Another Year, and Another Easy New Hampshire Victory
New Hampshire's Dylan Drew, of Lebanon High, slaps hands with New Hampshire teammate Christian Dyer of Winnacunnet, after the Granite State's 43-0 win over Vermont in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl in Hanover on Saturday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
New Hampshire's Tyler Ford, of Souhegan High, hurdles Vermont's Jon Kilian of Spaulding High, on his way to a first down. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Tolbert Nemo, of Concord, N.H., right, gets the ball swatted away by Tyler Higley, of Vernon, Vt., before he can complete a pass during the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl in Hanover, N.H., on August 3, 2013. At left is Darren Callan of Enosburg Falls, Vt. New Hampshire won the game, 43-0. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover —A New Hampshire victory in the annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl football game is fast joining death and taxes as a certainty of Twin State life. Saturday’s 43-0 victory by the Granite State was its 13th consecutive triumph in the lopsided series and its third shutout since 2001.
New Hampshire has won 45 of the event’s 60 meetings and has outscored the Green Mountain squad by a combined 266-66 during the last six meetings. Vermont, which has lost 23 of the last 25 meetings with its neighbor, trailed 6-0 after a quarter Saturday and 15-0 at halftime but turned the ball over six times, twice near the Granite State goal line.
“They capitalized on our mistakes and did a great job on both sides of the ball,” said Hartford High defensive end Nolan Frechette, whose squad was outgained 460 yards to 162. “It’s hard to shut our offense down, and they did. I tip my hat to them.”
New Hampshire, guided by Mascoma coach Ray Kershaw, ran the wing-T offense he’s utilized in pulling the Royals out of the NHIAA Division VI basement. It may have had some observers groaning about its repetition and uninspired play-calling, but it was definitely effective. Kershaw said his team utilized the run-based formation along with a size advantage up front to grind Vermont into submission.
“My offensive line kept coming back and saying (Vermont) was getting tired and let’s just keep going at them,” the coach said.
Vermont linebacker Jon Carlson, a Hartford representative, said trying to decipher the wing-T’s inside feints and multiple handoff styles became a distraction.
“They ran a lot of fakes and we bit on them a lot,” he said. “It’s just discipline and reading your keys. You’re not supposed to be looking for the ball. You’re supposed to be reading your keys, and when we didn’t, that’s when we really started to lose.”
Defensively, New Hampshire made mincemeat of Vermont’s spread attack. Jake Stalcup, Vermont’s primary quarterback, completed 12-of-26 passes for 117 yards, but had three tosses intercepted. Backup Joey Picard had another throw picked off, as did Chris Redding. Vermont also fumbled three times, losing one of them.
“They had some big guys up front who put a lot of pressure on us, but the main thing is I didn’t execute,” said Stalcup, a Burr & Burton product who’s headed to Middlebury College. “Some of my throws were ill-advised or I didn’t put enough on it.”
Logan Batchelder, a New Hampshire safety from Stevens High, had two of the Granite State picks and said he and his defensive mates were confident as the week of pregame practice progressed.
“We watched tape of their quarterback and he doesn’t like being pressured,” Batchelder, a quarterback during his playing days for the Cardinals, said of Stalcup. “Our defensive line did a great job and he was scared all day. He stared down the receivers and pretty much just gave me the ball.”
Said Kershaw: “Our defense got a little extra motivation up in Castleton all week, hearing from the Vermont side that they had a high-powered offense and we were in trouble.”
New Hampshire forced Vermont to punt on the game’s opening possession, then drove 60 yards in eight plays to take a 6-0 lead. Every snap produced a running play, including a 38-yard dash on an inside reverse by Tyler Grant that set up a 5-yard touchdown scamper to the outside by Romeo Masuku with seven minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The next notable play occurred with four minutes remaining in the opening stanza and short-circuited an eight-play Vermont drive that had pushed down to the New Hampshire 6-yard line. Stalcup had his sixth pass attempt of the game tipped by his receiver and intercepted by Kearsarge High cornerback Oliver Gallo.
Although New Hampshire couldn’t capitalize on that turnover, it struck for a 12-0 lead with seven minutes remaining in the half, one play after forcing Vermont’s third punt.
Connor Benjamin lofted a high, arcing pass to bulky tight end Graham Nyhan that the Laconia product hauled in over his shoulder, several steps ahead of Carlson.
Vermont hurt itself again on its next drive when Hartford’s Taylor Potter lost a fumble after catching a pass. New Hampshire couldn’t produce points off that turnover, either, but kept up its ball-hawking ways on the first play of Vermont’s next possession.
This time, Nick Marino picked off a pass down the left sideline, clutching the ball just before stepping out of bounds.
Eight plays later, New Hampshire’s offense faced a fourth-and-13 situation at the Green Mountain 46-yard line. Kershaw elected to call for a fake punt, Tyler Ford running for 12 yards when 13 was needed. Vermont took over with 54 seconds remaining in the half, but managed only a three-and-out before punting for the fourth time. New Hampshire threw an incomplete pass before another big play — a 27-yard run from Masuku — set up Ford’s 42-yard field goal as time expired.
Whatever hope Vermont backers could muster during intermission started to evaporate after New Hampshire took the third quarter kickoff and marched 76 yards in eight plays for another score. This one came on a 40-yard run by Masuku and Ford added the extra point for a 22-0 lead.
“We were stoked at halftime and came back out with a lot of energy,” Carlson said. “But it just fizzled out.”
Vermont had another pass intercepted on its next drive and punted on its following possession. New Hampshire then drove 54 yards in six plays and scored on a 36-yard run by Benjamin, followed by another Ford conversion kick for a 29-0 lead. The visitors began running the Wildcat offense, a tactic Kershaw said he used to throw off Green Mountain defenders accustomed to trying to stop the wing-T.
Vermont looked like it might get on the scoreboard with six minutes to play. However, it had a fourth pass intercepted, this one at the New Hampshire 1-yard line by Batchelder. The Castleton-bound Batchelder looked like he’d score, but somehow began to bobble the ball as he labored down the sideline, eventually being knocked out of bounds at the Green Mountain 31-yard line.
New Hampshire added rushing touchdowns by Tolbert Nemo and Grant before Batchelder notched his team’s fifth interception in the late going.
Masuku had 14 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns and Benjamin ran 11 times for 81 yards and one score. Kearsarge’s Jordy Barthol carried four times for 22 yards. New Hampshire attempted just six passes and its only completion was the 55-yard touchdown. Defensive lineman C.J. Gosselin of Stevens had six tackles and 11/2 sacks, Gallo had four tackles and Lebanon’s Dylan Drew had one.
Woodstock’s Ed Doton led Vermont with 38 yards in six carries and Potter caught two passes for eight yards. Carlson had nine tackles, Frechette two and Woodstock’s Travis Gault and Potter one each.
Despite yet another rout, Frechette, whose father also played in the Maple Sugar Bowl, said the series should continue.
“This is by far the best high school experience I’ve ever had,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is, because we’re doing it for a great cause and we all had a blast.”
Notes: Ford’s field goal set a Maple Sugar Bowl record. The game’s previous best was 41 yards by New Hampshire’s Scott Sanborn of Spaulding High in 1982. … Newport is all over the Shrine record book, with Thomas Scherwertz (1982) having the longest touchdown run at 82 yards, Brian Holmes (1997) tied for the most touchdowns with three and Robert Rossiter (1967) having the longest kickoff return for a touchdown at 95 yards. … Nyhan is a third-generation Shrine player, his father having suited up in 1982 and his grandfather playing in 1958. … Hartford tailback Josh Claflin watched the game out of uniform and on crutches. He injured his ankle during a practice earlier in the week… Memorial Field’s lights were turned on to start the second half, at 7:20 p.m. … The last time Stevens had two representatives in the Maple Sugar Bowl was 1986… The game’s alternate on-field official was Vicki Parady-Guay, who is also the Sanborn (N.H.) High athletic director.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.