Stevens Seniors Named to Pair of All-Star Games
Donald Pellerin of Stevens High catches a pass during an Aug. 12, 2011, practice at Monandnock Park in Claremont, N.H. (ValleyNews - Tris Wykes)
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Claremont — Reaching the New Hampshire Division III football championship game last fall has had a trickle-down effect on a pair of Stevens High seniors.
Catching the eye of coaches around the state, Cardinal standouts Donald Pellerin and Kai Kleyensteuber were selected to play in both all-st ar summer football contests — the East-West Classic on June 28 at the University of New Hampshire, and the venerable Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl Game under the lights at Dartmouth College on Aug. 2.
Making these teams, particularly the Shrine team, gets tougher each year in New Hampshire since there are now 57 schools playing football and just 36 roster spots for the Shrine Bowl. But to put the achievement in perspective, Manchester and Nashua, two of the largest New Hampshire cities with multiple high schools in each city, got just one Shrine player apiece.
Closer to home, one Hanover player (UNH-bound Shawn Cavallaro) was selected, the only other Upper Valley player to be named to the Granite State team.
Even Stevens coach Paul Silva was a little startled at having two players on both teams.
“I thought it would be nice to get a player on one of the teams,” he said. “But two guys in two games was a wonderful surprise.”
Pellerin and Kleyensteuber have one thing in common: Hitting.
As a running back, Pellerin doesn’t mind being hit. As a lineman, Kleyensteuber loves to do the hitting. And both had exceptional seasons in 2013 at what they like to do best.
Before the 2013 season began, there was a feeling that Pellerin, at maybe 160 pounds on a 5-foot-8 frame, could not take the punishment delivered each game — if not each carry — to a running back.
Forget the concerns. All Silva did was run Pellerin 46 times in an early-season game.
“I didn’t realize I had called his number that many times,” said Silva after the game.
The coach then vowed to call his star runner’s number less — which he did — but not by a lot. On the season Pellerin carried the ball 277 times, and never got injured. His offensive numbers put a hurt on the opposition. He rushed for 1,534 yards and scored 26 touchdowns.
He did have one visible injury during the season. “I have this wart on my elbow and it kept bleeding,” said Pellerin, who also plays basketball and baseball.
When Kleyensteuber was in the fifth grade, Bill Brooks, a 1,000-yard rusher who graduated from Stevens in 2013, came to his house to extol the virtues of football. “He told me what a great feeling it was to hit someone,” said Kleyensteuber.
He has been hitting someone ever since.
Kleyensteuber plays on both side of the line, but likes defense the best. “That’s where I can hit people,” he said.
He hit a lot of people last fall, getting in on 85 tackles — 65 were solo hits.
Both players seldom got to take a play off during the season. Kleyensteuber was a tackle on offense, while Pellerin played defensive back — with 49 solo tackles — and averaged 20.8 yards on kickoff returns as well.
When the Cardinals lost the Division III championship at Bow last fall, there was one thing going through both players minds: Was this the last time they would put on a football uniform?
Consequently, when they both got word of their selection to the New Hampshire East team for the Classic, there was relief that they would play at least one more game. To later be selected for the Shrine team just overwhelmed them both.
Silva said he didn’t have to do a lot of pushing to get them on those teams.
“The coaches had seen a lot of both of them for a long time,” he said.
The East team will be coached by Paul Lavigne, whose first high school coaching job was at Stevens, where he earned his spurs by losing his first 20 games. Later, he moved to Milford, where he immediately won four consecutive state champions and five overall. He has also coached at two Manchester schools and Plymouth State University. His most recent coaching experience was back-to-back championships at Inter-Lakes in 2010 and 2011.
The duo has also met with the Shrine coaches and understand that playing time in that game will be a lot tougher. But both expressed a desire to just be given a fair chance.
Getting in shape for the games would not appear to be a problem for either player, since both will be busy this spring with Pellerin playing baseball and Kleyensteuber doing weight events on the track team.
“I know I have to get heavier,” Pellerin said. “I’m going to drink lots of milk.”