Mount Mansfield's rebuttal was sharp and swift.
Five plays were all the Cougars needed to silence Mount Anthony Union High School, which began the third quarter full of life after tying the game with a touchdown in the final minute of the first half.
"They were getting really into it and we responded in a good way," said Mount Mansfield senior Dakota Jones.
Marcello Mosca dashed 72 yards for a touchdown on the second play after halftime and Nils Meisterling returned an interception 40 yards for another score three plays later to stagger the Patriots and propel the Cougars to a 40-21 victory in Division I football on Saturday.
Mount Mansfield (1-1) bounced back from an overtime loss in Week 1 by rolling out 430 yards rushing with eight ball carriers and preying on four Mount Anthony (0-2) turnovers in the second half.
"We decided at halftime we were going to start pounding the ball, lean on them a little bit," MMU coach Marty Richards said. "It worked."
Jones (one interception) paced the hosts with 118 yards on 14 carries, scoring on a 15-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Mosca picked up 106 yards and two scores on nine carries. Sophomore quarterback Dominic Mosca and running back Josh Cann (one touchdown) also ran for 66 yards apiece.
Effective in the first half, the Cougars were devastating after the break with 285 yards on the ground.
"The kids felt at halftime like we could really pound on the left side of our line, so we did," Richards said. "We tempered it with some counters and I thought Dom really progressed from last week to this week.
"He called a great game, made some nice audibles. He really put us in a good position to succeed."
But two timely fumble recoveries sealed the win. John Sirois scooped up the first in the third quarter, one Mount Anthony snap after Marcello Mosca's second TD gave the Cougars a 33-14 lead.
Hayden Russell produced the second with MMU leading 33-21 in the fourth quarter, popping the ball free at his team's 8-yard line after a 35-yard Patriot completion had the game poised for a tense last five minutes.
"We work on stripping the ball. We practice that," Richards said. "That touchdown could've been huge, that could've changed the whole game."
Trailing 14-0 after one quarter, Mount Anthony got on the board when quarterback Damon Young hit Pat Powers (two touchdowns) in stride in the right flat for a 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
After forcing a Mount Mansfield three-and-out, the Patriots tied the game on their next possession. Tyler Mattison connected with Noah Normyle on a halfback pass that went 25 yards for a score with 48.8 seconds left in the half.
The 10-play drive lasted more than four minutes and left no time for Mount Mansfield to respond before the break.
Two more quarters left plenty of time to answer, though, and the Cougars did.
"We just had to come out and do our job, play our brand of football," Richards said.
Young went 7-of-18 for 160 yards, two TDs and two interceptions, to lead Mount Anthony, which finished with 78 yards on the ground.