BBA Conquers St. J, D-I for back to back football crowns

Dan Mulroy
RUTLAND - Backed up to the 14-yard line for its first possession of the game, Burr and Burton went over the top for a breathtaking, 86-yard touchdown connection.
Ahead by 13 points in the third quarter but facing a fourth-and-10, BBA pulled off a fake punt to set up another score.
The Bulldogs didn't just crash the Division I party. They turned up the volume and danced to their own beat.
A year after shredding Division II, No. 3 Burr and Burton did the same to the state's biggest programs, clinching back-to-back crowns with an emphatic 47-20 triumph over top-seeded and previously undefeated St. Johnsbury in the D-I high school football championship game on Saturday night.
"It’s truly a statement. I think this means we can compete," BBA star quarterback Joey McCoy said. "We are going to be good for years to come."
Beating Hartford twice this season, routing Middlebury on the road in the semifinals and then exacting revenge on St. Johnsbury, BBA (10-1) toured through D-I with nearly the same precision it had in the past decade as a D-II juggernaut. Saturday was the program's fourth state final in five seasons.
“It’s really a dream come true for the kids, for the program, for everybody that was a part of bringing football back to BBA 20 years ago,” said first-year BBA coach Tom McCoy, in his sixth year with the program. 
And not even high-powered SJA, the 2017 D-I champ, could match BBA on this night. The Bulldogs outscored the Hilltoppers 34-13 in the second half.
"We came here to win, but they had a better plan than we did and they executed their plan better than we executed ours," SJA coach Rich Alercio said. "We couldn't stop them. They are that good."
Joey McCoy, a senior, went 22 of 32 for 531 yards and five touchdowns — capping a three-game playoff run of 1,091 passing yards and 16 TDs — and hung in there against SJA's blitzes and pressure to deliver strike after strike.
"He stood there, got rid of the ball on time and put it in great locations and his receivers got underneath the ball and made big plays," Alercio said. 
McCoy's biggest target Saturday was Logan Morgan, who notched a pair of 86-yard scores in an 8-catch, 343-yard, three-TD performance. Morgan, who battled a shoulder injury this season, put a bow on his outburst with a 19-yard rushing TD in the fourth.
"He was on fire. To have him step up like this, it’s truly special," Joey McCoy said of Morgan.
John Morgantini piled up 12 catches for 156 yards and one TD for BBA, which amassed 609 yards from scrimmage. 
Trey Alercio threw for 311 yards, Nick Guckin hauled in eight catches for 93 yards to go with 47 rushing yards and Wilder Hudson caught five balls for 124 yards to pace SJA, playing in its fourth title game in six years. Hunter Palmieri added five catches for 55 yards.
BBA opened the scoring on its first play from scrimmage. McCoy stepped into his throw from the shadow of his own end zone and aired out a perfect ball to Morgan, who caught in stride and coasted untouched to complete the 86-yard hookup. 
After a punt and turnover — Hudson picked off McCoy at the goal line — BBA found the end zone on its fourth possession to push to a 13-0 margin with 9:28 to go in the half. McCoy moved up in the pocket and heaved a 45-yarder to Morgantini for the score.
“I think it was an advantage, for sure, to get up a couple touchdowns against them and I think they probably knew that because they won the toss and elected to receive the football,” Tom McCoy said. “It’s exactly what we would’ve done if we won the toss, because we wanted to get ahead and try to stay ahead.”
The Hilltoppers (10-1) answered swiftly. Trey Alercio connected with Austin Fenoff and Hudson for 28-yard passing plays, the latter for the TD and a 13-7 halftime deficit. 
Out of the break, BBA went 92 yards in six plays, capped by Joey McCoy finding Jack Morrison, who spun out of an arm tackle for a 23-yard TD.
In control and with momentum, BBA opened its playbook.
A Morgan interception on SJA's next play set up the Bulldogs inside the SJA 40.
The Hilltoppers nearly held, too, but McCoy converted a fake punt on fourth-and-10 by hitting Morgan on a 20-yard rollout to extend the drive. “We noticed it was open and Joey’s the punter, he’s the quarterback, and Logan’s the up-back, he’s the receiver — we thought it was a good time and it just so happens it worked out pretty well for us,” Tom McCoy said. “There was a lot of reasons things went well today but I think that was a good boost for us, to convert on that punt fake, for sure.” 
One play later, Joey McCoy took it himself, powering in from 25 yards out for a 27-7 margin 1:06 into the third.
"To gain that right back, that’s the key to winning and in tough games, you have to take those chances, you have to take those risks and that paid off when we scored a touchdown right after that," the BBA quarterback said.
SJA drew to 27-14 when Alercio threw into the flat for Nick Guckin, who broke several tackles for a 39-yard score. But BBA answered on its ensuing play on Morgan's second 86-yarder.
Morgan broke four tackles as he slalomed into the end zone, nearly out of breath.
"I was gassed at the 10-yard line, but I knew I had to get it and just kept going and going," Morgan said.
Morgan also turned another McCoy bomb into 51-yard TD reception for a 40-20 lead at 7:48 of the fourth — after Alercio had rushed for a 1-yard score just 13 seconds prior — and then completed the night's scoring on his 19-yard scoring scramble.
As BBA's offense hit another gear, the defense stymied SJA's own uptempo attack. The Bulldogs recorded five sacks and limited SJA to just 53 rushing yards (364 total), a complete turnaround from the 50-38 Hilltoppers' triumph in the Week 6 showdown in Manchester. 
SJA's David Hutchison, who had six TDs in the first matchup, was held in check.
"I would say they did a good job of stacking the box when Hutchison was in the backfield and they did good job of putting (Joey) McCoy on him in coverage. They did a good job of taking away the one guy that beat them," Rich Alercio said. "We had some favorable matchups in the first game that we just didn’t have in this game."
BBA's path to Saturday was a new one for the program. But the journey made believers out of Morgan and McCoy.
"In August when we first started practicing, I didn’t know what was going to happen," Morgan said. "I knew we were a good team, but I didn’t think we were this good. I really didn’t."
McCoy: "Through all the ups and downs and all the obstacles ... to come out and finish it like this, it’s truly amazing. It’s something I’ll never forget."
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Contact Alex Abrami at 660-1848 or aabrami@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @aabrami5.


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