Outside of the community of South Burlington, VT the game against Essex High School in 1997 didn't mean much. But to the Rebel team that season it meant more than anything in their young lives. It was a chance to return a program to glory.

The Rebels had a renaissance in 1997, stunning teams week after week in similar fashion, running the football and making key plays through the air. Led by an experienced offensive line, an all-around running back in B.J. Barrett and young sophomore quarterback named Brennan Carney, the Division 3 Rebels beat Division 2 teams, St. Johnsbury, Springfield and Spaulding to start off the season 3-0.

The Rebels continued their success beating Division 3 foes, Windsor and Woodstock easily. The only stumbling block for the Rebels in the regular season was a loss to Lyndon Institute.

After dominating the Mill River in week eight of the season, the Rebels turned their sites to a game they have circled on their schedule all season long. A match-up with long time rival, Essex.

Over the years the rivalry between South Burlington and Essex had faded with the Hornets dominating the series for the better part of a decade. The last time the Rebels had beat the Hornets was in 1983. The two programs had gone in completely different directions since the height of their rivalry in the 1970's and early 1980's. During the time period the Rebels won championships in 1970, 1971, 1974, 1979, and 1982, while the Hornets won championships in 1973 and 1981.

The Rebels struggled to get players to sign up to play football at the school and their numbers dwindled to less than 50 players in their program during the 1990's. Soon Rebel football was an after though for students at South Burlington. The limited number of players resulted in loss after loss. The Rebels eventually dropped to Division 3, the lowest Division in Vermont state football that wasn't eight-man football.

The Hornets on the other hand continued to dominate for years including state championships in 1987, 1998 and 1992. The didn't have trouble getting players to come out for football, with their total number of players in the program over 100.

By 1997, the rivalry was all but extinct. Since the Rebels were in Division 3, and the Hornets were in Division 1, there was no importance to the game...just pride. For the Rebels that's all they needed to motivate them. For years Rebels players had heard from brothers, relatives and friends about how they lost to Essex. In many cases not just lost, but were blown out by Essex.

While none of the players ever talked about it at the time, it was important game to try and show their community that Rebel football was important, and chance to complete the turn around of the program.

What was even more special about the game was that it would be the last for long time Essex Coach Bruce Wheeler who was retiring after a 25 year run.

Even though I played in this game, I don't remember all the exact details. I remember parts of the week leading up to it. Our head coach Joe McDonald and his coaching staff kept telling us it was a chance to put the past in the past and move on. That we could be the team to end the streak. But more than anything they told us that regardless of division or how many players that are in your program, it's about the eleven players you put on the field, and we were a better football team then them.

While we knew we were a better team than Essex, the local media did not. All season the long the weekly sports reporters had picked against us in key games. That week was no exception with only one person picking us to win.



If all these factors didn't motivate you, I don't know what would.

The day of the game came, and my teammates and I did our normal routines. Some of us played video games, while others watched movies like "The Program" to get us ready for the game. However, when it was time to get on the bus and go to Essex none of that mattered. All that mattered was winning. One shot, to not only prove to ourselves but to the doubters.

As we left our locker room and got on the bus, we saw letters taped to the wall in our locker room from friends and family encouraging us on. It was something I knew I'd never forget. 

The bus ride to Essex was pretty quiet. We all just tried to remain focused. Finally we arrived in Essex, and you could see the lights of the field. We waited in the locker room for to go out to the field, we listened to our usual anthem, "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. Soon it was time to go out to the field.

As we walked out to the field you could feel the cool autumn air, and smell the popcorn. The crowd started to pack in and the excitement grew.

Prior to the game the Hornets honored their long time coach with a gauntlet of alumni for him through. Not many of us even paid attention to it we just kind of said to each other "Good, they'll get to watch him lose his last game as a coach."

The game started and before we knew it we were leading 26-8 at halftime. Not only were winning the game but we were blowing them out. It was an awesome feeling looking at the scoreboard.

Eventually the adrenaline we had wore off and started to slow down a little bit. The coaches put some younger players in to give us a rest, but soon some big plays put Essex right back in the game. As the game got closer and closer I started to realize that those guys had a lot to prove to. For many of them it was the last game of their high school careers because they weren't going to the playoffs like us. They wanted to do it for their coach who was retiring.

Late in the fourth quarter their was a pivotal third down, that if we didn't convert would force a fourth down and could possibly give the ball back to Essex with a chance to take the lead. I remember coming out of the huddle and feeling exhausted. I heard the cadence from our quarterback and then I snapped the ball. I stepped into my block and then I heard a ball whistle by my helmet. I looked up and saw Keith Robertson catch the go-ahead touchdown in the back of the end zone from Brennan Carney. All season long we had joked with our young quarterback about his play but in that moment he made the biggest play of our high school careers.

Essex scored again and eventually made it a 33-31 game, but we held on for the win. Finally, we had beat Essex. I remember running over to my friends and family and hugging them, and then jumping in a huge snow bank made from the ice from the ice rink and almost killing myself. The whole way back to South Burlington our parents formed a line with cars, they honked their horns and flashed their lights.



At that moment we were all that mattered in the world.

The following week we were upset in the playoffs by Woodstock ending our season. However, the following season the Rebels continued to build on their success beating Essex again and eventually avenging their 1997 loss by beating Woodstock and winning the Division 3 state championship.

Since the 1997 season, the Rebels have moved from the depths of Division 3 back to Division 1 and have won three state championships in 1998, 2004 and 2005 and have appeared in various state championship games. Essex on other hand has won only one state championship in 2009. The Rebels have won seven of the their last 16 meetings with Essex, with the Hornets winning nine.

While I didn't play on any of the future Rebel teams, I know my former teammates and I feel in some way directly responsible rejuvenating the rivalry between Essex and helping turn the program around.
Here are some photos from the college hockey game (I only stayed for one period) between Bowling Green State University and Union College on October 12, 2013 at Messa Arena in Schenectady, NY.

Tomas Sholl #1

Tomas Sholl #2

Tomas Sholl #3

Alex Sakellaropoulos watches the play behind the net

Mat Bodie

Sholl with a save

In the crease

Working the puck
 
Tomas Sholl #4

Alex Sakellaropoulos #1

Alex Sakellaropoulos clears the puck

Traffic in front of the net
 
Sholl plays the puck behind the net

Sholl watches a shot go behind the net

Camden Wojtala chases down the puck

Wojtala goes into the corner

Alex Sakellaropoulos #2

Tomas Sholl #5

Tomas Sholl slides across the crease

Sholl makes a save

Face off

Kevin Sullivan looks for the puck

Tomas Sholl #7

Daniel Carr

Alex Sakellaropoulos #3

Alex Sakellaropoulos #4

Jeff Taylor

Jeff Taylor passes the puck

Bringing the puck up ice

I'll preface this post by saying that in no way do I like writing negative reviews of my experiences at sporting events. Sporting events should be fun not miserable. However, when a negative experience does happen, I feel obligated to my readers and fans to inform them of my experience.

I've lived in the the Capital Region of New York for the last six years, but never ventured to Schenectady, NY to see a Union College hockey game. My son had been asking to go to a hockey game and I thought it would be a good time to go.

I went online to purchase tickets at 11:00 A.M. and was informed via the website that online ticket sales closed at 12:01 A.M. last night. There was a number listed on the site, so I called it up and was told that there were "plenty of tickets available" by the person on the phone. So I wasn't overly concerned about getting tickets to the game.

After a  long day of running errands I left for the game with my son. We were both extremely excited to go to a new venue and watch some hockey.

We arrived at the arena at about 7:00 P.M, and were confused where to park. There was no parking clearly marked, and we were forced to park on the street like everyone else. They area where we parked was very "shady" and extremely dark. I was extra careful getting my son out of the car but we still almost got hit as we crossed the street. I asked a person who was directing traffic if that's where people parked and she said "Yes, just don't park in front of a fire hydrant."

I walked up to the arena tightly clenching my sons hand. We walked around the facility towards the front gate and into the entrance. As we walked in we were brushed by some drunk college students who didn't seem to care a four year-old was walking by them. We got in ticket line and didn't have to wait long to get to the ticket window.  I asked for two tickets, one adult and one child.  The girl said "the only tickets I have left aren't together but they are in the same row, so you shouldn't have trouble sitting together." I figured since I've never been there before I'd trust her judgement. So we got our tickets and entered the rink.

Tickets from the game
Upon entering the rink you are immediately feel like squished sardines. It's extremely tight and feels uncomfortable. The arena is very "rough looking." It looked like someone stuck a hockey rink in the middle of a high school gym. We walked around looking for our seat and had to try and decipher the numbers on the seats because the paint was so old and worn. Finally, an usher approached us and explained to us where our seats were. So we walked up to them and I immediately noticed they were the last row of the rink with only a metal bar separating the us from a 30 feet drop straight down behind the bleachers. No parent in their right mind would sit their child there for fear of their child falling over backwards. In most cases I would have gone to customer service and asked to have my seats switched but I could tell from the operation they have going there that wasn't going to happen. So I took it upon myself to move to a different seat. After sitting there for a few minutes, some people came up and told us we were sitting in their seats. So we moved. Then we were asked to move again, and again, and eventually ended up near our original seats.  As I sat there I felt uncomfortable that I was going to have to move again.

At this point my son was extremely well behaved and was keeping to himself. As the arena filled in we had some people sit in front of us which completely obstructed my son's view. Then a person sat behind my son, and it was so tight, it was like my son was sitting on the guys lap. The seats were so close together it was extremely uncomfortable. As the game started my son got antsy and start to move around but had no wiggle room and was accidentally kicking the woman in front of us. Finally after about 10 minutes of feeling completely miserable I walked down the bleachers and stood at ice level with my son. We stood there for a few minutes as I tried to snap a few pictures. Suddenly a guy who was also taking pictures felt the need to stand right in front of me and block my view. I decided to move to the other side of the rink but eventually got sick of standing so I decided to leave with my son. As we left the arena we walked by about 10 college students drinking beer, and acting stupid.

Overall, it was a terrible experience for my son and I. I always try to find a silver lining in every bad experience but I couldn't find one. The only positive part of the game is when I pulled into my driveway.
I took a month off from blogging while I dealt with some family and personal issues. It was definitely an interesting a month but I'm looking forward to the fall and winter sports season.

Last night I got back into blogging by attending the University of Ottawa/University of Vermont hockey game.

You can check out the pictures here!

I'm not sure where I'm going to be or what I'm going to be covering over the next few months. However, like always it will probably be a bunch of "randomness."

I'm hoping to get to some Albany Devils, Adirondack Phantoms, Union College and RPI Hockey games, but also go to some high school and college football games.

Thanks for all the people who continue to read my blog and support me!
Here are the pictures from the college hockey game between the University of Ottawa Gee-Gee's and the University of Vermont Catamounts on October 5, 2013 at Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, VT.

The Catamounts dominated the game winning 7-0.

Gutterson Fieldhouse, Home of the University of Vermont Catamounts

Alexandre Touchette warming up before the game

Rally tries to get the crowd going before the game

Harrison May digging into the crease

Shot on net

Working in front of the net
Rob Hamilton handles the puck
 
Stephen Blunden digs the puck out of the boards

Harrison May with a save

Face off

Nick Luuko

Mike Santaguida

Mike Santaguida looking through traffice

Going into the boards

Nick Luuko avoids a diving defender

Luuko brings the puck of ice

Breaking up a fight

Matt White being held down by Paul Landry

Cleaning up at the fights and injuries

Patrick Burns with a game misconduct

H.T. Lenz looks to get the puck out to the point

Colin Markison (#6) and Connor Brickley (#23)

Brady Shaw

Looking at the play

Santaguida makes a save and falls on the puck

Matt White tries to get the puck in behind the net

Mike Stenerson on takes the face off

Former Catamounts in the NHL

The "Gut"

Warren Shymko watches a goal go in

Another face off in the Ottawa end

...and another goal

Brendan Bradley handles the puck

Jean-Bernard Voyer

Traffic in front of the net

Pat Feeley looks for the puck

Rob Hamilton

H.T. Lenz

Feeley looks to make a save

Pat Feeley

Pat Feeley goes into the butterfly

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