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Eleventh Heaven: Woodstock Reigns Over VPA D-III Football — Narrowly

  • Woodstock's Ora Astbury (56) and Charlie Amato (1) hold the state championship trophy aloft with their teammates, from left, Trevor White, Matt Carlson and Alden Shoemaker following their 28-21 Division III win over Poultney in Rutland, Vt., on Nov. 10, 2018, to cap off an undefeated season. (Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodstock's Caden White runs with a pass he received from Gabe Marsicovetere (not pictured) in the first quarter of their Division III championship game against Poultney in Rutland, Vt., on Nov. 10, 2018. Woodstock won, 28-21. (Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Micah Schlabach, left, congratulates Ben Marsicovetere for scoring on a long touchdown run in the second quarter of their Division III championship game against Poultney in Rutland, Vt., on Nov. 10, 2018. Woodstock won, 28-21. (Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodstock's Gabe Marsicovetere tackles Poultney's Jacob Allen during their Division III championship game in Rutland, Vt., on Nov. 10, 2018. Woodstock won, 28-21. (Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, November 10, 2018

Rutland — Jacob Allen, running back for Poultney High’s football team, gave a shrug and smiled. The odds had been stacked against his No. 2 Blue Devils, who were going up against top-seeded, undefeated Woodstock in Saturday’s VPA Division III championship game on Alumni Field at Rutland High, from the jump. Allen just wanted to make Woodstock earn it.

Poultney did just that, scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put a scare into Vermont’s lone remaining undefeated squad. Woodstock held on, 28-21, to win its first state title since 2013, its 11th overall, and complete the perfect season.

But Poultney clearly had no intention of going down without a fight.

“Intimidation was a big thing — we’ve never been here; Woodstock was here last year,” Allen said. “One Woodstock kid said it was a dogfight. That made me happy. And jeez, I don’t think they’ve let up that many points all season.

“We just wanted to give them a game today.”

It was Poultney’s first state title appearance in 11 seasons. Woodstock came within an overtime possession winning last year, losing to Windsor, 13-7.

Finishing the job one year later felt like redemption.

“Last year, we came close but didn’t get there,” Woodstock’s Jed Astbury said. “We came into this game thinking we don’t want to feel what we felt last year.

“It feels amazing. We really came together this year.”

It was Woodstock’s closest margin of victory and the most points it allowed this fall. It also was the most adversity Woodstock had faced all season.

Caden White, Woodstock’s workhorse running back who amassed 16 carries for 83 yards and two rushing touchdowns in the first two quarters, went down on Woodstock’s third play of the third quarter after another player landed on him during a tackle. White said he suffered a high ankle sprain; he did not play another snap and was visibly limping after the game.

Woodstock’s drive was stopped five plays later, marking the first denial for Poultney’s defense, but the Wasps held onto the 21-0 lead they had at halftime.

“We were moving the ball (in the first half),” Woodstock head coach Ramsay Worrell said. “I think when Caden went down, that really slowed us down.”

The Blue Devils answered with a 15-play drive over 6:48, its longest of the game. Back-to-back incomplete passes by Poultney quarterback Caden Capman turned the ball over on downs, but a rhythm had been established. The Blue Devils finished the second half with three drives of 10 plays or more, scoring on their final three possessions.

Poultney’s first play of the final quarter, a run by Capman that was fumbled into the end zone and recovered by Poultney’s Lucas Gloss, got the team on the scoreboard. Woodstock’s lead was cut, 21-7.

“(The Blue Devils) were moving the ball, but they weren’t moving the ball,” Worrell said, noting Poultney’s effective, but time-consuming, drives in the second half. “We were playing bend-but-don’t-break defense. I thought our defense played great. Once we got to within 20 yards, in the red zone, I thought we stiffened up quite a bit.”

Woodstock’s big-play ability provided an answer on the ensuing kickoff, with Ben Marsicovetere running 85 yards down the right sideline for his team’s fourth touchdown of the game — and a 28-7 lead.

Then, more adversity. Woodstock’s backup running back, Daniel Lessard, went down on a defensive play in the fourth quarter, two snaps before Poultney scored its second touchdown of the game on a Capman quarterback sneak that cut Woodstock’s lead to 28-13 with 5:13 remaining.

Worrell turned to his next man up, Astbury, to help Woodstock run out the clock.

“He’s my Swiss Army knife,” Worrell said. “He knows everything. … He can play all four defensive backs, every running back position, he’s our emergency quarterback — and do it without getting a lot of reps. He listens.”

Astbury, who also serves as the team’s placekicker, ran 21 yards on seven consecutive plays, fumbling on his seventh carry to give Poultney the ball back with 1:44 left on the clock. The Blue Devils needed every second, scoring 10 plays later with 13.7 seconds remaining on a touchdown pass to Elizer Rosario from Capman in the corner of the end zone.

Poultney nailed the two-point conversion to make it 28-21 and attempted an onside kick to get the ball back. Woodstock’s Micah Schlabach recovered the loose ball to finish the game.

Woodstock scored on three consecutive drives to build a 21-0 lead by halftime, thanks to White, who scored two touchdowns from short yardage on the ground, and Wasps quarterback Trevor White, who sent a dart to Marsicovetere for a 43-yard catch and run into the end zone.

Poultney’s Allen led all rushers with 27 attempts for 145 yards. The Blue Devils fell to Woodstock, 50-13, earlier this season, one week after losing their starting quarterback to a season-ending injury. This time, Allen said, Poultney showed what it was made of.

“That was probably our roughest week,” he said of the regular-season game. “Losing my brother (Levi Allen, Poultney’s quarterback) kind of put a damper on things. … In the second half we had a little talk, made some adjustments. We kind of made the mental decision to get back into it.”

Woodstock graduates 12 from its roster: Caden White, Astbury, Schlabach, Marsicovetere, Charlie Amato, Harrison Nunes, Ora Astbury, Yeabsira Miles, Gabe Marsicovetere, Jacob Maxham, Matt Carlson and Evan Alsup. Quarterback Trevor White returns next season, as does running back Lessard and tight end Gage Lory.

Worrell said this group of seniors was special. A trophy, he said, was a fitting way to end.

“It was their year,” Worrell said.

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.