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Injuries Not an Obstacle

Pierce, Batchelder Get to Play Again

Lebanon — It was the middle of the Mascoma High football team’s rout of Campbell last October when an eerie hush fell over the previously jubilant Royals’ supporters in West Canaan.

Star running back Spencer Pierce had already run for more than 200 yards and five touchdowns before halftime — upping his totals to 1,349 yards and 16 scores on the year — when he was tackled the wrong way on Mascoma’s muddy home turf and broke his lower fibula.

The injury would sideline Pierce for the rest of the Royals’ run to the NHIAA Division VI championship game. It tortured the senior not to play while his team won a pair of games without him, then fell 42-22 against Franklin in the title game, played at Hanover High’s artificial turf field because of excessive mud at Mascoma. Whether or not Pierce’s presence would have changed the outcome against the Golden Tornadoes is impossible to tell, but the Royals sure would have been better suited in attempting to capture their first-ever crown.

What might have been continues to haunt him Pierce.

“It was pretty much as devastating as you could possibly imagine,” Pierce said. “I really, really wanted to be on the field.”

Fortunately for Pierce, he’ll get that chance again this summer in the 60th Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl. Having made a full recovery from the injury, Pierce was selected by his own coach, Ray Kershaw, for a spot on the New Hampshire roster. Kerhsaw and his staff say Pierce was a clear choice, especially after the way he handled the injury. Pierce’s commitment to the Royals didn’t relent, even as he attended practice in crutches while watching others step in to fill his role.

Mascoma (8-3) had the best season of its six-year history.

“He carried us on his back before he got hurt, and it was the same thing after he got hurt,” said Royals skill position coach Kyle Colburn at yesterday’s Shrine Game luncheon at the Lebanon Elks Club, where Pierce was introduced along with the rest of the players from both teams. “He was the first one in, last one out at practice. It’s not easy to have your best player go down, but the way he handled it inspired all of us.”

It was only the second high school season for Pierce, who played in eighth grade for Mascoma’s junior high team but didn’t come out for the Royals as a freshman or sophomore. As for why he came back, Pierce said simply, “I missed the game.”

Kerhsaw is glad he did.

“From day one, it was clear that he would be a leader for us,” Kershaw said. “It was a bad injury, but fortunately not bad enough that it would keep him from playing in this game. He definitely deserves to be here.”

Pierce isn’t the only Granite Stater who’s had to overcome injury. Stevens quarterback-defensive back Logan Batchelder threw for nearly 2,000 yards as a freshman and sophomore before breaking his right tibula and fibula on opening day of his junior season. He missed the whole year while enduring a rehabilitation process that was as arduous emotionally as it was physically.

“I was in bed for about a month, and then it was a lot of physical therapy,” Batchelder said yesterday. “It’s hard to do a lot of things with a broken leg, but fortunately I was able to be healthy again in time for (the 2011-12) basketball season.”

The injury troubles weren’t over for Batchelder, who struggled with unrelated knee problems on the same leg as a senior last fall. What he described as “weird pops” kept him out of three games as the Cardinals went 5-3 to reach the D-V playoffs. Stevens’ two-score loss to Pelham late in the year came with Batchelder on the sideline. The Cards were 4-2 when he played, some of the wins coming as a direct result of Batchelder’s clutch contributions.

He threw a perfect touchdown pass to Billy Brooks, then made the game-clinching interception in Stevens’ 21-16 win over eventual state champion Monadnock. He threw another game-winner to Brooks the following week against Sanborn, then made another game-saving defensive play when he broke up a two-point conversion pass to secure a 14-13 win over InterLakes-Moultonborough.

Cards coach Paul Silva, a New Hampshire assistant for the Shrine Game, inserted Batchelder at wide receiver at times while playing Brooks at QB. No matter where Batchelder roamed, his impact was dramatic.

“He’s just a great all-around football player, whether he’s throwing the ball, catching the ball or playing defense,” Silva said. “He’s a huge difference-maker. He would have been a shoe-in (for the Shrine game roster) without the injuries. So it’s a credit to Kershaw for recognizing that when Logan is healthy, which he is now, he’s definitely a guy you want to have out there.”

Audibles: The teams report to Castleton (Vt.) State College on July 27 for a week of training camp before the Aug. 3 night game at Dartmouth College’s Memorial Field. … Batchelder said he will likely play for the NCAA Division III Spartans next year, but is reserving his final decision until after the training camp experience. Pierce is set to play for D-III Maine Maritime, according to Kershaw. … The game has raised approximately $4.5 million for Shriners hospitals in Boston, Montreal and Springfield, Mass., since its 1954 inception. The hospitals provide free care to patients suffering from burns, orthopedic issues and cleft lips and palates. … Laconia tight end-long snapper Graham Nyhan is the first third-generation New Hampshire player chosen for the Shrine Game. His grandfather, Dan, played on the 1958 team, and his father, Chip, suited up 1984. … Two-way Hartford lineman Mike Dulac, the 2012 Vermont Gatorade Player of the Year, elected to be excluded form the Shrine Game roster in order to focus on his commitment to playing for Bryant University. The Bulldogs’ training camp begins the week following the game.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.