Vision Pays a Benefit

North Sutton, n.h. — Kearsarge High School’s Jordan Barthol bought a New Hampshire towel at the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl all-star football game four years ago. He took the towel home and put it up on one of the walls in his bedroom.

“That’s when I began thinking I’d like to play in that game some day,” said Barthol. “It was kind of a visual goal.”

It worked.

The same day about which Barthol wished has become a reality, having been chosen for the New Hampshire Shrine Team that will take on Vermont in less than two weeks. Barthol will be joined by Kearsarge teammate Oliver Gallo in the Aug. 3 contest at Dartmouth College’s Memorial Field.

It’s the first time two Cougars have made the team in the same year. With New Hampshire coach Ray Kershaw of Mascoma High limited to choosing just six players take from the NHIAA Division V league (as with the state’s five other divisions), Cougars coach Zach Matthews realizes that this is quite an accomplishment for his team, which went 7-2 last fall.

But he isn’t surprised.

“These are not only two outstanding football players, but outstanding young men as well,” explained Matthews, who chuckled a bit when he mentioned that both players are going to Vermont colleges — Barthol to Norwich, where he hopes to play football, and Gallo to St. Michael’s, where he wants to play lacrosse.

Both players are expected to be on the defensive side of the ball in the Shrine Game, Barthol likely at linebacker and Gallo in the defensive secondary. Matthews used both players in high school both ways and both were in the backfield on offense.

“I think Barthol was taken because he’s so versatile,” said Matthews, who said the 210-pounder can drop back into pass coverage as well as guard against the run as a linebacker. “He’s very versatile.”

As for Gallo, “if he gets his hands on you, you’re going down,” Matthews noted. The Kearsarge coach added that Barthol was they type of player “that I always had him shadowing the other team’s best player. He did all the dirty work and never complained.”

Both players are similar in that they stopped playing baseball in grade school and switched to lacrosse because baseball was just to slow for them. “I got bored with baseball,” said Gallo.

Gallo got a look at what the Shrine Game is about when he went to a team gathering and saw a little girl with an affliction that made him realize that this was not about winning a football game.

“I really know why we’re playing this game now,” he said. “It’s not about winning or losing, but making some money for kids like that little girl.”

Barthol knows that New Hampshire has dominated the game for a long time, and he also knows that Vermont will likely be helped by the fact that New Hampshire will no longer have a large number of Division I and II athletes. However, he doesn’t think that the roster alterations will change much of Kershaw’s outlook for the game.

“I’ve talked to him and still think we’re going to run the ball a lot and keep going at Vermont,” said Barthol. “(It’s) a little controlled chaos. Controlled chaos is a lot of fun.”

One thing that impressed Barthol when the team got together was the size of some of his teammates. “I looked around the room and saw all these big guys,” he said. “My goodness.”

Division V’s Shrine contributions include Stevens quarterback Logan Batchelder, and Matthews is glad for that. He was standing on the sideline in 2010 when Batchelder tackled near the Kearsarge bench and broke his leg. “You know all of us have some strong feelings about Logan,” said Matthews. “That game made us all think how quick things can change like they did to Logan. His injury put things in perspective. He’s a great kid.”

When the football season ended for Kearsarge last fall with that painful defeat to Monadnock in the playoffs, Gallo thought he had played his last football game. Instead, he and Barthol will report to Castleton State College on Saturday, with a week of practice and a trip to the Shriners’ hospital between then and the clash with Vermont at Dartmouth.

“Now I get to play one more football game,” Gallo said. “And what an honor it is going to be to play in this special game. I can’t wait.”