Frowns Upside Down: Marauders Brimming With Optimism
Hanover High's Jeffrey Gorham prepares to tackle a bag during the Marauders' Aug. 18 practice. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover High football coach Mike Ivanoski turns to speak to an assistant during an Aug. 18 practice. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover High's Chris Gundermann practices tackling on a bag during the Marauders' Aug. 18 workout. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — The photograph that accompanied a Sept. 19, 2013 story in the Valley News about Hanover High football pretty much encapsulated the Marauders’ 1-8 season.
The image showed longtime coach Mike Ivanoski with hands on hips, staring down at the running track surrounding the team’s practice field. Facing him, arms spread out at his waist was athletic director Mike Jackson. It was an image of an unhappy conversation between unhappy men at a decidedly unhappy time.
Nearly a year later, however, the turmoil over a team party that led to what Hanover principal Justin Campbell described as “egregiously inappropriate” behavior and the Marauders’ forfeit of their homecoming game has dissipated. Hanover hosted Hartford and Burr & Burton in a scrimmage Saturday and appeared improved. Ivanoski was his old self, alternately growling and grinning, laughing with Hurricanes coach Matt Trombly one minute and the next bellowing for a linebacker to step up in the hole.
“Don’t look at me in that tone of voice,” the perpetually-disheveled bench boss snapped at a bystander in mock disgust, then jammed a whistle between his teeth and charged on to the field, waving his arms wildly to make a point about something to someone.
By the event’s end, Ivanoski was cheered enough to gather his troops around him and pose what amounted to a rhetorical question.
“Do you believe now?” the 20th-year coach asked. “Do you believe we can be the best team in Division II?”
There won’t be many others who share that conviction, however. Hanover is not only trying to rebound from its worst season in more than 20 years, but will do so with only five returning starters. A majority of the line is gone, as is Shawn Cavallaro, a three-year starting quarterback and now a freshman safety at the University of New Hampshire.
Seniors Jack Cavallaro, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, and Joey Porter give the Marauders potency at running back, and the former is also a fearsome linebacker, but beyond that, questions abound.
“You always want to say you’ll be better than last year, but all I can truly say now is that we’re better than when we first practiced last week,” Ivanoski said. “Having said that, I’m excited about this year.”
Ivanoski isn’t nearly as enthusiastic about discussing last season’s problems. A majority of his players were suspended for the third game after attending an Aug. 24 party during which some freshmen performed skits that, according to a letter Campbell later sent to parents, “were of a sexual nature that objectified women.”
Did the following uproar contribute to the team’s lackluster performance? The coach cast his arms wide and shrugged when asked that question Saturday.
“I can’t say, definitively,” said Ivanoski, who’s also a Richmond Middle School English teacher. “We just went out and did the best we could.”
So what was gained from the situation?
“We learned to take accountability for what we do and that we have to do what’s right,” said Ivanoski, whose squad’s first game is a visit from Kingswood on Sept. 12. “The guys know we’re trying to be decent people off the field and hard workers on it. But being good people is first.”
Hanover has already lost a good player in Ben Lynch, who would have started at tight end and safety. The lanky senior broke an ankle during a recent practice and joined massive sophomore Schuyler Cyrus on crutches Saturday. Cyrus, a 6-3, 380-pound defensive lineman, is out with a knee injury of indeterminate severity and if he’s sidelined for any length of time, it will make the Marauders a little less stout up front.
Hanover returns two-way linemen Ethan Gorman and Chris Gundermann, and Ivanoski has been impressed by the play of seniors and first-year starters Ross Martin and Kennedy Marshall at guard and tackle. That pair has been hampered by injuries in the past, but teamed to give Hanover upfield push Saturday.
“Ross hurt his knee last year and couldn’t play, but he put in an amazing amount of work in the weight room and now he looks like a bodybuilder,” Porter said.
Sophomore center Glen Enneper is another rookie, as is freshman tight end Mikey Staiger, whose older brother, John, was once a hulking presence for the team. In the offensive backfield, Cavallaro is the power runner, while the speedy Porter and senior Jeffrey Gorham are more suited to slashes and sweeps.
The Marauders are without a high-profile signal caller for the first time in years, having recently relied on standouts Sam Carney and Shawn Cavallaro. It appears junior Dom Linehan will step into that role after making his first competitive appearance under center Saturday.
“Dom has great athleticism, he learns quickly and he wants to do well,” Ivanoski said. “We’re working on his footwork, but for a guy with such limited experience, he’s doing well.
“With Sam and Shawn, we ran more of a spread look, but now we’re going back to the (power running) Hanover team we’ve been in the past. We’ll use the wing-T with a lot of pulling and trapping to use our athleticism on the line.”
On defense, Porter and Gorham will likely man the corners, with Jack Cavallaro and Marshall at inside linebacker. Sam Hastings, a senior previously better known for his baseball play, is in the mix at outside linebacker, along with junior Chan Kim and Enneper. Linehan should get the nod at free safety.
One unexpected bonus is the arrival of freshman Moises Celaya, whose spring-loaded leg has been sending kickoffs to the goal line and beyond. Although the youngster is adjusting to booting a ball that’s oblong instead of round, just the act of regularly producing touchbacks could be an enormous advantage for Hanover, which Ivanoski said has the most first-year players in the past six or seven years on its 37-man roster.
Porter said he believes upcoming foes will look at Hanover’s 2013 performance and assume they’re in for an easy contest. Proving them wrong is what has pushed him and his teammates in the weight room and during preseason so far, he added.
“I was embarrassed by our performance last year,” Porter said. “People think Hanover football is weak and we want to just come out and hit them and let them know that’s not true.
“This year’s group, from freshmen to seniors, we’re all best friends and I feel I can trust every one of my teammates. It’s so different.”
Notes: Shawn Cavallaro attended the scrimmage and said he’s currently practicing with UNH’s third-string defense. ... Ivanoski, whose wife now works in Boston, acknowledged rampant rumors that this will be his final season at Hanover. “But I’ve been hearing that for 10 years, too,” he said with a small smile. “Put it this way: I’m not planning on not coming back.”... Hanover has an open date on Sept. 5, when many of its Division II counterparts open the season. The Marauders may scrimmage Mascoma that week, now coached by former Hanover coach Les Lawrence, who guided the program from 1982-88 and went 29-34.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.