New Hampshire Rolls to Another Shrine Game Win

  • Donald Pellerin (8) from Stevens High School intercepts a pass thrown to Rommy Fitzgerald Jr. from Rice Memorial High School during the Shrine Bowl football game at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on August 2, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Donald Pellerin (8) from Stevens High School intercepts a pass thrown to Rommy Fitzgerald Jr. from Rice Memorial High School during the Shrine Bowl football game at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on August 2, 2014.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Oliver Kaija (29), of Woodstock Union High School, wheels waterboy Jared Conantt, 10, of Yarmouth, Me., across the field to receive high fives from New Hampshire players after Vermont lost to New Hampshire during the Shrine Bowl football game at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on August 2, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Oliver Kaija (29), of Woodstock Union High School, wheels waterboy Jared Conantt, 10, of Yarmouth, Me., across the field to receive high fives from New Hampshire players after Vermont lost to New Hampshire during the Shrine Bowl football game at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on August 2, 2014.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Vermont athletes run into Memorial field after half time during the Shrine Bowl football game at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on August 2, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Vermont athletes run into Memorial field after half time during the Shrine Bowl football game at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on August 2, 2014.
    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Donald Pellerin (8) from Stevens High School intercepts a pass thrown to Rommy Fitzgerald Jr. from Rice Memorial High School during the Shrine Bowl football game at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on August 2, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Oliver Kaija (29), of Woodstock Union High School, wheels waterboy Jared Conantt, 10, of Yarmouth, Me., across the field to receive high fives from New Hampshire players after Vermont lost to New Hampshire during the Shrine Bowl football game at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on August 2, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Vermont athletes run into Memorial field after half time during the Shrine Bowl football game at Memorial Field in Hanover, N.H., on August 2, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Hanover — By their own admission, the members of Vermont’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl team, coaches and players alike, enjoyed something of a goofy week together.

Defensive coordinator Vince Redding embodied that off-the-cuff approach on Friday, when Vermont arrived at Dartmouth College’s Memorial Field for a final walk-through practice. Redding went right for the stadium’s ancient west grandstand and raced up the steps to the top, leading Rice’s Jonas Hastings to sing — more or less — the theme to Rocky as Redding completed his ascent.

The moment also represented what this annual football game has become. Vermont always has a puncher’s chance of beating New Hampshire. But more often than not — as happened in Saturday’s 42-6 Granite State rout — Apollo Creed wins by early knockout.

Vermont coach Mike Williams had the misfortune of trying to plan against the future of University of New Hampshire football. Nashua South’s Trevor Knight threw three first-quarter touchdown passes, all on drives lasting less than 45 seconds, as New Hampshire cruised to a 14th consecutive Shrine Bowl victory. Salem’s Jason Martinez (eight carries, 111 yards) chucked in a pair of short second-quarter TD runs as the Granite State earned its 46th victory in the 61-year-old series against 13 losses and two ties.

Plymouth’s Jared Kuehl and Kyle Riesert led a solid defense. Hanover’s Shawn Cavallaro made important contributions on offense and special teams. All five, either as scholarship recruits or walk-ons, head to Durham today to begin workouts with the Wildcats.

“Everyone played well, everyone played their role; it was a great team win,” Cavallaro said. “Everyone came together at the right time, right before the game. It was an incredible experience to play with these guys.”

With a high-speed attack studded with athleticism, New Hampshire got the first-round knockout for which it planned. The Granite Staters scored on their first four possessions for a 26-0 lead just ticks into the second quarter. A run-heavy option offense isn’t going to bridge that kind of a gap, as eight Vermont first downs and just 131 offensive yards proved. New Hampshire produced 21 first downs and 470 yards of offense despite a nine-minute discrepancy in possession time.

“We knew what we were up against,” said Williams, the BFA-Fairfax coach. “We had a couple of breakdowns in the first half that led to three quick scores. That’s just a very talented team. … There’s too much skill.”

Knight took to the Shrine Bowl as if looking to rewrite the record book. He certainly gave it a go in the first quarter.

Following a Vermont three-and-out, Knight raced New Hampshire 43 yards in 33 seconds for the game’s first score. Knight hit Cavallaro on an 11-yard screen to start the — for lack of a better word — drive. Cavallaro’s down-and-out cut under Nick Vailas’ streak to the corner left the Bedford receiver wide open for Knight’s 37-yard scoring pass after just 2 minutes, 41 seconds of play.

“We call it a flood — once I cut and Vailas went deep, I think both guys went to (me),” Cavallaro said. “It was perfect how I was able to run a 10-and-out and they both came to me. A touchdown is a touchdown for our offense; I don’t care how we score it.”

Knight had two more TD passes in his pocket — halfway to the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl record — before the opening 12 minutes had expired. He finished a 62-yard, um, march in 36 seconds with a 28-yard pass to Merrimack Valley’s Cole Martin, then found Vailas alone for a 1-yarder with 1:34 left in the quarter for another score. That completion concluded a 61-yard possession that burned all of 44 seconds of clock time.

“It’s great because it is what I’ve done the past four or five years, and it’s going to be I’m doing for the next four or five years,” said Knight, who finished 12-for-20 for 209 yards and ran for another 47. “It’s great. I get more practice at it.”

Even when things weren’t perfect, New Hampshire couldn’t be slowed. Martinez accepted — barely — a handoff after Knight juggled a shotgun snap and raced 60 yards to the Vermont 2, upping the Granite State’s lead to 26-0 a play later.

Such a lopsided state of affairs was bound to draw some argy-bargy, and the pot boiled over on Vermont’s next series, Lyndon quarterback James Shufelt taking exception to Exeter nose guard Collin Richardson’s tackling attention. The shoving match finally ignited Vermont.

Rice punter Tommy Fitzgerald Jr. bolted with an off-target snap for a 23-yard first down as Vermont crossed midfield for the first time. That drive fizzled on downs, but the next didn’t.

Burlington’s Montell Kirkland blasted Knight from behind on a rollout at the Granite State 23, forcing a fumble that Hartford’s Patrick McGrath consumed. Shufelt put Vermont on the scoreboard two plays after that with a 24-yard TD lob to Rutland’s Joseph Couture.

But emotion can only carry a team so far even in an emotional sport, and Vermont lost its oomph before halftime.

“The fake punt gave us a little momentum,” Williams said. “It was a good play by him. … We got a little momentum there, but it was hard to sustain.”

Kirkland forced another Knight fumble at midfield, but Vermont couldn’t convert. Left at the New Hampshire 10 following a Fitzgerald punt, Knight used the rest of the half to prove the Granite State could drive long, too — 90 yards, nine plays, a second short of two minutes, with Martinez’s second 2-yard TD rumble giving New Hampshire a 33-6 halftime cushion.

Vermont found the middle of New Hampshire’s defense impenetrable. If Richardson wasn’t clogging the dive, the linebacking trio of Kuehl, Riesert and Dover’s Eric Waddington filled the gaps. Riesert and Waddington each had nine tackles on the day.

Kuehl opened the second half by stuffing Woodstock’s Tom Baumann for a safety. Jackson largely left the rest of the game, with occasional exception, to the reserves; Concord’s Marc Gaudet added the final New Hampshire TD on a short fourth-quarter run.

“I don’t mean to shoot them down, but I don’t think they were that hard to stop,” Hartford cornerback Greg Shinn said. “It comes down to the whole mentality of New Hampshire, how they have however many kids going to UNH. They’ve got big kids, they’re all tall, and I think that was in the mindset for us.

“We kept saying we had to execute. Sometimes we just didn’t execute our plays correctly, they found errors and they just capitalized.”

Audibles: The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl is hitting the road again next year, forced to find an alternate site with Dartmouth finally getting to the economy-delayed business of rebuilding Memorial’s west grandstand. Game organizers are reportedly leaning toward a college location such as Saint Anselm, Plymouth State (the 2006 host), Norwich and Castleton State among the possible hosts. UNH is out, as Cowell Stadium will also be undergoing renovations in 2015. The Shriners hope to make a decision this autumn. … The Shrine Game did a three-year residency (2009-11) at Windsor’s MacLeay-Royce Field while Dartmouth installed artificial turf, lights and built Floren Varsity House on the east side of the football field. … The roughly 100 members of the Shrine’s halftime marching band included talent from Randolph, Windsor and Stevens high schools, among others from the Twin States. … Cavallaro finished with 119 all-purpose yards.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hanover — Stevens High School was well represented at Saturday’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, with Cardinals Donald Pellerin and Kai Kleyensteuber earning starting positions on the field. Stevens was also widely present amid the Twin State all-star cheerleading squad — and not just on the sidelines. Coached for the fifth straight year by Cardinals cheering coach Jada Belt, the team …