MMU Sees Opportunity in Weird Football Season
Cougars believe upperclassmen can help them regain lofty heights
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After a decade of building, the Mount Mansfield Cougars finally climbed the highest peak in Vermont high school football, riding a huge senior class to the D1 state title back in 2018.
“They were always positive, there was never a negative moment with them,” said Seth Westover, a rising senior receiver for the Cougars. “I want to try and bring that as much as possible, they were like the most upbeat people and obviously they were fantastic athletes.”
But the downside of a senior-heavy team is that experience can be hard to come by the following year. The Cougars dropped from state champs to 2-6 in the first year under head coach Nick Michaud.
“Year one was certainly just hitting the ground running,” Michaud said. “Being hired in May of last year and then the season two months to follow, I was just trying to get through the season and try to compete every game which I think we did a great job of being in almost every game.”
There was an increased level of optimism coming into this season as the Cougars have veteran leaders all over the offense.
“It’ll definitely show off how versatile our quarterback is,” Westover said of fellow senior Owen Trudeau. “I mean, he’s gonna be best in the state this year honestly, and I think we have the best receivers in the state by far and so it’ll be electric to watch us.”
“Just making sure to study the playbook and really understand my reads and understand coverages more and just making sure to keep everybody positive,” Trudeau said.
Like everyone else, they were nervous the pandemic was going to wreck their season. It obviously won’t be the same, but it’s better than nothing.
“Knowing the fact that we’re playing 7-on-7 is unfortunate because nothing beats tackle football in my opinion but just having a season and just making sure we take advantage of the opportunity,” Trudeau said.
“I was happy that we got the chance to play,” Michaud said. “Obviously a bummer that we are not playing the traditional 11-on-11 format but nevertheless these kids are out competing and playing with their friends and being active. And that’s the biggest thing out of this.”
So the Cougars have been out on the field this summer doing the best they can to get ready, and they think their style of play might make it easier to adapt.
“Teams like Colchester and St. Albans that are heavy run teams, Middlebury too, it’s gonna be different for them too,” Westover said. “We’ve definitely been working on our sprints, getting faster, more explosive. Lots of conditioning for us here.”
And even with the elimination of traditional line play, the Cougars are still seeing the big guys buy in.
“They’re grasping it quickly,” Michaud said. “It is great to see bigger bodies moving like that because we don’t traditionally see that so I think they’re enjoying it.”
It’s that sense of unity and commitment that allowed MMU to become the best team in the state a few years ago, and they’re hoping with another big group of upperclassmen this year, they can be in the conversation again.
“I think we have six games now since it’s 7-on-7. Personally I want like 1000 yards. Teamwise, always state championship. Big goals are you know, always what we aim for,” Westover said.
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