Apologies for the late posting, but here — finally — is my last power rankings entry for the 2015 high school football season.
And with it? The conclusion of Middlebury’s two-plus-year ownership of the No. 1 position.
After ending Middlebury’s 32-game unbeaten streak with the Division I finals victory, Rutland stakes claim to the top spot.
1. Rutland (10-1): The Raiders dashed Middlebury’s three-peat hopes and brought the D-I trophy back to Rutland for the first time in nine years. And by celebrating on their home field only sweeten the title coronation for longtime coach Mike Norman and his Raiders. Last ranking: 2
2. Middlebury (10-1): Thirty-two straight wins. Back-to-back perfect seasons. It was a great ride for the Tigers, who have held the No. 1 position in the power rankings since early in the 2013 season. Last ranking: 1
3. Burr and Burton (11-0): After a gut-wrenching loss in last year’s semifinals, the Bulldogs completed their perfect run this fall, pulling away from Bellows Falls in the second half with their underrated defense. It is BBA’s first title in the VPA era. Last ranking: 3
4. Otter Valley (11-0): Like BBA, Otter Valley had a long offseason to mull a stunning 2014 playoff loss. But what was clear in 2015, Carson Leary and the Otters were not going to be denied. Leary, in an historic performance, totaled 421 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the finals victory over U-32. Last ranking: 5
5. Hartford (7-3): Once they fell inches short of a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half in the semifinals against Middlebury, the Hurricanes’ title hopes, in hindsight, were over. Still, a solid one-year turnaround for the Hurricanes, one of the top rushing teams in the state. Last ranking: 4
6. Champlain Valley (5-5): The Redhawks closed out the quarterfinal win at Brattleboro in wild fashion — the program’s first postseason road victory in Division I — but couldn’t match Rutland in the semifinals. Last ranking: 7
7. Bellows Falls (9-2): The clear No. 2 in Division II, the Terriers’ run-first attack couldn’t establish enough of an attack to pull off the upset in the finals against Burr and Burton. Last ranking: 9
8. Burlington (7-3): Returning to Division II following realignments, the Seahorses got back to winning football games — several in heart-pumping fashion (see Rice, Milton, Fair Haven). But ultimately couldn’t solve Bellows Falls, losing in the semifinals. Last ranking: 10
9. Brattleboro (4-5): Unable to hold an early advantage against CVU, the Colonels’ first playoff win since 1973 will have to wait. But that drought stands a good chance of ending in 2016: Brattleboro likely returns over 20 juniors, including Cheick Diakite and Tony Martinez. Last ranking: 8
10. Colchester (4-5): The Lakers gamely rallied to book a playoff spot — and put up a fight at Hartford in the quarterfinals — but injuries short-circuited what appeared to be a promising campaign. Last ranking: 6
On the bubble: Essex (4-5), Fair Haven (5-4), Milton (6-4), Mount Anthony (3-6), St. Johnsbury (4-5)