Sophomore QB Kris Sabourin
NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University football team scored 20 unanswered points to open the second half in rallying from a 12-point halftime deficit and defeating Castleton State College, 50-41, Saturday afternoon in the second annual "Battle for the Bucket" rivalry game at Sabine Field. The Cadets retain possession of the Maple Sap Bucket Trophy and state bragging rights for at least another year following the victory in both Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) teams' regular season finale.
Sophomore QB Kris Sabourin had three rushing touchdown for NU, while junior RB Andrew Fulford ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns in breaking the 1,000-yard plateau for the season. Norwich finishes the season at 8-2 overall (5-2 ECFC) and will wait to see if it is extended an invitation to the postseason.
Norwich opened the scoring with 9:02 left in the first quarter when Fulford ran the ball in from a yard out to cap a six-play, 66-yard drive. The Cadets went up 7-0 following the extra point by junior K Long Ding.
Castleton (5-4, 5-2 ECFC) knotted the game at 7-7 with a one-yard run of its own when QB Shane Brozowski plunged in up the middle with 2:45 to go in the first frame.
The Cadets extended their lead to 13-7 when Sabourin found the end zone on a nine-yard quarterback-keeper with 16 seconds left to go in the quarter.
The Spartans took control of the game in the second quarter when Brozowski sandwiched another one-yard touchdown run between touchdown passes to Adam Farmer and Jacob Bielecki as CSC reeled off 21 unanswered points in taking a 28-13 lead.
Norwich would close out the scoring in the first half when Ding hit a 37-yard field goal at the gun to pull NU within two scores at 28-16.
The Cadets came out in the second half and asserted command in the third quarter as they went on a scoring run of their own.
Sabourin used a two-yard run to make it 28-23 with 12:01 to go in the third stanza, before sophomore RB Orwin Etkins added a five-yard touchdown run to give NU a one-point lead at 29-28.
Sabourin then went to the air when he hit sophomore WR Chris Denton with a 27-yard touchdown pass down the left side to increase the Norwich lead to 36-28. The strike capped off a 10-play, 98-yard drive to open the fourth quarter.
Castleton would answer with a ten-play drive of its own when Brozowski led his team 73 yards down the field before finding Bielecki for a 11-yard touchdown pass with 9:38 to go in the game. The score cut the NU lead to two, 36-34.
The Cadets would push their lead to nine points when Sabourin capped off another long drive with an eight-yard run, reaching the ball across the goal line with his right hand as he shielded off a defender.
The Spartans again pulled within two, 43-41, when Brozowski hit Evan Cassidy with a five-yard flare to the left side with 2:43 to go in the game.
Norwich then used a four-play, 58-yard drive to effectively seal the game when Fulford went into the end zone from three yards out. Ding made the crucial PAT to make it a two-score game at 50-41 with under two minutes to go in the contest.
Castleton was able to drive the ball down to the Norwich 32-yard line, but a sack of Brozowski by sophomore DL Matt Simonelli allowed the game clock to expire and the Cadets to claim the victory.
Fulford had 157 yards rushing to go with his two touchdowns, putting him at 1,006 yards on the season. Sabourin added 124 yards on the ground in addition to his three rushing touchdowns, while going 8-for-17 through the air with the one touchdown.
Denton was the top Cadet receiver, posting 46 yards and the touchdown on three catches.
NU was lead defensively by senior DB Charles Stiles who had 12 tackles in the final regular season game of his career. Fellow senior Rocco DiMeco had 11 tackles, while junior DB Sean Stone had 10. The Norwich defense combined for eight sacks for 57 yards.
Norwich outgained the Spartans 530-445 in total offense, while CSC ran a staggering 104 plays to the NU's 68. Castleton held a slight edge in time of possession, 31:09 to 28:51, as the teams combined for sixty first downs on the day.
The Cadets will now see if they will be extended a bid to a bowl game. If they do it will be the school's first bowl appearance since 2004, when they faced Alfred in the ECAC Northeast Bowl.