Second quarter boosts Rutland over Mill River

  • By Adam Aucoin, Staff Writer for the Rutland Herald
  • September 29, 2020

NORTH CLARENDON — Prior to this season, Rutland senior Evan Pockette hadn’t played much quarterback since he was a freshman.

Fair to say he hasn’t lost many of those skills.

Pockette provided a spark for the Raiders in their 35-12 win against Mill River Tuesday afternoon.

Pockette tossed three touchdown passes, all in the second quarter, and returned an interception for a score as well.

“When we’re at our best, we’re playing fast,” said Rutland coach Mike Norman. “Evan Pockette has done a nice job. It’s a work in progress and he’s a senior. He’s played really well.”

Rutland needed Pockette and the skill position players to make up for a slow start.

The Raiders were down 12-0 heading into the second quarter, and Pockette wasted little time finding the end zone, beginning the quarter on the Mill River 29-yard line.

Pockette connected with Joe Anderson for a 14-yard gain and followed that up hitting Ian Courcelle to get inside the 10-yard line. Two passes to fellow senior Cory Drinwater, and the Raiders were on the board.

Slade Postemski picked off Minutemen quarterback Chris Burnett on the next play and Pockette was locked in on the ensuing drive going 8-for-11 and finishing the drive with an 8-yard touchdown to junior Jack Coughlin.

“We dug ourselves a hole,” Norman said. “We got better and we had some better tempo in the second quarter with our offense.”

Rutland opened up its lead with Pockette’s pick-6 return three plays into Mill River’s next drive and got its last offensive touchdown later in the quarter when Pockette found Postemski.

Pockette finished with 179 passing yards.

There were plenty of positives for the Minutemen, who had the Raiders on their heels throughout the first quarter.

Mill River’s lineman group controlled much of the opening frame.

Rutland’s Eli Pockette could only complete a 6-yard pass to Toby Jakubowski, before the Raiders were forced to punt on their opening drive.

Mill River moved the ball quickly on its first drive, getting into Rutland territory when Burnett found Xavier Auer for a 12-yard gain. Burnett connected with Ross Badgley across the left side and he found pay dirt.

Burnett had 143 passing yards on the day.

When Rutland took over possession, quarterback Owen Traynor was picked off by Ryan Boulger, who returned it for a score.

“Our younger guys and our lineman types came out ready to play today,” said Mill River coach Greg Lewis. “It was vice versa for our older, faster guys. We’re putting some things together. They’re finally learning how it all clicks.”

The second half didn’t produce much offense. The teams combined for three turnover-on-downs and each side punted.

Defense came up big late for both sides. Evan McPhee picked off Evan Pockette in the fourth quarter and Postemski picked off his second pass and brought this one back to the house for the game’s final score with less than a minute to play.

It rained for much of the second half, but that didn’t take away the competitiveness on the field. With the news surrounding the positive COVID-19 cases on the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans, the players and coaches know how lucky they are to play this year and how quickly it could be taken away.

“It could be taken away like that. If that happens, we want to make sure we have as much (playing) as we can,” Norman said. “I don’t talk a lot about being selfish, but I told the seniors, you have to get as much of this as you can.”

Rutland (2-0) hosts Mount Anthony on Friday at 7 p.m., while Mill River heads to Middlebury that night.

adam.aucoin @rutlandherald.com