COLCHESTER – As the Lakers wrapped up their 40-0, mud-soaked Senior Night win over Milton on Friday, the student section of fans began to chant, “We want Essex!”
It appears they’ll get their wish.
Dylan Meekins ran for 47 yards and two touchdowns, David Lacroix had 93 yards and a score, and the Colchester defense stuffed Milton for -5 yards of total offense on a sopping field, locking up the No. 6 seed for the Division I quarterfinals next weekend and a rematch against the No. 3 Hornets.
“We’re playing well,” Colchester head coach Tom Perry said. I thought we had a shot at a win last week [against Middlebury]. We’ve been playing great defense. So yeah, this is the best we could ask for.”
For the Division II Yellowjackets, a team that entered Friday’s game playing with confidence riding a four-game winning streak, they’ll now be scratching their heads searching for answers as they enter the final game of the D-II regular season against winless North Country.
The Yellowjackets are still safely in a playoff position if they take care of business next week, the only question left is whether it would be a No. 3 or 4 seed.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Milton coach Chris Hughes, who couldn’t remember a time where the running game was so completely shut down.
Under a steady rain, on a field that was nothing more than patches of ripped up grass on top of saturated mud and thick puddles, it took both teams a few possessions to establish any kind of offense. Milton had Colchester pinned at its on 2-yard line early, but the Lakers successfully punted out of trouble, and when the Yellow jackets fumbled on their next possession, the battle for field position radically shifted, with the Lakers taking over at their own 44 with 3:34 left in the first quarter. That set up a five play drive, capped by a 10-yard touchdown run by Meekins to make it 7-0.
The Lakers added two more touchdowns in the second quarter: a 17-yard run by Meekins and a 35-yard keeper by Bobby Brigante, who had 56 yards rushing, to go into the half up 21-0.
Milton, meanwhile, was held to 1 yard of total offense in the first half, which included pass completions of 20 and 10 yards by quarterback Cole Reilly. The Yellowjacket running game, historically the team’s strongest feature, was shut down, including -17 yards combined from the normally potent duo of Jonah Blatt and Geoff Gadbois.
“It’s a game of 11 guys,” Hughes said. “Their 11 guys kicked the snot out of our 11 guys.
“We didn’t come to play. It’s that simple. They came out to prove a point and they proved i,” Hughes continued. “It was like a boxing match where one guy is in there swinging, swinging, swinging and the other guy just keeps taking it, taking it, and that’s what happened.”
Perry said, “We thought we could get inside on them early and we had trouble with that, so we tried to get to the outside edge where there’s a little bit more grass. We were actually able to get some footing and made a couple plays on the outside there.”
On Colchester’s opening possession of the second half, Cory Benoit, who had 46 yards rushing, went 29 yards up the middle on the Lakers’ first play of scrimmage, bringing the ball down to the Milton 27. Brigante ran another 10, and then fullback Jake Ermolovich busted 10 yards into the end zone.
On Milton’s next possession, a quick three-and-out for a net -5 yards, the punt was blocked by Jack Young and recovered by Benoit in the end zone to make it 34-0.
A 7-yard touchdown run with 3:25 left in the third quarter by Lacroix made it 40-0.
“I’ve been watching them throughout the year,” Perry said about Milton. “They play pretty physical. They play pretty hard, and with the weather the way it was, I thought it was going to be real nip and tuck. Our kids really showed up to play. We played at the level we’re capable of playing at.”