Hilltoppers Top Them All

2017 st. j. football championsRUTLAND - In a thrilling finish, the St. Johnsbury Academy Hilltoppers were able to hold off defending champion Hartford Hurricanes to become the Division 1 football champions with a perfect 11-0 season. The penultimate game took place on neutral ground on the turf at Rutland High School. Under the lights, and in the cold, the only thing standing between St. J. and the championship were the Hurricanes.

 

St. J. Quarterback Jake Cady led the Hilltoppers down the field to start the game and ran the ball in himself for the first score of the game. Hertford then went three and out on their first possession of the game. The Academy got the ball back and moved down the field, running the ball in with Matthew Roy for their second touchdown of the game to go ahead 13-0.

The Hurricanes were able to get points on the board after Quarterback Tyler Hamilton turns a fourth down conversion into a 65-yard touchdown run. Hartford, without a kicker, went for the 2-point conversion and failed, but managed to cut into the Hilltoppers lead making the score 13-6.

In the second quarter of play, Hartford's Quarterback Hamilton goes down with an injury and is helped off of the field.

Later in the second quarter, Cady extended the St. J. lead to 20-6 with a 14-yard touchdown pass. Hartford answered back with a touchdown run by Kody Rhodes to make it 20-12 after failing again to make the 2-point conversion. St. Johnsbury was able to push down the field one more time in the first half with a fourth down touchdown pass from Cady to Hayes.

The Hilltoppers lead the Hurricanes 26-12 at the half.

Hamilton returned to the field for Hartford in the second half were they opened play with a charge downfield capped off with a rushing touchdown by Hunter Perkins and a successful 2-point conversion by Hamilton cutting the deficit to 6.

The Hilltoppers responded with a short touchdown run by Cady to make the score 33-20. The Hurricanes continued to fight to stay in the game with a touchdown pass late in the third along with their third unsuccessful 2-point conversion making the score 33-26.

Hartford was not ready to give up yet though as they stopped the Hilltoppers from scoring while scoring again themselves and failing yet again to push in the 2-point conversion to take the lead and as a result remained one point behind with the score at 33-32 in favor of the Hilltoppers.

The Hurricanes were able to make a big stop on St. J.'s next possession and got the ball back with just under four minutes to play in the game trailing by one point. Hartford was able to move the ball down the field, converting three fourth downs and using up all of their remaining timeouts. With just sends on the clock, down one point, and on the seven-yard line, the Hurricanes elected to run one more play and ran the ball but were unable to break through the Hilltopper defense. The remaining seconds ticked down to zero and solidified St. Johnsbury as the 2017 Division 1 football champions.

The championship is the first for the Hilltopper football team since they won the Division 2 title back in 1994.

Image courtesy of St. J. Academy.