Cardinals Flying Over All the Action
New Hampshire's C.J. Gosselin, of Stevens High, celebrates after bringing down a Vermont opponent. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Vermont's Josh Claflin, of Hartford High, takes his introduction on crutches at the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl in Hanover on Saturday. Claflin was sidelined by an ankle injury in practice earlier in the week. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover — From the field to the sidelines, Stevens High fingerprints were all over Saturday night’s 43-0 New Hampshire win in the 60th Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl.
Cardinals defensive back Logan Batchelder and defensive end CJ Gosselin both made impact plays as the Granite Staters won for the 13th straight year. On the sidelines, Stevens teacher Jada Belt led an entertaining cheerleading squad made up of both Vermont and New Hampshire athletes —including Stevens senior-to-be Emily Charest.
Gosselin, a late addition to New Hampshire’s roster, made 1 1/2 sacks in the first half for a loss of 12 yards while Batchelder made two interceptions with 68 return yards.
“I just feel on top of the world right now,” said Gosselin, who was added as a fill-in for injured Somersworth High graduate Drew Francour. “To come out here and represent Stevens and Claremont is just awesome. I love my town and we had a lot of supporters here. Myself and Logan were able to make plays, which was even better.”
Batchelder helped preserve the Granite State’s shutout by stepping in front of a Vermont receiver and picking off QB Jake Stalcup’s sideline throw to the left side. He returned the interception 68 yards deep into Vermont territory before losing his footing.
“That should have been a pick-six, but I basically just tripped,” Batchelder said with a grin. “It was still a big play, though, because Vermont was knocking on the door at the time.”
Batchelder, who missed much of last season for Stevens with a knee injury, will have surgery later this month. He didn’t appear hobbled in the slightest last night, securing his second interception in the fourth quarter off a deflection to set up New Hampshire’s final touchdown.
After Somersworth’s Francour’s was hurt, Gosselin was chosen to replace him by New Hampshire coach Ray Kershaw, of Mascoma, and his staff following Gosselin’s stellar performance in the CHaD East-West game, where he made 10 total tackles.
“I was texting with (Stevens coach Paul Silva) after the East-West game and promised him I’d turn in my pads soon,” Gosselin recalled. “He said, ‘Actually, CJ, why don’t you hang on to them for a little while because you’re going to need them for the Shrine Game.’
“It was really a dream come true for me because it’s something I’ve always aspired to be in since I was little. There was no East-West game back then. This was it. It’s a great honor.”
Belt’s cheerleading squad first met earlier this summer for an meet-and-greet practice, then rendezvoused on Friday in Hanover and stayed overnight on the Dartmouth College campus. The cheering lineup included athletes from Stevens, Newport, Littleton, Windham and Poultney, among other schools.
“This group had a lot of energy and was really entertaining right off the bat,” said Belt, who has coached the Shrine all-star cheering team for the last three years. “I think this was the most cohesive unit I’ve had (at a Shrine Game) in terms of just getting things together right away.”
Josh Claflin had an unusual viewpoint during yesterday’s festivities, watching much of the game from the bench. After never missing a high school game — starting all 42 contests for the Hurricanes from 2009-12 — the running back/defensive back was stuck on crutches this week with an ankle injury. He hurt it during a hitting drill Monday at Castleton State College, where Shrine training camp was held.
“I was making a tackle and (the ball carrier) just came right down on it,” said Claflin, who ran for 1,470 yards and 23 touchdowns for the unbeaten Vermont Division I state champion Hurricanes last fall and finished with more than 2,000 yards for his career. “It hurt a lot the next day and I put three ice packs on it, which didn’t help. So the coaches told me to go to the hospital, and they told me I had micro tears, something I had never even heard of. ... It’s been tough because I’m so used to being on the field.”
Claflin remained in Castleton for the rest of the week, attending practices in his crutches. He utilized them as noisemakers at times during yesterday’s game, stomping them on the ground.
In the second quarter, he felt so strongly that Hartford teammate Taylor Potter should have been awarded a fumble recovery — New Hampshire maintained possession on the play — that he got up off the bench and demanded an explanation from the back judge.
“It was important for me to still be part of this game,” said Claflin, who’s headed to New England College to play basketball. “I was there all week at practice and just reminded (teammates) that they’re privileged to be playing in this game.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.