 yards rushing and 9 TDs, Tom Baumann with 500 yards rushing and 7 TDs and Nick Sprague adding 400 yards more with 9 TDs. And don’t overlook wide receiver Tyler Anstruther, who had scores off kick returns this year.

And as an exclamation point to the 76 touchdowns the Wasps scored all season, Hunter Schmell had 66 extra points along with five field goals.

But while Woodstock owned the end zone, the Wasps kept up their end of the defensive bargain, as well. Heading into the title game, the Wasps had allowed just 89 points through 10 games.

Defensive tackle Travis Gault, Sam Zonay, linebackers Alex King and Oliver Kaija and cornerbacks Cole and Anstruther were the keys to Woodstock’s defensive wall.

It certainly should have come as no secret to Vermont football followers that the Wasps were coming into this season LOADED. They had 10 starters back on offense and 10 starters returning on defense.

After dropping their first two games of the 2011 season, Woodstock ran the rest of the table en route to the championship. That team returned 25 letterwinners intent on following in those title footsteps, something that McLaughlin talked about prior to the opener.

“The more experience you have, the better off you are,” said McLaughlin as he headed into his 31st year on the Woodstock sidelines. “This is the most experience I’ve had.

“I like our chances.”

Woodstock opened with a 48-19 win over BFA and the Wasps were off and running. As top seed in Division III, Woodstock hosted Mount Abraham in the first round of the playoffs. Despite a slow start, Woodstock made short work of the Eagles, advancing to the title game with a 58-7 victory, highlighted by three touchdowns and 94 yards rushing from Doton.

But even with all the success, McLaughlin wasn’t about to let his charges get distracted from the goal at hand. “We’ve talked about respecting the game, and they respect it,” the coach said on the eve of the finale. “They’re mature enough so that they know that in any situation, especially at small school high school football, just about anything can happen.”

Like falling behind in the second half of the state title game.

Trailing 18-12, Woodstock dug deep to find its title character. “We finally picked it up and got back to our old selves,” said Baumann. “We calmed down and picked it up.”

A fumble recovery by Sprague got the scoring avalanche started. Before they were done, Woodstock added two scores from Doton, a TD by Baumann and a field goal from Schmell. A perfect ending to as perfect season.

And they received the ultimate compliment from their coach. “They attacked the season with a real desire to improve and to get better,” said McLaughlin

“This is the most complete team I have ever had here.”