Bright sunshine, temp in the 80s seems like the perfect scenario for finding a nice shady spot to kick back in a hammock or hitting the beach.
Members of the Middlebury Union and Mount Abraham Union High football teams may have done just that this past Saturday. But the fun stuff had to wait until after they met in a preseason scrimmage this past Saturday, Aug. 20.
For the third year in a row the two programs capped off the first week of practice meeting in Middlebury. If nothing else it gave players from both teams someone else to look at across the line of scrimmage.
“For our guys I think it was good to have the chance to hit someone else after a week of two a days,” said Middlebury Union High Coach Dennis Smith.
The start of the 2011 season brings some interesting challenges for both teams. Last fall Middlebury went undefeated until falling to Rice Memorial in the Division II state finals played at Castleton State College.
That success along with increased numbers in the program had the Tigers being moved back into Division I. They along with Colchester High, Champlain Valley Union and Mount Mansfield Union will be part of an expanded division that will feature 14-teams and an 8-team post season play-off format.
While, Middlebury faces the challenge of playing in what many feel if the primer league in the state, Mount Abe will look to establish itself as a competitive program at the Division III level. The last couple years have been tough for the Eagle program with just one win in two seasons.
But a new season brings a new hope, and while a veteran Middlebury team controlled the scrimmage for the most part on Saturday, the Eagles showed plenty of promise as well.
“Middlebury has very good team that will be very competitive in Division I” said Mount Abe coach Ernie Senecal. “I was real pleased with the way our guys competed with them. I thought we moved the ball well at times and our defense was able to hold their own with their offense.”
“What has been encouraging so far is the spirit of this group. So they have come in with the best attitude of any group we’ve have the last couple of years.”
For his part, Smith was impressed with what he saw of the Eagles, as well as his own starting group.
“Mount Abe still has away to go and some things to work on, but I thought that was the best they’ve looked since we started doing this,” said Smith. “I thought our first group looked real good. The thing is this is a senior laden starting group after that we drop to juniors and sophomores and there is a pretty good separation between the two groups.”
Both teams have another preseason test this coming weekend. Middlebury will have a stiff test as the Tigers will host the Fair Haven Union High Slators in a scrimmage this Saturday, Aug. 27.
Mount Abraham and Middlebury will them open the 2011 season Labor Day weekend with both teams playing on the road. Mount Abe with square off against Montpelier High Friday, Sept. 2, while Middlebury will take the on the Mount Mansfield Union High Cougars on Sept. 3.