Championship bound!

After a scoreless first half in the Yankee Collegiate Football Conference semi-final game, UVM club football took to big plays, reminding Eastern Connecticut that they’re playing the best team in the nation.

“Strap it on, dial it in,” urged the announcer before the clock started and before each team put in a full half of both solid defense and unproductive offensive drives. Fourth-down punts became a hobby for Eastern Connecticut, while UVM would see large running plays followed by no-gain attempts.

“I think we were starting to get a bit too comfortable with where we were as a team. Eastern Connecticut was a great wake-up call for us,” sophomore running back Evan Amery said. This certainly showed in their first half of lackluster offense.

On the off chance that Eastern Connecticut made it into the red zone, UVM displayed strong defensive efforts to break up scoring chances. Junior tight end and linebacker Mike McCormick, in the final minute of the first half, broke up a touchdown attempt from the three-yard line and followed it up with an interception to prevent any scoring chance at all for Eastern Connecticut.

First blood was shed with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. Unexpectedly, it was Eastern Connecticut who found the end zone first, after recovering a fumble by Amery.

Fortunately for UVM, it was this fumble that provided the motivation needed to serve as the turning point of the game.

“Personally, after I fumbled the ball and watched Eastern put up the first points of the game, I was more than upset and my teammates and coaches saw that,” Amery said. “They knew that one play wasn’t going to be the end of our season and were able to pick both myself up and each other.”

It was after this that UVM began to make big plays — something that Amery claims is, “what we do best.”

Playing in his first game back from an injury, sophomore wide receiver Jake Bielecki returned the kickoff to midfield. From there, McCormick completed two long receptions to put the ball in the red zone.

Bielecki then took control, making a circus catch in the end zone, raising the ball in celebration among his double-coverage of Eastern Connecticut defenders as he watched the scoreboard even up.

After another UVM interception in Eastern Connecticut touchdown territory, Amery helped move the ball up the field, ending in a circus-catch encore for Bielecki.

UVM capped off the game with another Mike McCormick interception, this time returned for a touchdown. The final score, 21-7, sends UVM to the championship game.

“I think everyone is more than excited to be playing for a championship, but it’s all too familiar for many of us former players,” Amery said. Last season, UVM fell to the same team they’re vying for the championship with this season — Southwestern Connecticut. This year, however, UVM beat Southwestern Connecticut in the regular season.

The championship game will prove to be a competitive one as two of the best club football teams in the nation compete for the top prize. If UVM wants to gain revenge from last season, they need to contain Southwestern Connecticut’s notorious big plays — something that has propelled them to victory against every team but Vermont.

Yet if they plan on defending their title, Southwestern Connecticut must find a way to break a UVM defense that has only allowed three touchdowns all season.

The championship game will be held on UVM home turf, at the South Burlington High School field, on Nov. 19 at 5:30 p.m.

“It’s definitely going to be a battle, but we’re determined to come out on top,” Amery said, “No one wants it more than us and we will make that statement on Saturday.”