Castleton fell to the Norwich Cadets 40-0 in the annual battle for the Maple Sap Bucket on Sep. 15.
The Sap Bucket game is one of the most highly anticipated battles of the season for both the Spartans and the Cadets.
“It definitely wasn’t a good feeling,” said junior tight end Tucker Kreh. “It’s never easy coming up short in big games like that.”
This marks the first time since 2014 that the Spartans won’t reclaim the Maple Sap Bucket trophy. With the win, Norwich pulled ahead to lead the series 5-4. And they did so with their most dominant victory since the beginning of the rivalry.
The Spartans struggled to get things moving early on in this game.
Meanwhile, the Cadets bulldozed their way to 31 points in the first half.
“It’s a game you learn a lot from,” said senior captain Grant Cummings. “You just have to take those moments from a game like this and apply them to the work we put in toward our upcoming opponents.”
Norwich’s defense did not allow much. They held quarterback Mitch Caron to just 76 yards and three interceptions. He was forced to exit the game due to heat exhaustion and was replaced by freshman Jacob McCarthy halfway through the second quarter.
McCarthy didn’t fare much better. He was held to just 103 yards for the rest of the game and added an interception of his own.
“Whether it was the heat or the atmosphere of where we were playing, we didn’t rise to the challenge. We’re working hard to bring that fire back to our team.” Cummings said.
While it may be easy to hang your head after a loss like this, some Spartans, like Cummings, were determined to not let it define their season.
“We just have to keep our heads up, and get ready for Misericordia. We just need to take it week by week. I know that we can bounce back,” Kreh said.
This game wasn’t as bad for the Spartans as the final score might make it seem.
Although the offense didn’t find the end zone versus the Cadets, running back Moe Harris picked up 109 yards on the ground and averaged 5 yards per carry. Nine different receivers caught passes for Castleton as well. Anthony Martinez led the Spartans in receptions with three catches for 48 yards, while Brendan Burrell led the Spartans in receiving yards with two long catches for 53 yards.
The defense had its moments as well. After allowing 31 points in the first half, the Spartans gave up just nine in the second half. Chris Rice and Zak Pollicino led the way with eight tackles each. Rice added two sacks while Pollicino added an interception.
“It was not the outcome any of us were expecting,” said Meg Elrick, a Castleton student who made the trip to Northfield to support the team. “I was surprised how quickly the game was out of our hands. There were definitely some emotions rolling. It’s never easy to see them upset.”
The Spartans didn’t play Saturday, from a scheduled off week and it may be just what they need to get back in gear for themselves, and for the fans.
“We had just about everything go wrong last game, so there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Kreh said. “I think this bye week will do us justice and we will be ready to go against Misericordia.”
The Sap Bucket game marked the second time the Spartans have been shutout in a blowout loss this season. While it is early and there is plenty of time for the Spartans to turn things around, it may need to be sooner rather than later. They currently sit at 1-2 with their margin of error slim-to-none if they hope to make a post-season appearance. They will look to make a statement on the road versus Misericordia on Sept. 29.