Like Fathers — Like Sons
Hartford Players Continue Impressive Family Legacies
Hartford's Taylor Potter gets into his equipment for afternoon practice with the Vermont Shrine Maple Siugar Bowl team at Castleton State College in Castleton, Vt., on July 31, 2013. Potter's father, Matt, played in the game 30 years ago. (Valley News — James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hartford's Nolan Frechette makes a catch during a scrimmage while practicing with the Vermont Shrine Bowl Team at Castleton State College in Castleton, Vt., on July 31, 2013. Frechette's father Chad Frechette played in the annual game against New Hampshire 25 years ago. (Valley News — James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hartford's Taylor Potter catches a pass from Vermont Shrine Bowl coach Jason Thomas during practice at Castleton State College in Castleton, Vt., on July 31, 2013. Potter's father, Matt, played in the game 30 years ago. (Valley News — James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
White River Junction — Here’s a thought that crossed Chad Frechette’s mind when his son, Nolan, was selected to play in Saturday’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl: It’s about time.
An explanation: Many moons ago, when Nolan Frechette was a runt running around the house, it wasn’t unusual for him to do so in his dad’s old Shrine football jersey. As he grew into high school-hood, Nolan went a step beyond: He chose the same number, 84, his father had worn years ago at Hartford High.
The time has come, alas, for change.
“I’ve got my roster and my Shrine book that comes out, and I have the jersey; I kept that,” Chad Frechette checked off this week. “He was wearing it as a little kid, but he no longer wants it. He wants his own.”
And Nolan will get it, one day hence, when he and Hartford teammate Taylor Potter both become second-generation Shrine Game participants for Vermont in the annual all-star gridiron tilt with New Hampshire at Dartmouth College’s Memorial Field.
“He would always make me watch his Shrine tape,” Nolan said on Thursday afternoon as his Vermont team prepared to work out at Castleton State College’s Spartan Stadium. “It’s funny how I’m here now.”
For Chad Frechette and Matt Potter, it really is about time this week.
Thirty years ago, the elder Potter got the call from then-Burlington High coach (and one-time Boston Patriot lineman and kicker) Bob Yates to join Vermont’s Shrine squad. As has been the case in recent Augusts, New Hampshire prevailed, 29-8. A quarterback until Hartford assistant coach Bob Potter (no relation) moved him into the backfield, Matt Potter saw time on both sides of the ball at the end of a Shrine week that flew right by.
“The game happens so quickly; there’s so much pomp and circumstance and the fanfare that goes with it,” Potter recalled this week. “For a 17-year-old, it was over before I knew it. For me, it was a different day of football only because it was fun to be a part of it.”
The same went for the elder Frechette, who had a key fourth-quarter catch in the 1988 Shrine Game that set up the winning field goal in a 24-21 Vermont win, one of just three for the Green Mountain State in the past 25 years.
“I thought it was a long shot that I’d be selected,” Frechette said. “I was a Division II player with not a whole lot of experience as the (Hartford coach) Mike Stone era was concerned. It was an honor to be chosen.”
Now they’re enjoying the role of proud fathers.
“As football guys, it’s so much fun to see (Taylor) sort of reach this culmination,” said Matt Potter, whose brother, John, played on Vermont’s Shrine team in 1974. “I consider it one of the highest honors as a Vermont or New Hampshire player. With that in mind, I’m proud my son was able to achieve that.”
So many years later, the memories of the game fade, but those involving the cause don’t.
“You’ve heard the story before — seeing the kids is really an eye-opening experience, for everybody involved,” Chad Frechette said. “People these days are talking about how is Vermont going to compete with New Hampshire and how to make the game closer. People don’t realize that they’re not playing the game to win or lose; they’re playing to raise money for kids. People should forget about wins and losses.”
The younger ex-Hurricanes have tried to soak in everything involved with Shrine week, even as they face different sporting futures.
Taylor Potter wraps up his high school football career tomorrow. A versatile two-way player for the Hurricanes working out as a slot receiver this week, his destiny lies at the University of Rhode Island without the influence of the gridiron.
“(Dad) hasn’t pressured me into making the team but, at the same time, he’s been like, ‘Oh, if you made it, it would be really awesome,’ ” Potter recalled yesterday at Castleton. “As it’s come down to, I have. It’s really good to experience that. …
“It’s a little sad, but it’s exciting. I know to play hard; no matter what happens, leave it all out on the field.”
Chad Frechette was assigned No. 84 when he was in high school; Nolan chose it. Now the second-generation Hurricane gets to continue what is becoming something of a Frechette family tradition.
“I play the same positions as him (tight end/defensive end), and he’s been my biggest role model my whole life,” said the younger Frechette, who returns to Castleton later this month to join the football program. “(The number) 84 is a tight end number, anyway, and it’s just awesome how it just worked out like that. Being 84 and being with my dad is just awesome.
“It really means a lot. I actually get to fill out my family legacy, and hopefully I get to continue it on in later years.”
There are more important things ahead, however — one last game in high school colors.
And it’s about time.
Quick Hits: Josh Claflin’s high school football career is over. The Hartford High graduate was looking at playing time at tailback and defensive back in Saturday’s game, but he sustained ligament micro-tears in his right ankle during a tackling drill on Monday. The injury ended his Shrine experience, at least from a playing standpoint. “I was pretty upset, but now I’m just trying to make sure everybody knows what it’s about, what a big thrill it is to still be on the field, playing in this game,” said Claflin, who is bound for the men’s basketball program at New England College, which doesn’t offer football. “(I’m) making sure they’re still working hard, and I’m just trying to be the best teammate I can be.” … Aside from an opening workout, New Hampshire coach Ray Kershaw has had his squad drilling on a bumpy grass rugby pitch well away from — but within eyeshot of — Spartan Stadium’s artificial turf this week. “Part of it is it’s a lot cooler up here,” said Kershaw, the Mascoma coach during Thursday afternoon’s rain-soaked exercise. “All the kids are comfortable being up here, away from all the distractions.” … Claflin’s injury means both teams will field 35-player rosters, one below the maximum, for Saturday’s game. The two squads will hold walk-throughs on Dartmouth’s turf this afternoon.
Greg Fennell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3226.