By Ken Wells
BELLOW FALLSâ€“Itâ€™s nice to be able to roll along unimpeded during your regular season. The North Country Falcons have for the most part enjoyed that. Most coaches will also tell you learn more from a loss or a stern test than you do winning.
That was the case Saturday as the Falcons got themselves out of a contest that they very well could have loss. NCU came up big with a late game defensive stand and a big play offense as they got by a good Bellows Falls Terrier team 20-18.
The Falcons came in at 5-0 but Coach Bob Davis foresaw this type of contest a week ago. He said, â€śThis is very well coached team, a team that has been a champion and plays extremely hard. A team with 18 seniors playing at home.â€™
Those words were prolific as NCUHS found themselves in a buzz saw. The Terriers were well prepared with a defense that would pay extra attention to high flying tailback Nick LeClair. The Terriers keyed in on him all day holding the explosive back to a meager 42 yards on 15 carries.
North Country made the trip without 220 pound fullback Adam Pothier. Without Pothier, Falcon quarterback Tre Sanville is more limited than usual as he runs the option off that fullback.
The leaves Jason Hatin the senior running back, who was up to the challenge. Hatin broke loose for 133 yards on 17 carries.
After a contest that saw NCU impose its will in trenches, the game had a fantastic finish.
The Falcons had tied the game at 12 in the fourth period as Sanville powered in for the equalizer. The try for two failed and NCU kicked off.
It was collected by Will Bourne at the eight yard line. He veered to his left and found an opening, turning on the jets and racing for the go ahead touchdown. The two point conversion was stacked up by the Falcon defense but the Terriers led 18-12 with under 9:00 minutes to play.
The Falcons put together a classic long time consuming drive, mostly on the ground. NCUHS drove from the 37 all the way to the Bellows Falls one foot line when an odd and rarely called penalty was called for â€ťHelping a runner advanceâ€ť against NCU. That five yards quelled the long drive and the Terriersâ€™ offense took over at their two.
With the clock ticking down and the Bellows Falls one first down from running out the clock, the broad shoulders of the North Country defense rose up and turned back the purple clad Terriers forcing a punt.
There was under a minute to go when the Falcons turned to a play that had worked earlier in the game. Tre Sanville pitched the ball back to Jason Hatin. Hatin lofted a beautiful ball to Jacob Buckles who made the reception and tumbled down to the four yard line. A huge play under pressure all the way around. A play made by experienced confident student-athletes.
That got NCU in range and this time it was a no doubter. With a powerful surge from the battle worn offensive line, Hatin bowled in from the four. That tied the contest up it at 18 apiece. Coach Bob Davis figured why change now, and Hatin blasted in behind the right side of the line running the same exact play for the game winner.
The Terriers had one bullet left as the clock ran down and Jacob Buckles sealed the 6-0 start with an interception.
For the Falcons, it was a close brush with defeat, but another confidence builder for a team destined for bigger things.
NCU had an overall yardage edge of 285 to the Fallsâ€™ 194. Hatin had two touchdowns as he also scored NCUâ€™s first TD. Will Bourne had two scores for the hard luck 2-4 Terriers who also got six pts. from Cooper Long.
The Falcons had 16 first downs to 9 recorded by BF. North Country goes south again next weekend as they travel to Springfield before returning home to face Burr and Burton the following week.