After watching its 12-0 fourth quarter lead evaporate, the Burlington High School football team was staring at the prospect of a deflating tie game.
The Seahorses had a third and 10 from the Brattleboro 49 yard line and just a half-minute left on the clock. Considering its offense had done very little since the first half, it sure felt like Burlington would not have enough time to avenge a Colonels’ touchdown just moments earlier.
Burlington quarterback Adam Poquette dropped back, unleashed a deep ball down the left sideline for receiver Josh Hale, and watched with suspense along with everybody else at Buck Hard Field, as Hale wrestled the ball away from a Brattleboro defensive back and sprinted into the end zone .
The game-winning score came with just 23 seconds left on the clock, and gave the Seahorses a shot of momentum as they head into the final weeks of the regular season.
Hale described the play, which he admits was the highlight of his playing career to this point.
“I just went for the ball and hoped for the best, the guy fell over and I got the ball and we won the game,” said Hale. “This definitely restarts our season, and now we have to go get these next two wins and get into the playoffs.”
Poquette gave his receiver all the credit following the stunning finish. “It was designed to go to him all the way and it wasn’t the greatest throw, but all props go to him for making the play,” said the quarterback.
The victory improved Burlington to 2-4, and sent the Colonels (1-5) home with a tough defeat after the valiant comeback attempt.
Trailing 12-0 with the third quarter winding down and pinned on his own side of the field, Brattleboro quarterback Tyler Higley connected on a 55-yard pass to Noah Simeon and an 11-yard pass to Kyle Patno to put the Colonels in Burlington territory . Five plays into the fourth, Brattleboro got on the scoreboard on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Higley to Patno, making it 12-6.
Both teams exchanged empty possessions before a curious call by Burlington virtually gift-wrapped Brattleboro a game-tying touchdown.
Leading by a touchdown with just three minutes on the clock, Burlington decided to go for a fourth and one from its own 15 yard line. The gamble backfired when a screen pass went incomplete. Four plays later, Higley connected with Simeon with two minutes remaining to tie the score at 12-12. The Colonels missed the extra point kick attempt.
“We hung in there and gave ourselves every opportunity to win the game, but certainly they made a play and we didn’t, and that’s what it came down to,” said Brattleboro Coach Michael Hatt, who indicated his team was eliminated from playoff contention. “For us it’s all about having some fun, playing these next two weeks and seeing if we can get a win.”
Although the defenses for each team played solidly for most of the night, forcing their opponents into multiple turnovers, both quarterbacks performed well throughout the warm evening, despite being faced with constant defensive pressure.
Poquette carried the ball 20 times for 96 years and a touchdown, in addition to connecting on 8 of 22 passes for 141 yards and the winning touchdown pass. Higley was 11-of-25 passing for 168 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
When asked what it would take for Burlington to build on this win, Poquette said, “We have to come out hard no matter what, take it game by game, and not let this one win get to our heads.”