MILTON-The North Country Falcons jumped all over the Milton Yellow Jackets 22-0 in the first stanza before settling in to a tight 30-25 victory. The triumph clinches the number one seed in Division Two football and produced the first undefeated regular season in the 46 years of North Country football.
With Milton going through the pre game senior night routine, North Country’s Falcons were ready for the opening bell. On their first offensive series facing third and five from their own 35, senior tailback Nick LeClair broke a tackle, veered right, and out-ran three Yellow Jacket defenders into the end zone. The play shocked the home team as LeClair broke it for 65 yards.
The scoring jaunt was LeClair’s 18th touchdown of the season, part of what would be a 152 yard rushing night.
The Falcons came back with a defensive stop on Milton’s fourth and one. Bubba Collins and Jacob Wooten hammered YellowJacket signal caller Brandon Beliveau for a loss turning the ball back to NCU’s offensive unit.
North Country moved the ball quickly in five plays. Senior quarterback Tre Sanville broke off a 41 yard run to the five and then rammed in from that mark two plays later. Sanville hit Riley Simoneau for the two pointer as he had hit Jason Hatin on the first score and NC was up 16-0.
The Falcon defense put the hammer down on the next Milton series. A forced fumble picked up and recovered by LeClair inside the Milton 30 put the Falcons in prime scoring range.
Facing second and long, Sanville stepped back into the pocket behind great protection. He fired a strike to the sticky fingered Jacob Buckles and Buckles snared it for a 29 yard touchdown. The try for two was good as Simoneau got one foot down in the left end zone corner. The official saw it differently however and ruled one foot out of bounds before the other foot came down. None the less, NC had forged a big 22-0 lead after seven minutes.
With a big home crowd and the shocking Falcon start behind them, the YellowJackets went to work. They have workhorse halfback Mike McClellan and he went got down to business. McClellan did most of the damage as Milton moved 72 yards to reach paydirt. McClellan swept in from the 12 to get his team on the board.
North Country coughed the ball up off the short kick off and five plays later Beliveau hit wideout Jayson Collette from 23 yards away. The pass for two failed, as did the run for two by Milton on their first score, making it 22-12.
North Country showed the grit and execution that has been the mantle of success for this year’s club. With momentum clearly favoring Milton, the Falcons went back to basics. 225 pound senior fullback Adam Pothier went in from the one yard line, capping off a 70 drive that took over eight minutes off the clock. At the half NCU had a comfortable 30-12 margin.
Milton came out in the third, intent on making a game of it. They did.
McClellan went in from 12 yards out for his second touchdown of the game. The scoring drive came after a Falcon turnover and Milton’s powerback took every handoff. The try for two failed but it was now 30-18.
With just over nine minutes left in the contest McClellan scored his third rushing touchdown of the day. He capped off a 64 yard series, diving in from the one. After failing on three two point conversions, Milton kicked the extra point and with a lot of game left the Falcons still led 30-25.
North Country put together two long time consuming drives. They advanced all the way to the Milton 14 yard line before the Yellow Jackets held. Milton drove the ball for one first down before NCU stopped them on fourth down at their 21. Nate Morin hammered Beliveau for a loss and NC had the ball back.
The YellowJackets got one more chance but they were stopped after moving to their own 41 as time ran out. The Falcons had prevailed and finished their regular season with a clean slate 9-0.
NCUHS had been outgained on the ground for the first time this season as Milton held a 263 to 244 advantage. McClellan finished with 141 yards on the ground on 29 hard earned carries hitting the end zone three times.
Tre Sanville finished with 75 yards on 12 carries, scoring a TD and throwing for one as well. LeClair came in at 152 on only 14 carries while Hatin added 36 on ten carries and Pothier had a touchdown among his six carries.
North Country may see the Blue and Gold again in the state finals in two weeks. Milton, now 7-2, will take on a very good 7-2 Fair Haven team next week with the winner earning a date in at Castleton State College. 9-0 NCUHS will host Burr and Burton, 7-2, at Veterans Field this Friday looking to punch their ticket to the State Championship game.
Head Coach Bob Davis concluded, “We got off to a great start. I knew Milton would come back with their veteran team.”