108th Annual SJA vs LI Game

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108th ST. JOHNSBURY - The football rivalry between St. Johnsbury Academy and Lyndon Institute dates back to 1894 and is one of the oldest rivalries in New England. This year, the 108th annual game brings the same amount of excitement and anticipation as the rest, rain or shine.

Despite torrential rain, Lyndon Institute kicked off the weekend with one of their many traditions Friday night. After a big win last year, students, faculty and neighbors of LI had high expectations for Saturday's game. LI's annual parade around town the night before the game would only show how exuberant not only the team is for the game, but the entire town of Lyndon's anticipation, excitement and involvement with LI.

Harwant Sethi, a junior at LI is anticipating the team coming together and working hard for the big game,  "Its a matter of pride ya know? We have a lot of people that live vicariously through the program and because of that we need to go out and kick ass .". With the towns eyes on the 5 flatbeds, the Vikings kicked off their parade at Bandstand Park with a few speeches to boost energy and excitement then trucked to Downtown Lyndon, where a lot of community members came out to get the team fired up.

Although Lyndon is a smaller town, LI Senior Brooke Hubbard-Sizen doesn't feel that a number makes a difference when it comes to pride and talent, "We are the smaller school, and we need to show them that they are not always better just because they are bigger.". After being escorted by Chief Jack Harris of the Lyndonville Police Department, the school hosted the town to a bonfire with a burning of  "Saint Jay Sally". By the end of the night, LI was mentally prepared for the 108th edition of Vermont's oldest rivalry

Not only is this big game a great tradition for community members to look forward to, but the players take great pride in the amount of positive energy the game brings to the community, Sethi says, "It's a great atmosphere, you don't get this anywhere else it's just something that you cant just recreate...This rivalry has been around for over one hundred years and it's something special we got going on here.".

With all of the previous nights festivities in the books, it was time to get the gridiron for the Vikings and Hilltoppers. For some, this game has been anticipated since the final whistle of last years game...but for all, it is about pride and tradition. Before opening kickoff, the seniors who played their final Hilltopper/Viking game were honored by the proud athletic directors. One senior for St. Johnsbury, who was the first girl to play four full years at SJA, is number 13 Katelyn Tomaselli, who was honored to have her team behind her every second that she has been in the program. "Big thanks to the team for accepting me and everything, and to the Captain Griffin for having my back since freshman year .".

With Lyndon Institute taking the opening kickoff, they looked to start on the same high note they left the field on last year...but that wasn't the case. In a blink of an eye on the first play from scrimmage Junior Quarterback James Shufelt was picked off by linebacker Dylan Shattuck. The Hilltopper offense drove forty yards when they fumbled on the one yard line but the Hilltoppers desire to score was unstoppable. Next snap, the St. Johnsbury defense drove the running game of the Vikings into their own end-zone for a safety.

Senior Hilltopper Quarterback Griffin Comerci, playing in his final rivalry game was not going to give the Vikings a chance to get back in the game, had the offense rolling dispite throwing two interceptions, he went 5-10 with a touchdown. At the half, Hilltoppers had the lead with 8 points leaving the Vikings with 0. With 4:49 left in the third quarter, he ran the ball off a triple option play forty two yards into the end-zone, making the score Hilltoppers - 14, Vikings - 0.

Upon entering the 4th and final quarter, Comerci was 12 minutes away from shutting out the vikings and winning his final rivalry matchup, but a fumble by Hilltopper running-back Dylan Shattuck and a recovery by Harwant Sethi gave the Vikings a great opportunity to score, and they did with a one yard score by fullback Miguel Collazo.

While senior quarterback Comerci was hoping for a for a shutout, he was still happy with how the game went, "I dont think I led them to victory ya know... with out them without the offensive line...slot back and wide recievers I couldnt have done any of this...we played hard all week even the second teams...the backups they made us fight all week and they made us prepare for this team, and its a thrill .".

Comerci, who finished the game 6 for 16 with two interceptions thrown and a total of 3 touchdowns, one being through the air, had one final big play in him to seal the deal for the Hilltoppers. Taking the quick snap, he rushed the ball down the field and put the Vikings away with a final score SJA - 20, LI - 6. Comerci and his family were pleased with the entire day, his mother, Beth, was especially proud of her son and the entire team, "It is emotional...this is a very important game for griffin and he is a team player hes a leader  and he couldnt do it without the rest of the team .".

St. Johnsbury leads the all-time series, 59-43-6