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Raising The Stakes

Newport-Stevens Rivalry Reaches New Level

Claremont — A rivalry that goes back decades resumes on Saturday, when Stevens High greets Newport in the Western Conference championship of the NHIAA Division III tournament.

The winner advances to the D-III final four.

Earlier this season, Stevens nipped Newport 9-6 in a game that was dominated by defense.

The rivalry’s boiling point occurred in 1959, when Stevens took a 16-8 win so controversial the series was shelved for 20 years. Newport star Jimmy Judd suffered a broken ankle. Some fans insisted it was broken intentionally at the bottom of a pile, while others believed it was just an unfortunate football play. The game’s officiating also endured criticism.

Saturday’s game is being played in Claremont because the Cardinals had a higher rating in the NHIAA’s method of determining the standings.

“I don’t care where we play,” Newport coach Larry Carle said after the Tigers dispatched Mascoma last week to grab the final playoff position.

Both teams will enter the game healthy, especially Newport, which had four players banged up for the Mascoma game.

“All hands are on deck,” Carle said.

One item that pleased Carle during the win at Mascoma was the team’s offensive balance — the Tigers scored three times on the ground and three through the air.

“Newport’s a hard team to prepare for,” Stevens coach Paul Silva said. “Larry always does such a good job getting his teams ready.”

Silva said even though he knows the Newport coaching staff is familiar with his team and its styles and tendencies, he doesn’t plan on putting anything new in.

“You only have a few days to get ready and there is just not enough time,” Silva said. “You start practice at 2:30 and it gets dark before you know it. We’re just going to fine tune everything. Maybe you are looking for trouble if you put new stuff in now.”

Carle also will go with what got his team this far, and hope for the best.

“One of the best football players I ever had here was Corey Caron, who went into each game not caring who the opposition was and just went out and played the same way,” Carle said. “It’s not that complicated. You know where the game is and you go there and play regardless of what it says on the uniform.”

While a big crowd is expected, Silva said it might feel like the old Connecticut Valley League days.

“It’s going to be a title game no matter how you look at,” he said. “Last week, at the Raymond game, you could look across the field and see that there were not many people there.

“This week will be different. Kids like playing in front of big crowds.”

Both teams feature stout lines on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Newport quarterback Tom Hogan, a junior, leads the Upper Valley with 12 touchdown passes. He also can hand off to Noah Wade (seven TDs), CJ Lawrence (nine TDs) and Tanner Sherman (seven TDs).

Stevens counters with 1,056-yard rusher Donald Pellerin.

“Each game is like Christmas day for me,” he said after the Cardinals’ win over Newport earlier this season.

“I just love it so much. You can fight through any pain, any struggle. When you love the game so much it’s easy.”