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This bucket floweth over

Derek McAdoo helped lead Castleton to a Sap Bucket victory.
Photo courtesy Castleton Athletic Communications 

Three members of the West Point Parachute Troop touched down down at the midfield stripe at Middlebury College's Youngman Field. It was just part of the pageantry for the 1991 Norwich-Middlebury game.

It was always a festive atmosphere. Large crowds, many bedecked in bright colors after coming out of the woods from a deer hunting excursion for this annual rivalry added to the aura. It was a rite of fall with the teams first meeting in 1893.

But that 1991 contest was also tinged with sadness. That was the final Norwich-Middlebury game. The NESCAC had mandated that beginning in 1992 Middlebury and the other league members would only play within the league.

Vermont was without a state rivalry game. Or any great rivalry game. The "Little Army-Navy Game" between Norwich and Coast Guard also was terminated.

After nearly two decades without such a game, a new state rivalry game was born when Castleton added football in 2009. Castleton and Norwich would be in the same league, the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference.

Castleton President Dave Wolk asked alumni to to submit sap buckets for the trophy.

"We got 17 or 18 of them and we lined them up in the conference room. We chose two and combined the best of them," Wolk said of the trophy the Spartans and Cadets battle for each year.

They cut down a maple tree on campus and part of it served as the base.

Castleton retained the Maple Sap Bucket on Saturday by winning 31-13.

The series does not have the history and tradition of many of New England's revered rivalries. Amherst and Williams met for the 130th time, Division III's most played game. And up in Maine, Bowdoin and Colby clashed for the 127th time making it the third most played game in Division III.

But what the Bucket Game lacks in history it makes up for in passion, familiarity and importance. It is played by teams of a very small state where the connections are numerous and the feelings run deep.

Trace TanCreti, for example, played for Norwich and then watched his son Cody have a great career at Castleton. Trace's younger son began his career at Norwich and then transferred to Castleton where he is a junior quarterback.

Adam Chicoine played and coached at Castleton and is now on the staff at Norwich.

Saturday, there were Castleton defensive back Derek McAdoo and Norwich wide receiver Matt Mulcahy, former high school teammates, going head-to-head.

"My best friend is Matt Mulcahy," McAdoo said.

The in-state...

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Tom Haley

A seven time Vermont sportswriter of the year, Tom Haley has been with the Rutland Herald since 1987. He was inducted into the Castleton State College Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the Contributor to Football Award from the National Football Foundation's Vermont Chapter. He has been's Around the Northeast columnist since 2007.


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