CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton University football team's tough start to the season continued Saturday, as the Spartans dropped the annual Maple Sap Bucket Game to Norwich University, 35-14, at Dave Wolk Stadium.
Norwich (4-0) held a 14-0 lead at halftime and never looked back, holding the Spartans (0-4) to just 14 points on the warm October afternoon. The Cadets had twice as many first downs as Castleton, 24-12, as the Spartan offense managed just 217 yards on the day—its lowest output of the season. Castleton converted just 3-of-20 third downs, but went 4-of-7 on fourth down conversions. Norwich posted 520 yards of total offense, rushing for 155 yards and throwing for 365. The Castleton defense piled up four sacks and caused two turnovers, but it wasn't enough as the Cadets' quick-strike offense found the end zone five times.
Jacob McCarthy completed 17-of-38 passes for 110 yards and his first touchdown of the season, while Simon Davis Jr. added 69 yards on the ground. Jared Brockway led the team with four catches for 47 yards, 35 of which came on a third-quarter touchdown. Zachary Licata and Anthony Martinez hauled in two passes apiece.
Chris Rice was in the Norwich backfield all afternoon, piling up six tackles—four for a loss—and three sacks. He also had a forced fumble which he recovered and returned 32 yards for a touchdown. Nick Reca and Dustin Rock tied atop the team leaderboard with nine tackles each, Rock amassing 1.5 tackles for a loss and Reca recording on negative stop to go with his three pass breakups. Ethan Palazzetti added an interception for the defense.
Norwich's Matt Dunn connected on 25-of-40 passes with three touchdowns and a pick, with Trevor Chase on the receiving end of two scores. Manni Romero had a big day, catching four passes for 151 yards including a 78-yard touchdown. Chase caught nine balls for 108 yards. Aaron Conner toted the ball 13 times for 106 yards and a touchdown—a 76-yard scamper.
Chris Ryan had a team-high eight tackles, while Isaiah Williams made his presence felt with seven tackles—two for a loss—and a sack. He also had pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.
The Cadets got off the a quick start, forcing a Castleton three-and-out on the opening drive before striking for the game's first score less than two minutes later. The first play gained 41 yards as Dunn connected with Romero to move the ball into Castleton territory. After Dunn found Chase for 12 more yards, Castleton stood tough with a sack by Rice and forced an incompletion to make it 3rd-and-13. The Cadets were unfazed, as Dunn hooked up with Chase for a 29-yard touchdown to make it 7-0—the only score of the opening quarter.
Neither side found the end zone again until midway through the second quarter, when Norwich doubled its lead to 14-0. After Conner carried twice for a total of two yards, Dunn found Romero for a 78-yard catch-and-run as he outran the Spartan defense to paydirt.
Castleton marched down the field on the ensuing drive, making its first red-zone trip. Facing 3rd-and-10, McCarthy rushed for eight yards to put Castleton on the 13-yard line. The Spartans went for it, but Nick Campobasso came untouched around the edge and sacked McCarthy, forcing a fumble in the process. Castleton recovered, but still turned it over on downs. Neither side threatened before the break as they headed to the locker room with Norwich ahead, 14-0.
On the Cadets' second drive of the second half, they pushed the lead to 21-0. Connor Bourque had four straight touches to move the ball out towards midfield, before snapping off a 14-yard run into Castleton territory. After Dunn found Romero for another big gain, Bourque rushed for a 23-yard score to make it a three-touchdown game.
Castleton finally got on the board late in the third quarter, going 59 yards in seven plays before reaching the end zone. McCarthy found Martinez for 10 yards on 3rd-and-4 to keep the drive alive, but Castleton was again faced with a third down. After Davis Jr. carried for four yards but came up short of the sticks, Castleton elected to go for it again. McCarthy found Brockway across the middle, and Brockway turned on the jets as he outran defenders to the end zone to make it a 21-7 game.
The two-score deficit didn't last long, as Norwich needed just four plays to find the end zone once more. After converting a 3rd-and-7, Conner broke through the line and took off for a 76-yard touchdown run, pushing the Cadet lead to 28-7.
With less than 10 minutes to play in the game, Castleton got on the board again via defensive touchdown. On 2nd-and-8, Dunn dropped back to pass. He was greeted by Rice for the third time on the afternoon, and Rice forced a fumble in the process. He collected the ball at the 32-yard line with nothing but green turf in front of him, returning it all the way for a touchdown to cut the score to 28-14.
Norwich scored the game's final touchdown 3:33 to play, as Chase once again beat his man for a 36-yard receiving touchdown. It put the proverbial nail in the coffin for Castleton as the score held through the final whistle.
Norwich is now 7-4 all-time against Castleton in the Battle for the Maple Sap Bucket, including back-to-back wins.
Castleton is on its bye week October 5, and returns to action on October 12 for a Homecoming and Family Weekend matchup with Gallaudet. Kick-off is at noon. Castleton's Hall of Fame inductees—Rich & Nancy Glasscock, Amy Kittredge (Yandow) '06, Jessica Turner (Banks) '09 and Brandon Heck '09—will be honored at halftime of the contest.