In a battle of two stalwart defenses, the Champlain Valley Union High School Redhawks were looking for something to separate themselves in the Division I high school football quarterfinal matchup with Rice.
With the win, CVU advances to the Division I semifinals where the number-four seed will meet number-two St. Johnsbury on Saturday. The Redhawks fell to St. Johnsbury 52-16 in their first matchup.
The Redhawks found the answer from an unlikely source Saturday.
Quarterback Graham Walker hit Brad Reynolds with a 49-yard touchdown pass with eight minutes left in the third quarter – one of only four passing plays for CVU in the game – and the Redhawks emerged with the 13-6 win over the Green Knights on Saturday afternoon.
“We don’t do anything overly fancy,” CVU coach Mike Williams said. “We have some weapons outside and if Graham can find a guy, we’ve got some athletes.”
“[St. Johnsbury] is a great team,” Williams said of the rematch with the Hilltoppers. “We’re different, we’ll come out with a different game plan.”
“We are happy to be where we are but we are not satisfied.”
Much of the game featured a heavy dose of Braven Bose on the ground for the Redhawks and Jack Fitzgerald for the Green Knights.
“Braven, for his size, is the toughest guy we’ve got,” Williams said. “Pound for pound, he’s the toughest guy in the league so we’re going to feed him.”
Bose got the action started in the first quarter, breaking out for a 47-yard scamper that brought the Redhawks (7-2) inside the Rice 20-yard line. The senior running back finished with 172 yards on 22 carries.
“We knew they were going to be tough,” Bose said. “We just had to fight back. I had faith in the line. They were making holes and I was running right through them.”
Reynolds capped the drive off four plays later, punching the ball in from one yard out to give CVU the 6-0 lead on its first offensive series of the game.
The two teams traded punts and turnovers for the rest of the half as the Redhawks held the one-score lead.
Reynolds’ second TD of the game, his catch-and-run on the 49-pass from Walker, doubled the CVU lead to 13-0.
Rice got on the board in the fourth quarter, capitalizing on a fumble recovery, with Fitzgerald running it in from three yards out.
But a succession of turnovers and big defensive plays by the Redhawks defense stopped the Green Knights from completing the comeback, as a turnover by Bose on the final play of the game clinched the win.
“We’ve got three big guys but they are athletic so they can move,” Williams said of his defensive line. “They’ve been a force for us all season and we are going to ride them next week.”
Fitzgerald finished with 105 yards on 38 carries for Rice, who wrapped up the season at 3-5.