ST. JOHNSBURY, VT – The St. Johnsbury Hilltoppers thought they had a football team to win it in 2022, but they came up short, losing to the Essex Hornets in the quarterfinals.

“In the stretch that we had the three loses, besides playing three of the best teams in the state, we lost five starters in those three games,” said head coach Rich Alercio. He continued, “I think if we don’t get injured, I think we’re playing in Rutland in November last year.”

The team has lost some key pieces from graduation for 2023. “We don’t have large numbers of kids and we’re not very big,” said Alercio. “So we need to be able to fit off of each other and to be able to move quickly with offense on defense.”

Anthony Guinard, running back/linebacker, st. j hilltoppers: “We’re gonna have to bring everything together and work together” said running back and linebacker Anthony Guinard. “[We don’t have] one player who’s going to go out and make every single play.”

Looking ahead on the schedule, are there any teams St. Johnsbury is excited to play? “I look forward to playing all of them, I really do,” said Alercio. “I don’t care who it is. Every single week and every single game is a gift we can’t wait to play. Certainly you circle some, the teams that beat you last year.”

The Head Coach might seem neutral, but his players have an opinion on the matter. “I want to get revenge from last year on Essex and CVU’s always a good competition,” said tight end Joseph Silver.

His teammate agreed. “Definitely, I’ve been looking forward to CVU, they’ve been on top and definitely Essex. They ended our season last year. We want to get back at that,” said Guinard.

Despite their shortcoming in 2023, this team is hopeful they can win games. “I don’t think we’re a dominant like we’ve been sometimes in the past pre-COVID when we went to a lot of state championship games. But I think we can be very competitive with everybody we play.”

St. Johnsbury kicks off its 2023 season at home against Hartford on Thursday, August 31.