NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Castleton University football team fell in the annual battle for the Maple Sap Bucket on Saturday afternoon at Norwich by a final score of 40-0 at Sabine Field in Northfield. The Spartans' defense allowed just nine second-half points, but the Cadets' first-half offensive outburst was too much to handle as Castleton falls to 1-2 on the year.
Norwich earned its first victory of the season as they sit at 1-2 overall following the win. Castleton is now 4-6 all-time against Norwich, including a 2-3 mark on the road.
Moe Harris racked up 109 yards on the ground in the loss for Castleton, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. Brendan Burrell pulled in two long grabs for 53 total yards, while Anthony Martinez hauled in three targets for 48 yards.
Zak Pollicino and Chris Rice tied for a team-high eight tackles on the day, while Pollicino had an interception and Rice added two sacks. The interception was the third of Pollicino's career and his first of the season, while Rice registered his second and third sacks of the season to set a new career single-season high.
The Cadets' attack was powered by the Matt Dunn-to-Levontae Decius connection, as Decius hauled in five catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Dunn finished the day 11-for-20 through the air with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Connor Bourque added 117 yards rushing on 21 carries, while Aaron Conner had 80 yards on 18 rushing attempts.
The Cadets' defense was stingy all day, forcing five turnovers and blocking a punt. Owen McKenna had two interceptions, while Michael Corinna and Marshall Watters added picks of their own. Jonathan Moltimer forced a late fumble for the Cadets, and Isaiah Williams scooped it up on his way to a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter. In total, the Cadets registered 26 points off Castleton turnovers.
The Norwich offense was explosive out of the gates as Dunn connected with Decius for 40 yards to set up Norwich in the red zone. The Spartan defense held pat on the opening drive, limiting the Cadets to a field goal attempt that sailed wide left. Castleton's ensuing drive went 10 plays for 40 yards, but stalled out in Norwich territory, forcing a Spartan punt.
The Cadets took over the remainder of the first half from that point, scoring on four consecutive drives while creating three takeaways and a blocked punt on the defensive side of the ball. With the Spartans into Norwich territory, Mitchell Caron looked toward the end zone but was intercepted by Michael Corrina, who returned it 41 yards to set up the Cadets with prime field position. Norwich marched 25 yards in five plays, setting up a 36-yard field goal to stretch their lead to 10-0.
After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, Norwich again forced a turnover as Caron was picked off for the second time on the day. Norwich turned the turnover into points for the second straight drive, taking just two plays for Dunn to find Decius for a 14-yard touchdown and a 17-0 edge.
The Cadet defense continued to swarm on Castleton's fifth drive of the day, again intercepting Caron on the second play of the drive. The Cadets needed just one play to punch it into the end zone, as Dunn found Decius on a 25-yard post for their second touchdown connection of the day.
After a three-and-out drive by the Spartan offense, Norwich's Adam Sanchez came around the edge to block Mike Morgan's punt and set the Cadets offense up inside the Spartans' 40-yard line. Dunn and his offense then drove 39 yards in seven plays, capping it with a one-yard rush by Dunn to give the home side a 31-0 lead that they took into the halftime break.
Castleton's defense made a strong adjustment out of the halftime break, holding the Cadets to just three points on 81 yards of offense in the third quarter. Norwich mustered just one offensive score in the fourth quarter, adding yet another field goal, though the Cadets capped the scoring with a defensive touchdown to give the game its final score of 40-0.
The Spartans now enter their bye week, though they return to action on September 29 at noon when they kick off on the road against Misericorida.