Thursday, August 28th
The first season of realignment brought an instant shake-up to division one. Former Division 2 power South Burlington made it all the way to the state title game. But it's Hartford who ends up on top. The Hurricanes claiming their first championship in 15 years.
"That was a different team, a different year, and this is a different group of kids.", says Hartford head coach Mike Stone.
Hartford graduated 22 seniors, meaning the underclassmen have to mature quickly.
"There's a lot of big shoes to fill.", admits Hurricanes quarterback Taylor Kelton. "We've had a lot of younger kids around, seen the system, so they are stepping up nicely."
As always, Division 1 will provide many challenges.
"Obviously Mt. Anthony, Rutland, those teams are going to be very strong this year, as usual.", says Stone. "There aren't too many gimme's on our schedule in fact, there aren't any."
In Division 2 Spaulding surprised the state a year ago going 10-1 and winning their first ever championship. If a repeat is in the cards for the Crimson Tide, they'll have to do it with a new coach. Erik Anderson replaces Brennan Carney who takes over at Burlington.
"It's a lot of pressure.", says Anderson. "It's hard to be a repeat state champion. It's only been done a few times. I want them to stay positive, take 1 game at a time."
JAMES DURHAM/ "Building a new, new coach, new system.", adds Spaulding captain James Durham. "We're just taking it one game at time."
And one opponent at at time. Anderson is expecting plenty of parody in division two. That includes regional rival U-32 and Woodstock, they've won 6 state titles so far this decade.
"It was a wonderful day back in November.", remembers Poultney Captain Jason Fox.
At Poultney the thrill of victory is still very much on their mind. The Blue Devils are fresh off their first state title in over 40 years.
"Everyone is still pretty excited about last season, but we have to live in the future right now, and take care of today.", says head coach Dave Capman.
"We can't look back on it now.", agrees Fox. "We got our own thing to do now. Hopefully, we can repeat, and repeat that feeling."
That feeling will come if Poultney can make it through a deep division 3.
"I think Springfield will be strong. Windsor is always there. I think BF-FAirfax was one of the stronger teams at the end of last year. I think Burr and Burton will also be a good team. It's not going to be easy, but I think we're also in that mix." says Capman.
All told there are 12 new head coaches around the state this year, including high profile Division 1 programs such as Brattleboro, Middlebury, Essex and Burlington."
Brennan Carney won a state title at Spaulding. Now the former South Burlington quarterback moves up to Division 1. The Seahorses are looking to improve on their 2-7 record.
"It's just new.", says Carney. "You're going to see what you saw our first year at Spaudling. That was just a lot of growing pains. But, we'll be alright. If they keep putting the time in and working at it, we should be fine."
At Essex, the Hornets are also starting new. Charlie Burnett takes over for Bill Mayville who retired after 30-years with the program.
"Essex has a really rich legacy of excellence in all of it's athletics.", says Burnett. "Football in particular. We're really excited to be a part of that and to do everything in our power to add to that legacy over the years."
The season starts Friday night.
--- Seth Leavitt
PO Box 4508