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Wasps Pick Off Olympians for Easy First-Round Win

Woodstock — Heading into last week’s regular-season finale at rival Windsor, the Woodstock Union High football team had a rare lackadaisical week of practice and it showed during a slow start against the Yellowjackets.

When it came to last night’s Vermont Division III playoff opener against Oxbow, the Wasps were locked in from the very first snap.

The undefeated Wasps scored touchdowns on eight straight possessions to begin the game and intercepted the Upper Valley’s leading passing attack five times in a 61-13 win over the Olympians at James T. McLaughlin Field.

No. 1 Woodstock (9-0) moves on to next weekend’s semifinals against the winner of today’s game between No. 5 Otter Valley and No. 4 Mount Abraham. No. 8 Oxbow finishes 3-6.

Senior running back/fullback Tom Baumann ran for 101 yards and four touchdowns on just 10 carries, and he had one of four first half interceptions against Oxbow senior Quinten Mahikoa (3-for-13, 36 yards, four interceptions) and freshman Tristan Longmore (7-for-12, 165 yards, two touchdowns, one pick). Longmore was held to 85 yards through the air through three quarters.

Woodstock senior Sam Cole had a game-high 133 yards and a score on nine carries as the Wasps’ defense nabbed four first-half interceptions and forced a fumble to help break the game open.

“Any time you can force turnovers, it’s huge, whether it’s interceptions or fumbles,” said Woodstock coach Ramsey Worrell, whose team also had a fumble recovery for six total takeaways. “The kids had a good week of practice and they were excited to come out and play.”

They showed it early and often. The Wasps scored on their second play from scrimmage after a bad Oxbow punt allowed them to take over just outside the red zone. Nehemiah Wood found Chris Flynn in the corner of the end zone for the junior QB’s only completion in three attempts.

Woodstock forced turnovers on each of the next six Oxbow drives, converting all into a touchdowns. Cole’s pick set up a 39-yard scoring run by Baumann, freshman Bill Wood used a stiff arm to cap a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown, and linebacker Nate Fegard picked off Mahikoa to set up Baumann’s 14-yard scoring run. Baumann added a one-yard plunge following Fegard’s pick to make it 27-0 at the end of the first quarter, then went untouched up the middle from 17 to make it 34-0 early in the second following his own pick.

It was the sixth 100-yard day for Baumann, who neared the 1,000 yard mark for the season Friday despite missing one game earlier in the year.

“He’s improved as the season has gone along,” Worrell said of Baumann. “If he’s not the best halfback in the state, he’s easily the best in southern Vermont.”

Bradley Lewis recovered a Mahikoa fumble, setting up a 50-yard drive capped by Cole’s 11-yard rush.

Fegard snared his second pick of the game on against Longmore on the ensuing drive, and Cole rushed for 15 and Steve Baumann for 19 to set up a 13-yard scoring run by Nikolai Davis (eight carries, 49 yards) to make it 48-0 at halftime.

“Woodstock is a very good football team. We couldn’t keep up with their speed,” said Oxbow coach Mark Palmieri, whose team made the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and the second time in its seven-year history. “They’re very quick on defense and they’re good hitters.”

Woodstock was prepared to defend the pass against an Oxbow team that racked up nearly 1,000 yards through the air in the regular season. Leading receiver Jordan Eastman (924 yards, 11 touchdowns including Friday) finished the game with 132 yards and two scores, but was held to three catches for 56 yards in the first half.

“We knew they were going to try to pass,” said Fegard, who dropped often into coverage from his middle linebacker position. “The last time we played them (a 59-12 Woodstock win Sept. 20) they tried to run right up the gut and it didn’t work.”

Tom Baumann (from 8 yards) and Steve Baumann (from 7) added ground scores to make it 61-0, the latter coming after sophomore Wynn Falvey gathered the Wasps’ fifth pick.

The O’s finally got on the board on a 32-yard pass from Longmore to Eastman, Oxbow’s senior receiver splitting double coverage by Falvey and Flynn for the score.

Oxbow forced its only punt of the game early in the fourth quarter before a 90-yard scoring drive, Longmore finding Eastman on the sideline before the receiver shifted his way in for a 44-yard score.

Woodstock’s Davis was 7-of-9 on extra point attempts; Oxbow’s Randy Snelling was 1-for-2.

Extra Points: A two-time defending state champ, Woodstock hasn’t lost since week two of the 2011 season (29 games). ... The Wasps didn’t play the Otter Valley or Mount Abraham this year, though a semifinal against Mount Abe would be a rematch of Woodstock’s 58-7 win in the same round last fall. ... Oxbow freshman Dametres Perry returned four kickoffs for an average of 71 yards (17.8-yard average), including a 25-yard runback in the first quarter. ... Woodstock had 28 first downs to 12 for the Olympians. ... The Wasps were flagged only once, though it was a 15-yard personal foul. Oxbow was penalized seven times for 65 yards, including a hold that negated a 32-yard rush by Hunter Page in the fourth quarter. ... 29-year Woodstock coach Jim McLaughlin served as site director in place of Woodstock athletic director Jeff Thomas. McLaughlin retired after last season and the field was named for him prior to the Wasps home opener against Springfield.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 602-727-3306.