Harrison Nunes intercepts a pass in the game against Mill River on Friday, November 3, 2017. (Bruce Longley Photo)
The Division III State Championship Football Game is Saturday, November 11 at Rutland High School against Windsor at 11am.
By George Calver, Standard Correspondent
A year to the day after having been eliminated from the Division III Championship, the Wasps fought their way to this year’s title game by soundly beating Mill River 36-6 Friday under the lights at McLaughlin Field, setting the stage for the State Title game against Windsor this Saturday. The Yellow Jackets beat No.5 Springfield 36-0 in their semifinal contest.
Apparently Woodstock did not want to see “deja-vu all over again” – a regular season loss to Windsor that seeded them second to the Yellow Jackets, and a loss in the semis. Last year, Otter Valley pulled an upset that shattered the Wasps’ chance for revenge and redemption against Windsor, but this year’s squad would have none of that.
And in contrast to the quarterfinal game against Poultey/MSJ, where the Wasps won 42-20 despite being “flat,” the challenge for coach Ramsey Worrell this go-round was to channel and control all the “firein- the-gut” that led to a slew of costly penalties in their 9-12 overtime loss at Windsor a couple of weeks ago.
The march to the final round started slowly Friday: the only scoring in the first quarter Friday night was a safety that had the Wasps up a slim 2-0 at the start of the second 12-minutes of play, but Woodstock’s domination of field position that coughed up the safety hinted that more scoring was to come, and that, despite a 15-yard personal foul call that brought back a 38-yard punt return, the penalty bug that comes from nerves was not going to be a factor.
A weak kickoff by the Minutemen and a 21-yard return by Charlie Amato set up the Wasps at the visitors’ 29-yard line, and three plays later – after a duo of Caden White plunges through the middle — Patrick Potter ran a cut-back play from the 20-yard marker to move the green-and-white up 8-0. Jed Astbury’s “automatic” PAT kick (he missed only two all season) made it 9-0. That touchdown came at 11:11 of the second, and barely 30 seconds later Patrick Potter teed up the Wasp’s second TD with a smashing fumble-causing tackle that gave Woodstock possession on Mill River’s 15- yard line. Then straight from coach Worrell’s playbook, Caden White bulled though the line a couple of times, and finished it with a run down the middle to make it 15-0. Asbury followed up by kicking the ball between the goal posts to add another point.
Now down by 16, the Minutemen’s sophomore quarterback Colby Fox put on a show of his passing skills. A long pass brought the ball down to Woodstock’s 19 yard-line, and on 2nd and 9, a pass that bounced off the fingertips of the receiver kept Mill River off the scoreboard. Gabe Marsicovetere then tackled Fox just as he launched another incomplete pass, but on 4th and nine the Mill River quarterback connected on a short strike that had the visitors with a first down at Woodstock’s 8. Marsicovetere crushed Fox again to loosen the ball but Mill River’s drive stayed alive on a recovery. Finally, with the ball at the 3-yard line following a personal call penalty against Woodstock, Mill River’s QB found an open receiver in the end zone. The visitors went for two, but sophomore safety Luke Brown batted it down.
Mill River attempted an on-side kick to chip away at their 16-6 deficit, but the Wasps gained possession at the Minutemen’s 49 (they touched the ball before it made contact with a WUHS player) and White rushed to Mill River’s 26- yard line. Forced to a 4th and 2 at the 18, White then gained 8 and a first down, leaving it to co-captain fullback Patrick Potter to score again. With the score 22-6, the Wasps attempted to widen the lead to two more points on a run, but fell short.
The visitors went to the air again, but Charlie Amato, Jed Astbury and Luke Brown cancelled Colby Fox’s air attack, and as the seconds of the first half wound down, Potter carried the ball from his own 46 down to the opponents’ 41. After a series of plays, and only eight seconds remaining, Woodstock’s Trevor White attempted a pass to Charlie Amato that was knocked down. On the last play of the half, Caden White plunged into the end zone for his second touchdown, and with the point after, Woodstock carried a 29-6 lead into the locker room.
Whatever was said at halftime appeared to work: Woodstock kept on firing on all cylinders and stretched their lead to 36-6 on a Jed Astbury scramble into the end zone before coach Worrell gave his reserves valuable game exposure— experience that might serve them well in the championship game.
Woodstock and Mill River couldn’t be more different teams. While the Minutemen gained just 12 yards on the ground, they threw for 132. The Wasps’ Trevor White attempted only one pass, but Caden White, Patrick Potter and Jed Astbury combined for 320 yards along the turf. Had Micah Schlabach, who has been on the sidelines for the last two outings with a broken pinky finger, been in the lineup, the running yards might have been even higher. On the other hand, Mill River’s yardage through the air might have been higher if their starting quarterback had not been shaken up, and forced to retire from the game in the third quarter by Gabe Marsicovetere’s stinging open-field tackle. Fox returned to action in the fourth quarter, but by then the deed was done.
By final count, White had run for 100 yards on 23 carries. Potter carried 17 times and gained 96 yards. Astbury racked up 44 yards on three dashes.
Mill River’s last-ditch effort to get on the scoreboard was snuffed out in the final seconds on a pass interception by Harrison Nunes, aided by Yeabsira Miles who dropped back from his right linebacker position. At first, it looked like Miles had snagged the ball, but when Nunes hit the dirt, he was holding onto the ball. Not memorable in the final scheme of things, but illustrating what this year’s WUHS squad is all about: a reserve and a starter combining to make it happen.
“We gotta win it!” chanted the Wasps in unison in the post-game huddle before co-captain Patrick Potter yelled, “Our goal was to get there — now our goal is to win it!”
Jed Astbury confidently summed up the Wasps’ prospects of winning it all this way: “I’m feeling pretty good about it.”
With senior tight end Brendan Schwartz back in the line-up after sitting out two weeks with an injury, with Gabe Marsicovetere seemingly running at full speed after having suffered a sprained ankle the previous week against Poultney/MSJ, and with Micah Schlabach’s return a real possibility, it seems that the Wasps will be “fully loaded” for their encounter with Windsor this Saturday at Rutland High School.
Kickoff time is 11 a.m. Come dressed for the cold – the temperature at game time is forecasted to be in the 30s.