NORTHFIELD, Vt. - The Norwich University football team reclaimed the Maple Sap Bucket trophy on Saturday afternoon with a resounding 40-0 victory over in-state rival Castleton University behind a breakout performance by the offensive unit and a dominating defensive effort.
On only their second drive of the game, Norwich's running game took off, as Connor Bourque (Goffstown, N.H.) rushed for 35 yards on the first play of the series and classmate Aaron Conner (Daytona Beach, Fla.) capped the drive five plays later with an 18-yard touchdown run to put the Cadets up early.
Castleton put together a solid drive a few series later, setting themselves up in the Cadets' half of the field as the game entered the second quarter. Senior quarterback Mitchell Caron let one fly into the back corner of the end zone, but Michael Corinna (Milford, Mass.) made a great play on the jump ball and pulled down the interception. The Cadets took the ball down the field in six plays and set up a 36-yard Clyde Tamburro (Elizabethtown, Pa.) field goal to make it 10-0 Norwich.
The defensive unit was far from done, as the very next Castleton series ended after just two plays with a Marshall Watters (Oakland, N.J.) interception after a pass attempt was batted down at the line. Norwich's offense took the ball at the visitor's 15-yard line, and two plays later Matt Dunn (Rockland, Mass.) found Lavontae Decius (North Lauderdale, Fla.) for a 14-yard score.
A carbon copy unfolded on the next sequence, as Owen McKenna (Attleboro, Mass.) picked off Caron and set the offense up on the Castleton 25-yard line. Matt Dunn and Lavontae Decius went to work once again, as they connected on the first play of the series for another 25-yard score.
Not to be forgotten, the special teams unit made their presence felt on the next Castleton offensive series. After the Spartans went three and out, Norwich broke through the line and blocked the ensuing punt attempt. Adam Sanchez (Selkirk, N.Y.) got a hand on the punt, and Michael Corinna scooped it up and brought it back 19-yards to the Castleton 39 yard line.
Matt Dunn hit Ryan Reed (Ballston Spa, N.Y.) on a third and 29 during the ensuing drive to take the ball to the one-yard line, and Dunn carried the ball over the goal line on the next play to make it 31-0 heading into the halftime break.
The Cadets showed no sign of slowing down during the second half, as the very first Castleton series ended in another Owen McKenna interception, this time out of the hand of backup quarterback Jacob McCarthy. The play set up Norwich on their own eight-yard line, but the Cadets marched down the field for 72 yards in 3:36 of game time to set up a 37-yard Tamburro field goal to make it 34-0.
Norwich punctuated their excellent day midway through the fourth quarter when Jonathan Moltimer (Boca Raton, Fla.) broke into the backfield and put a massive hit on the Castleton running back, forcing the fumble that Isaiah Williams (Apopka, Fla.) scooped up and ran back 15 yards for the touchdown.
As the buzzer sounded on the Norwich 40-0 victory, the Cadets took home the 10th annual Maple Sap Bucket trophy as a Homecoming Weekend crowd of 3,000 cheered them on.
The final box score was littered with bright spots for the Cadets, as they dominated all three facets of the game end to end.
Sophomore Matt Dunn broke out in a big way in his first start, going 11-20 for 254 yards and two touchdowns with only one interception to mar an otherwise stellar performance. Lavontae Decius had himself a day, with five receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Aaron Conner ran for 80 yards and a score, and Connor Bourque put up 117 yards on the ground and added a 31-yard kickoff return for good measure.
Matt Rogers (Mansfield, Mass.) put in a fine effort from the punting position, punting three times and placing all three within his opponents 20-yard line, pinning the Spartan offense again and again all day long. Tamburro went 2-3 on fields goals and 4-5 on extra points during the busiest day of his sophomore season thus far.
Jonathan Moltimer led the defensive unit with 11 tackles and a forced fumble, while Owen McKenna pulled down two interceptions and collected seven tackles and a sack. Clay Faris (Montgomery, N.Y.) picked up a sack, and Isaiah Williams picked up the scoop and score defensive touchdown off of Moltimer's forced fumble.
The defense put up the first shutout for Norwich football since October of 2012, when Norwich blanked Husson at home 56-0.
Norwich will look to ride the momentum into their third trophy game in a row and first NEWMAC game of 2018 season when they travel down to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy for a showdown with the Bears next Saturday. The "Little Army-Navy Game" will kick off at 1:30 PM.
Head Coach Mark Murnyack, Athletic Director Tony Mariano, and