BARRE — Crosse Gariboldi rushed for two touchdowns Saturday and the U-32 football team scored 35 unanswered points in the second half during a 48-6 victory over Milton.
“Defensively, it was phenomenal,” U-32 coach Brian Divelbliss said. “We forced two fumbles and had a pick-six. And they were at clutch times. The middle of the third quarter is a key point of the game. And you can’t really defend momentum: You have it or you don’t. And when you have it, things seem to work out well. So that was a big piece of how things worked out today. We know that Milton plays great football and they play all four quarters, so we had to keep playing. And our defense did a nice job of that, as opposed to the alternative.”
Gariboldi scored a 5-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-goal situation to close out the first half, giving the Raiders a 13-6 advantage. U-32 dominated the third and fourth quarters after the Raiders defense forced a trio of turnovers. Quarterback Nathan LaRosa threw a touchdown pass to Max Fair, and LaRosa scored himself with a 72-yard run.
“He started in the middle and bounced out and went up the sideline,” Divelbliss said. “It was an inside run and he broke through that second level.”
U-32’s Alec Lemieux returned an interception over 50 yards for a touchdown.
“The pass was tipped and he just broke on the ball and got it,” Divelbliss said.
Taylor Nunnelly also scored a touchdown in the victory and Raiders kicker Zai Gluck only missed one extra point. A slow start hurt the Raiders once again, allowing Milton to keep pace during the first two quarters. U-32 rolled the dice at the end of the second quarter by passing up a field-goal attempt and elected to put the ball in the hands of Gariboldi. The high-energy freshman handled the pressure like a pro, racing into the end zone for a seven-point lead.
The Raiders entered halftime with a little more pep in their step after cashing in on the risky play call. But Divelbliss was still not thrilled with the sluggish start, which has become a pattern the last month. U-32 also sputtered early against North Country and Mill River before rallying in the second half.
“At halftime I asked the guys, ‘Is there anything else that another coach hasn’t told you that you need to hear for me? The coordinators have talked to you, we’re not making adjustments, here’s what we need to do as far as executing offensively and defensively.’ I’m done being the Ra Ra motivator. We just needed to focus on coming out the way we play the second half. And I can’t figure out any science behind why we’re playing flat in the first half. But I’d like to think we’re mature enough to bounce back at this point in the season,” he said.
The game was played at Spaulding High School because U-32’s main field is under construction as workers put the finishing touches on a new track. The Raiders faced Mill River at Norwich University and may never play a true home game all season. But so far they’re 2-0 at their homes away from home.
“We have great fans and we have a crowd that followed us,” Divelbliss said. “It felt like we were playing at home if you look behind us and see all the Raiders fans. It’s a short bus ride over there and having so many fans support us was great. And having our chain gang there and having the athletic director supporting us was great. I tried to tell the guys that it’s just a different surface and a different location on the GPS, so let’s just play.”
Milton (0-4) will travel to play Fair Haven at 7 p.m. Friday. U-32 (3-1) will travel to play Bellows Falls at 1 p.m. Saturday. According to Divelbliss, the Raiders will continue to mix things between the running and passing games against the Terriers.
“We had trouble catching the ball today,” Divelbliss said. “Nathan threw some nice passes and we had trouble bringing the pass in. But that was mostly first-half stuff. The second half looked like completely different football. It wasn’t jitters because it’s not the first game for the guys. But we made better decisions in the second half and we caught the football when we needed to.”