Scores and records are often deceptive, and that is certainly the case for Mt. Blue, which continues to play with the tenacity of a winning high school team but has come up empty-handed so far.
Hampden Academy had a way of stripping the ball. In fact, the Broncos turned it into an art. They stopped the Cougars cold when Mt. Blue got too close to the end zone in the second half and Hampden slipped away with a 28-22 victory.
“It has been the MO of us all year,” Mt. Blue coach Jim Aylward said. “We get down inside the red zone, and we figure out a way to hurt ourselves.
“Hampden played well enough to win. (Casey Sudbeck is) a good QB. They played well defensively. It seems like the closer we get to the end zone, the more likely we are to make a mistake, and we just play a lot of defense.
“They made enough plays to win and we didn’t. it’s really that simple, but I do one thing, we work as hard as other teams.”
The Cougars were down 20-8 at halftime, but raising the white flag was out of the question.
Mt. Blue fumbled on the first play of the second half but shook it off and got the ball back four plays later.
And the Cougars didn’t squander this opportunity.
They got the ball on the 37 and slugged it out to 5-yard line, where Makao Thompson bulldozed his way into the end zone for a touchdown. He also delivered the two-point conversion and suddenly the Cougars were breathing down the Broncos necks in the third quarter.
But Hampden came right back at the Cougars and fought to the 27 when quarterback Sudbeck reeled off a touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Labun in the fourth quarter. Labun was surrounded by several Mt. Blue defenders, but he raised his long arms and snatched the ball.
The Broncos’ TD didn’t silence the Cougars.
Mt. Blue fumbled again after getting all the way to the 11-yard line.
But the Cougars had the temerity to keep on going and got the ball right back when Sean Testa intercepted a Hampden pass at the 44-yard line.
Mt. Blue passed and rushed to the 4, where Thompson came across with another touchdown, but the conversion failed with 3:37 left in the game.
Hampden got the ball back and kept it on the ground it out until time ran out.
“You know the kids are working hard,” Hampden coach Fred Lower. “We just try to keep it real simple, fundamental. They did a really good job.
“I thought Mt. Blue played very, very hard. I tell you what: We had trouble stopping them at times. I think it hurt them that they couldn’t get an explosive play on us.”
In the first half, the Broncos scored first when Sudbeck connected with Griffin Nye for the first down of the game. Sudbeck scored on a 22-yard keeper and Johann Bradley kicked both extra points and the Broncos had a 14-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Marcus Dunn bolted from the pack for a 77-yard touchdown. Mt. Blue’s Thompson delivered his first of three touchdowns late in the second quarter for Mt. Blue. He also came across on the conversion.