Springfield and Fall Mountain scrimmaged Tuesday night in the first gridiron competition in the area this year, marking the quickly approaching 2017 season. Springfield has taken baby steps over the past couple of years in bringing back the Cosmos to what eventually will be a competitive level of football play week in and week out. Coach Rich Saypack has said that there has been growth in the off-season and the start up for 2017 has been his most seamless start in his tenure.
On the other side of the river, Orion Binney has just been given the reins to lead the Wildcat football program. The young man is excited and seems to have his ducks in a row, but things are beginning from scratch once again in Langdon. Frank Brown, who served six years as head coach (2009-2014) told us when he completed his tenure, “Fall Mountain football is just window dressing now, which needs administrative support at all levels, especially when it comes to the budget, to have any chance at all.” We checked back with Brown this week and he holds steadfast and said, “They have to understand the program can’t operate by itself.”
Obviously it appears that Binney has his hands full with both his young squad and what could be those bigger issues, which have already prevented the sport from advancing in some time. Springfield has passed the day, when they didn’t have enough upperclassmen to allow the overall squad to put players on the varsity field, who unquestionably still needed extra time to develop at the junior varsity level. On the other hand, Fall Mountain still has to rely on players with no high school experience at all, to suit up to just play the game.
Both teams face tough schedules this fall, but again, the Cosmos should have more days they should be able to compete than Fall Mountain does. However, the Cosmos received a big setback last week, as they lost a game, without even playing a game, when Oxbow dropped their football program. This leaves an idle date on the schedule, but maybe more important, they lose a game both sides were looking forward to playing because it was anticipated to be a very competitive encounter.
John Callahan was at the helm of the Wildcats last year and 10 years before he came on the scene as Fall Mountain football coach, I met John for the first time. I can’t say it was a happy meeting. Oh, it was nothing that John did, you see. It was just that I was an administrator at Hartford High School, and Callahan was the head football coach at Mount St. Joseph. The two schools met for the Vermont Division I football title back in 2005, and Callahan’s Mounties controlled Hartford 19-0. It was the swan song for the Mounties as a D-I program and the real beginning of the Hurricanes competing with the big boys. I was one of many who believed Hartford actually belonged in Division II, but coach Mike Stone and his charges proved otherwise, when they began a stretch two years later, when they captured five D-I titles in six years to silence anyone who doubted them.
Recently it was mentioned here, of the success of the area league for Babe Ruth age base ballers over the years. One of the founders of the league called us and said he didn’t want to disappoint me, but I had incorrectly stated that I was a disciple of the league. He told me when I played there was no formal league. Bellows Falls, Walpole, Charlestown and Chester played games against each other, but there was no formal league until the coaches of BF (Bob Joy), Walpole (Ted Brooks) and Chester (Fay Scott) sat down between 1964 and 1965 and put together the official Fall Mountain Boys Baseball League, which included the four teams above. Sometime in the past twenty years, the boys part of the title was dropped to allow interested girls to become a part of the teams.
Other towns believed to have appeared in the league at one time or another are Westminster, Springfield, Saxtons River, Westmoreland, Keene, Claremont and Newport. The call I received came from Ted Brooks, who is still alive and well and following sports in his hometown of Walpole. Brooks also mentioned the strong by-laws the league lived by and the early leadership of people such as Stanley Blanchard and Louie Vaine.
Brooks coached and followed baseball in Walpole for years and years and we attempted to narrow him down to who was the best player from that town that he saw. Brooks was basically non-committal, only managing to tell me, “We had a lot of good kids who played ball as well as they could.” I don’t know how official Brooks meant this to be, but he did mention, “You would have to go pretty far to be a better player than Johnny Neal
A couple of themes originated out of a press release I received a week back. First, there are distinctly two parts of Vermont. The Burlington area and the rest of the state, at least athletically. That statement is not a knock on anyone or thing, it is just that there are so many people that live within 30 minutes of Burlington, they are kind of in a world of their own. The second thing is, that fund raising can become a very powerful vehicle. This is again especially true in a well-populated area. The release I received was about the success of the 16th Annual Travis Roy Foundation Wiffle Ball Tournament held in Essex earlier this month and of how Vermont stepped up big to make it successful.
I knew about the event ahead of time but was scheduled to work. But, it is now on my bucket list for a year in the future. Just to see those fields is worth the trip. The release is elsewhere on this page and you may notice at the bottom of the release, that you may still give to the cause, if you are interested.