A week ago, the Essex High School football team furiously rallied to overcome a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter and knock off Middlebury.
Saturday, the Hornets proved they also can also cling to a lead against a hard-charging opponent in nail-biting fashion.
With Joey Picard tossing three of his five touchdown passes to Cody Greene and outside linebacker Ryan Forbes snagging his third interception with little more than three minutes remaining, Essex remained undefeated with a 33-26 win over Champlain Valley in an entertaining Division I football clash.
“There was a lot of times it could have gone either way, but the kids hung in there and made the plays they had to,” Essex coach Charlie Burnett said.
With each team producing high-light reel plays in a topsy-turvy second half, CVU got into perfect position for an equalizing touchdown when defensive back Ryan Beaudry intercepted Picard to put the Redhawks on the 12-yard line with 4½ minutes remaining.
But three plays later, Forbes picked off CVU quarterback Steele DuBrul’s pass on the right sideline and the Hornets bled the clock to improve its record to 3-0.
“That’s the first time I’ve had an interception in a game,” Forbes said. “It was a big game for me, but even more important that we pulled it out.”
Essex has already matched its win total from last season when it missed the Division I playoffs.
Picard completed 28 of 47 passes for 411 yards and tossed five touchdowns, but the senior was picked off five times.
DuBrul had a prosperous afternoon in another way, rushing for 207 yards on 24 carries and dashing 98 yards for his second touchdown to cut Essex’s lead to 27-26 late in the third quarter. However, his three interceptions to the unsung Forbes were costly, CVU coach Jim Provost lamented after the Redhawks dropped to 2-1.
“Despite a couple of breakdowns, I thought our defense played really well,” Provost said. “They were just on the field too much. We kept giving the ball back to them. Against these guys you just can’t do that. They are going to get enough chances, anyway, so the extra ones really hurt.”
Picard connected with Greene for touchdown passes of 84, 26 and 39 yards, the latter giving the Hornets a 33-26 lead with 8:16 left.
Greene reeled in seven catches for 182 yards while James Olsen added 111 receiving yards and a 15-yard touchdown. Tyler Warren had the other touchdown catch on an 18-yard strike, and also rushed for 50 yards on 12 carries.
CVU running back Alex Bulla, filling in for injured starter Patrick Shea, ground out 70 yards and a 9-yard touchdown.
“We still have our goals right in front of us,” Provost said. “Two wins didn’t make a season and one loss shouldn’t break a season.”