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Mascoma Football Coach Ray Kershaw Named N.H. Shrine Game Coach

Ray Kershaw took the Mascoma football team to the N.H. Division VI title game last fall. This week he was chosen to coach the Granite State in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl Game. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan)

Ray Kershaw took the Mascoma football team to the N.H. Division VI title game last fall. This week he was chosen to coach the Granite State in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl Game. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »

Canaan — Three years ago, when Ray Kershaw became the head football coach at Mascoma Valley Regional High School, he was told that if more players were not added to the roster, the program would have to fold.

At that time, there were 14 players on the roster.

Three years later, the roster is bulging with 36 players listed. And last fall, Mascoma played in the New Hampshire Division VI championship game.

Instead of folding, the program has begun to flower.

And what Kershaw, 46, and the Royals accomplished since he took over has not gone unnoticed. This week, Kershaw was named to coach the New Hampshire Shrine Team in the 60th Maple Sugar Bowl Game next summer.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am,” said Kershaw. “This is a great honor.”

Kershaw is taking over the Granite State team at a time when the game is about to undergo some changes.

New Hampshire has won the Shrine Game 12 straight years including a 62-24 win last summer. Overall the Granite Staters enjoy a 44-13-2 advantage. The one-sided natue of the contest has worried organizers for years. In hopes making this a more competitive game, the New Hampshire team will no longer be top heavy with players from the larger Division I schools getting a greater number of representatives. Next year, six players will be taken from each of the six divisions, and no more than two players from any one school.

“I think this will be very helpful,” said David Orr, the game’s media relations director.

“A group of guys headed by Kristi Morris of Springfield, a football official and member of the board of directors, sat down and came up with this plan,” said Orr. “It sounded good to them and it sounded good to me.”

While this could make Kershaw’s job a little more challenging, he doesn’t seem to be bothered by it.

“I certainly don’t want to be the first New Hampshire coach in a long time to come out on the losing side,” he said. “But we know the game is played for some unfortunate kids. That’s why we do this.”

Kershaw is currently putting his staff together and will begin sifting through the names of the more than 200 graduated seniors who have been nominated to play in the game on Aug. 3.

“This is always a difficult process, but it usually works out,” said Kershaw. “But I do know that every player that gets selected will be playing in the game.”

At Mascoma, the route to a 7-2 season last year was the running game. “We just kind of based our offense around the personnel we had. Last year we just didn’t have the kind of players for a passing game.”

To that end, Kershaw said he will hold off on what kind of offense to run until he sees his roster. To help him with the selection process next month, he plans on taking coaches from his own staff as well as some from other teams.

“I know this change will have some affect on the strength of the roster, but I think it is a very good idea,” said Kershaw. “I’ve been to quite a few Shrine Games and if this change brings a more competitive game and brings more people to the game than we have accomplished what we set out to do — raise money for the kids.

“I feel the Mascoma football team had to push through adversity and challenges to stand as one, to compete to the best of their ability, and I would like to bring this experience to the Shrine Game where it will benefit kids who face challenges and adversity in every day life.”

Jason Thomas of Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, will be the Vermont coach.

The game has raised more than $5 million for the Shriners hospitals for the care of burned and crippled children.