NORTHFIELD, Vt. – It was a record-breaking day for the Castleton football team as they earned their first-ever victory over Norwich and captured the Maple Sap Bucket Trophy with a 35-27 win on Saturday afternoon at Sabine Field.
The Spartans needed great performances on offense and defense, and boy did they get them. Offensively, senior quarterback Shane Brozowski (Rensselaer, N.Y.) and wide receiver Brandon Boyle (Springfield, Vt.) provided record-breaking efforts while the defense came up with three turnovers and three fourth-down stops in the red zone, including one with just 28 seconds remaining in the game.
Brozowski set a Spartan record with 499 passing yards and tossed five touchdown passes to lead the offense. He finished 33-for-47 with one interception while recording his third game this season with at least 400 yards passing and four touchdowns. His most frequent target on the afternoon was the junior Boyle. He caught 15 passes for a school-record 274 yards, highlighted by a program-record 92-yard touchdown strike in the fourth quarter. He finished the day with three receiving touchdowns, giving him eight TD's and 48 receptions through five games.
Defensively, Castleton gave up 553 yards of total offense, but made the plays when it needed to, holding the Cadets to just 4-for-13 on third down and 2-for-5 on fourth down. The Spartans also forced two fumbles and picked off a pass at their own ten-yard line to frustrate the Norwich offense. Todd Carr (Ticonderoga, N.Y.) led all tacklers with 15, including ten of the solo variety.
The Spartans struck first on Saturday after an empty possession from each team to start the contest. After a punt, Castleton got the ball on its own 14-yard line. Eight plays later the Spartans had moved up to the 49. On a 3rd-and-16 from the 49, Brozowski lofted a pass to Boyle, which he caught and took to the house untouched.
Norwich started its next drive at the 34-yard line; however, two plays later Cadet running back Danny Triplett fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Cameron Laundry (Hartford, Vt.). The Spartans couldn't capitalize though and gave it up on downs.
Both teams' defenses held stout, as each team was forced to put on their next two possessions.
With 13:30 remaining in the first half, Castleton took control of the ball on its own 14-yard line. The Spartans used a pass-heavy attack to methodically march down the field and into the red zone. On the 15th play of the drive, Castleton was faced with 4th-and-goal from the seven. Norwich got through the line, but Brozowski tossed the ball to the back of the end zone for a leaping Denny Wilhelm (Glens Falls, N.Y.) who made the big catch. Dave Fox (Troy, N.Y.) added the extra point for the 14-0 advantage.
The Cadets responded with their first touchdown drive of the game, marching 67 yards in ten plays, the final a two-yard run by Triplett.
Castleton's next drive was just four plays, with Brozowski completing a pair of passes and running for two yards before tossing a 13-yard touchdown strike to Tyler Carpenter (Fort Edward, N.Y.). The score and extra point pushed the lead to 21-7 with just 1:29 left in the half.
Looking to score before halftime, Norwich marched down the field, going 71 yards in 11 plays before quarterback Kris Sabourin hit Derrick Pitts for a seven-yard score with just eight seconds remaining. The ensuring extra point no good and Castleton took at 21-13 lead into the break.
The Cadets received the ball to open the second half and advanced all the way down to the Castleton 20, before a pair of penalties pushed them back to the 34. On third down and long, freshman Peter Mancini (No. Smithfield, R.I.) picked off the ball at the Spartan 10-yard line.
Castleton took advantage of the turnover, going 90 yards in eight plays, with the final 22 coming on a touchdown pass from Brozowski to Boyle.
Norwich once again moved the ball down the field with relative ease until reaching the red zone. On a first and goal from six, the Cadets picked up four yards; however, two plays later Sabourin faced a 4th-and-goal from the four-yard line. His pass fell incomplete in the endzone as Castleton took over on downs.
The Spartans were unable to take advantage and were forced to put after just five offensive plays.
Norwich took possession at the 32-yard line and needed just six plays to move 58 yards to the Castleton 10. The Spartan defense came up big on fourth down again, holding the Cadets to a five-yard run on 4th-and-8 toregain possession as the third quarter came to a close.
On Castleton's third play of the fourth, Brozowski hit Boyle going across the middle around the 30-yard line and he eluded a few defenders before out-running the rest and taking the ball 92 yards to the house. The extra point made it 35-13 in favor of the Spartans.
Norwich then went 80 yards in just under two minutes to cut the lead to 35-21 with 9:32 remaining in the half. After an empty Castletonpossession, the Cadets again marched down the field, going 69 yards in ten plays to cut the Spartan lead to 35-27 with 5:11 left in the contest.
The final five minutes came down to defense after Castleton was forced to put with 3:59 remaining in the game. Norwich methodically moved down the field, earning a first down with under a minute to play at the Spartan eight-yard line. However, Castleton forced three straight incompletions to force a turn over on downs with 28 seconds left. Two kneel downs later victory was secured.
The Spartans improve to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference. They are now tied atop the standing with Mt. Ida and Gallaudet. Norwich falls to 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the ECFC.
Castleton returns home next weekend for the program's first-ever game under the lights as the Spartans face Becker at 6 p.m.
Notes: The 499-yard performance marks the 10th 400-yard game of Brozowski's career … He also surpassed the 9,000 yard mark and now has 9,458 career yards, tops among all active players in Division III … Boyle's 274 yards surpasses his own record of 218 set in last year's season finale ... It also marked the third time in his career he has caught 15 or more passes … The 92-yard receiving touchdown is the longest play from scrimmage in Castleton history.