NEWPORT–From the second that Colton White's opening kick-off was flagged down by the officials, you had the feeling that North Country's season opener was going to be a long affair.
Despite a low scoring first half, it took almost three hours for the Spaulding Crimson Tide to defeat the Falcons 28-16 in new head coach Tim Simoneau's first game.
"It did not go as well as I wanted it too, but there were some good things," said Simoneau. "Our offensive and defensive schemes were working, and I see a lot of potential. Now it is just a matter of execution."
Not much was being executed on the field be either team early on as the Falcons and the Tide traded possessions.
Spaulding broke through and scored the game's first touchdown when quarterback Jon Kilian ran for three yards and dove across the line for the score.
It appeared that Kilian's knees were on the ground before he crossed the line, but after the officials conferenced the TD stood, and it was 6-0 Tide with 3:49 left to play in the first.
It would stay that way throughout the remainder of the half with both squad's coming close, but neither able to score any points.
Jacob Buckles opened the second half with a kick-off return that put North Country on the 47 yard line.
From there Jason Hatin engineered a a quick drive lasting 1:27 and resulted in the QB calling his own number, taking the ball in for the tying score.
The Falcons then went ahead 8-6 when Hatin raced in for the two point conversion.
The lead was short lived though as Kilian once again came through for Spaulding.
Utilizing a fake punt play on fourth and long, the Tide ended up on the Falcons 17 yard line, and from there ran three running plays, ending with Kilian's touchdown run, followed by his two point conversion.
After a short Falcon series that ended with Hatin cramped up on the field, Spaulding took over and Kilian scored his third TD of the game to stretch the lead to 20-8.
It was about this time that Caleb Prue really started to attract some attention from those in attendance.
Prue looked pretty sharp in the game considering the fact that the last time he was on the field as an active member of a football team was in junior high.
"I played until I was in eighth grade, but stopped because I didn't want to ruin my legs for basketball," he said.
He had a couple of looks in the first half that did not amount to much, but after the third Spaulding touchdown, he returned the kick from his own 22 to the Tide's 43 to get things rolling for the Falcon offense.
Hatin then sent him deep for a 41 yard pass that put NCU in the red zone.
Following a fumble and recovery, Hatin hit Buckles for a short pass for the Falcon's second scoring drive of the game.
After Hatin's second two point conversion it was 20-16 with 2:03 left in the third.
But that would be it for North Country on this day, as Spaulding held off the home town team for the remainder of the contest, even adding another score late as Kilian picked off his counter part in the waning moments of the game and ran 60 yards for his fourth touchdown of the game.
"He is a top athlete and he made my play calling easy. I'm impressed to say the least," said Spaulding coach David Bell.
Bell returned to his hometown this year to take over the coaching duties for the Tide after his career in professional football ended, and he couldn't be happier.
"Some times people assume that because I've gone on to do some unbelievable things in college and professionally that the home leaves you, but it never does. It is part of the reason why you get there, so I was always planning on coming back to the place that gave me the support to do and accomplish what I've been able to do."
Even Simoneau was impressed by Kilian saying, "He is a tremendous asset. He seemed to be everywhere doing everything, and he was very tough to handle."
One thing that Falcons definitely learned from the game is that conditioning is going to be a big factor this season.
Several players logged a lot of time on the field last Friday, and more than likely it is trend that will continue throughout this season.
"It was very demanding," Hatin admitted about his workload.
The Falcons will look to rebound this Friday when they travel to East Montpelier to take on the U-32 Raiders.
Game time is 7:00.