Tough defense and a standout performance by Jaxon Schaarschmidt on both sides of the ball helped No. 2 Fairfax-Lamoille outlast third-ranked Otter Valley, 20-6, in the Division 3 semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 2.

The win booked the Bullets a trip to the D-3 state championship game this Saturday, Nov. 9, where they will face No. 1 Poultney.

The score, and the result, against Otter Valley in the semifinals represented a drastic turnaround from the regular-season finale the two teams played just two weeks before. In that game, also in Fairfax, Otter Valley won a shootout, 38-36, to hand Fairfax-Lamoille its only loss of the season.

The Bullets flipped the script on Saturday, putting the clamps on defensively,

“We tightened some things up on defense and played well through the field position game,” coach Craig Sleeman said. In the regular season finale Fairfax-Lamoille went for it on several fourth downs and failed, giving Otter Valley great field position. In the semifinals Saturday, the Bullets elected to punt on most fourth downs, pinning the visiting team deep and forcing them to march the length of the field for the chance to score.

That strategy paid off, and Schaarschmidt’s performance on both sides of the ball sealed the deal.

As one of the team’s primary running backs, Schaarschmidt broke a 64-yard run for a touchdown on the first play of the game to put the home team up early. Then, with time winding down in the fourth quarter and Fairfax-Lamoille up 12-6 and on defense, he picked off a pass and returned it 20 yards for a score to slam the door.

Schaarschmidt finished with 143 yards rushing. Noah Brock scored Fairfax-Lamoille’s other touchdown at the end of the first half to put his team up 12-6 and finished with 62 yards rushing. Quarterback Cam Meunier scored a 2-point conversion for the final margin after Schaarschmidt’s pick-six for the final margin.

Defensively, Fairfax-Lamoille had three interceptions and a strip sack, and Gage Brown and Cam Anderson both recovered fumbles.

Fairfax-Lamoille improved to 9-1 and will play No. 1 Poultney, also 9-1, in the D-3 state championship game at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Rutland High School. Fairfax-Lamoille beat Poultney 6-0 on the road early in the season to account for that team’s only regular-season loss.

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