HARTFORD, Conn. — The Vermont Ravens fell just short during their championship against the Hartford Colts, falling 12-7 at Cronin Park.
The Colts used smothering defense to hold off the Ravens in the single A division title game of the New England Football League. Hartford finishes the season at 9-1, while Vermont closes out a 7-3 campaign.
Vermont quarterback Jack Leclerc was 11 for 27 for 196 yards. He threw one touchdown pass and two interceptions. Leclerc was sacked three times for a loss of 10 yards and ran the ball three times for a gain of 24 yards.
Running back Akeem Williams had 13 carries for 37 yards and one reception for 6 yards. On defense, he had four tackles and one interception. Teammate De-Eric O’neal carried the ball nine times for 61 yards. He added three tackles on defense.
Vermont wide receiver Kenny Phillips II had four catches for 105 yards and one touchdown. He had five tackles on defense, including three solo tackles for a loss of 7 yards. He recorded one sack with a loss of 6 yards.
Teammate Roy Rose had hauled in a 20-yard catch and made eight tackles defensively. Rose contributed one sack for a loss of 10 yards. Ravens linebacker George Campbell had three solo tackles and seven total tackles.
Vermont lost to Hartford earl in the season before claiming payback during the last game of the regular season with a 32-26 victory in South Burlington. The Ravens rolled past the Connecticut Reapers in the semifinals to set the stage for a grudge match with the Colts.
Both teams attempted to move the ball on the ground in the first quarter of the rematch but failed to score any points. The combination of Williams and O’neal helped the Ravens make some big strides, but the visitors couldn’t seal the deal offensively and were forced to punt.
Hartford broke the deadlock with 7:54 left in the second quarter when Colts quarterback Ben Ambro connected to wide receiver Devon Hernandez in the end zone. The two-point conversion run was stopped short, leaving Hartford with a 6-0 lead.
A swarming attacking Colt defense made the going tough for Leclerc, who repeatedly ran for cover to avoid the Hartford rush. Lerclerc was sacked three times and threw a pair of interceptions. Hartford defensive lineman William Deleon put the most pressure on Leclerc and wound up with a pair of sacks.
The Vermont quarterback used quick legs to avoid the rush as much as he could and was able to buy time before completing passes to Phillips and Somer Mackillop, keeping the Colts offense on the sidelines. The Ravens still struggled to make headway in the red zone, resulting in a 6-0 deficit entering halftime.
The Colts went on a big drive in the fourth quarter, moving the ball down the field behind a 25-yard up the middle by Henry Meneses. Abro then rolled right and found Colts wide receiver Paris McDougald Sr. down the right sideline near the goal line for a touchdown, extending the lead to 12-0 with 12:10 remaining. The two-point conversion pass attempt was incomplete.
Vermont coach Bob Lamb and offensive coordinator Chris West settled the offense down and the Ravens quickly started playing with a new sense of urgency. Leclerc moved the team down the field in a hurry, finding Phillips for a 15-yard gain. A few plays later, Leclerc found Phillips alone at the 2-yard line for another reception. Phillips fell forward into the end zone to cap the 25-yard scoring play. The extra-point kick by Drew Lamb was good, closing the gap to 12-7 with 6:33 left to play.
Vermont’s defense stopped Hartford and forced a punt on the next possession, setting the stage for the final drive of the night. Leclerc completed a pass to Rose, who gained 20 yards before being tackled.
A few moments later Phillips caught a pass from Leclecr and gained 33 yards before being brought down on the Hartford 10-yard line.
On the next play Leclerc faced an all-out blitz and rolled left and before being tackled. At the last second he attempted to pass the ball to Mackillop, but Qasian Banks made a clutch interception to end the game.