COLCHESTER – For the first three quarters of Friday night’s high school football game, it looked like the curtain was falling on Middlebury’s 25-game win streak.
It only took the Tigers 12 minutes to extend it to 26.
“The only streak we talk about is this group’s streak,” said Middlebury coach Dennis Smith. “And we were at 3-0. Our goal was to become 4-0 and that’s where we are right now.”
Three touchdowns in the fourth quarter from Trey Kaufmann propelled the Tigers to an unlikely 18-14 win over Colchester.
“Coach told us we really had to buckle down,” Kaufmann said. “We made a lot of second-half adjustments … we recovered well.”
Stymied in the first half by a determined Lakers’ defense, Kaufmann broke out for 111 of his 113 yards after the intermission break, scoring on runs of 20, 45 and 5 yards.
“Last week, he stepped up,” Smith said. “In the last two weeks he has followed what I have asked him to do and he has had two great games.”
The third TD, a short scamper into the end zone, put Middlebury ahead for the first time with 1:25 remaining in the game. Jerry Niemo’s interception 14 seconds later completed the comeback and sealed the win.
“A win is a win and we’ll take it,” Smith said.
For the first three frames, however, it looked like Colchester (2-2) would spell the end of Middlebury’s unbeaten run.
Travis Boutin hit Justin Evans with a 30-yard touchdown pass on the night’s opening drive — one kept alive by a 38-yard gain by Dakota Navari on a fake punt — to open up a 7-0 lead for the Lakers less than four minutes into the game.
The defense took over from there, limiting the Tigers to just 36 yards of total offense in the first half.
“It was pretty quiet at the end of the first half,” Kaufmann said.
But two dropped passes on the goal line kept Colchester from extending the lead and the team entered halftime up only a touchdown.
“We were very fortunate that they didn’t hit us on some of the passes that they had open, we could have been down more,” Smith said. “That’s high school football, kids make mistakes.”
Boutin connected with Evans for a 35-yard TD pass less than two minutes into the second half, and it looked like the Lakers would overcome the mistakes, but the offense stalled after the score.
Injuries and the some tweaks by the Middlebury coaching staff saw the Colchester defense’s domination begin to wane. Then Kaufmann took over in the fourth quarter.
“This has happened all year long,” Colchester coach Tom Perry said. “We have just been bit (by injuries). We had a bunch of guys who stepped up today.
“We stayed in the game.”
Kaufmann, a junior, broke through for his first touchdown 45 seconds into the final frame, then scored again with six minutes remaining.
“It took us a little while but we got our confidence going,” Smith said. “We just felt once we got that first one in, we got rolling.”
A missed extra point and a failed two-point conversion kept the Lakers in front, but Middlebury’s comeback bid was not done, with Kaufmann scoring the game-winner after Colchester turned it over on downs.
“They played as hard as they possibly could,” Perry said of his team. “Ultimately, it was the personnel. We had a couple guys that had to come out of the game.”
Cortland Fischer added 97 rushing yards for Middlebury.
Boutin led the Lakers offense with 141 passing yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Evans was the top receiver, catching three passes for 70 yards and both TDs.