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2020 HS football preview: Just happy to be on the gridiron

  • Lebanon football coaches Todd Bircher, left, and Chris Childs attach face shields to players' helmets during a practice on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 in Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hartford's Brayden Trombly runs through a footwork drill with other quarterbacks at the first practice for 7-on-7 football in White River Junction, Vt., on Sept. 8, 2020 as coach Matt Trombly watches. At left is returning starter Cole Jasmin. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Masked up for play, Cole Jasmin talks about the upcoming season to be played during the pandemic at the opening of the 7-on-7 football practices in White River Junction, Vt., on Sept. 8, 2020. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon football player Hunter Grant watches practice on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Lebanon, N.H. The school is attaching shields onto players' helmets for protection during the pandemic. Grant's only had the lower section on -- the upper will be attached as well. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon football player Stephen Miller and his teammates work on tackles during a practice on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 10/1/2020 8:01:59 AM
Modified: 10/1/2020 12:56:02 PM

From the top of the map to the bottom, high school football programs around the Upper Valley are grateful just to be playing this fall.

The game will look like it always has in New Hampshire; there will just be a lot less of it. Football was the last sport given the OK to play by the NHIAA, a coronavirus-influenced decision that lopped about half of the games off of each team’s original schedule. Now all will play five contests (six, in Mascoma’s case) into the end of October, with the playoff plan still to be decided.

Lebanon has been bumped up to Division II and will finally get Hanover back on the schedule. It’ll be a stiff test for a Raider program that rode excellent quarterback Jon Willeman and an opportunistic defense to the D-III championship game last November.

Stevens, a D-III semifinalist, stays in the division but does so without three-year 1,000-rusher Keaghan McAllister, now graduated. After two seasons in D-III and a tournament appearance last fall, Newport joins Mascoma in Division IV.

The Vermont government determined long ago there would be no tackle football in 2020 because of the pandemic, but state football authorities have set up a seven-on-seven season in its stead. Schedules have been set without regard to division, leaving Hartford, Windsor and Woodstock to compete against each other for the first time since the old Connecticut Valley League days. Oxbow will be in a league dominated by Northeast Kingdom schools. No postseason is planned, although some hope for a change of heart on that issue.

HANOVER

Coach: Sam Cavallaro (6).

Last year: 0-9, missed playoffs.

League: NHIAA Division II.

Returnees: Seniors — Moe Kado (RB/DB), Sawyer Brown (WR/DB), Eric Blix (RB/DB), Gabe Schroeder (TE/DL), Hank Trimble (RB/LB), Danny Pitiger (OL/LB), Ben Wagner (OL/DL). Juniors — Seamus Murphy (RB/LB), Colin Pierce (QB/DB), Josh Bucci (TE/LB), Jack Crandell (OL/DL), Connor Chambers (OL/DL). Sophomore — Ben Williams (RB/DB).

Newcomers: Senior — Will Cahoon (TE/DL). Juniors — Declan Flynn (RB/LB), Taj Bagnato (RB/DB), Aidan Peterson (RB/DB), Jared Mercado (OL/DL), Ethan Gailey (OL/DL). Sophomores — Ian Solberg (WR/DB), Matthew Brock (TE/LB), Jonathan Oriol (RE/DB), Elijah Geoghegan (RB/DB), Judd Dunne (RB/DB), Pat Elder (OL/DL), Montana Hanchett (OL/DL), Jack Starkey (OL/DL), Clem Newbold (OL/DL), Brendan Logan (WR/LB). Freshmen — Roger Lucas (QB/DB), Iain Fielder (WR/DB), Mateo Trimble (RB/DB), Caleb Buskey (TE/LB), Jeffrey Vidou (RB/LB), Nels Jones (OL/DL), Wyatt Thibodeau (OL/DL), Bennet Palmer (OL/DL), Teddy Sumner (TE/LB).

Analysis: After a winless 2019, the only direction the Marauders can go is up. The backfield is filled with potential in Moe Kado, Seamus Murphy (team-high 592 rushing yards) and Ben Williams, a fleet-footed sophomore who impressed in summer baseball. An intriguing newcomer is Will Cahoon, who bypassed a captain’s role with Hanover golf to try football as a senior; he could start at tight end and defensive end.

Said sixth-year coach Sam Cavallaro: “Our guys and coaches are happy every day we can play.”

HARTFORD

Coach: Matt Trombly (6).

Last year: 4-5, lost to Burr & Burton in quarterfinals.

League: VPA Division I.

Returnees: Senior — Cole Jasmin (QB/DB), Jackson Balch (OL/LB), Jacob Dwinell (WR/DB), Alex Bushway (RB/DB), Kobe Peach (WR/DB/K/P). Junior — Harry Gaudet (OL/DL). Sophomores — A.J. Aldrich (OL/DL), Connor Tierney (OL/DL).

Newcomers: Senior — Devin Denk (OL/DL). Juniors — Jacob Seaver (WR/DB), Devon Sinclair (OL/DL), Colin Vielleux (QB/DB). Sophomore — Nolan Morse (RB/DB).

Analysis: In this strange season of seven-on-seven, the Hurricanes have an advantage thanks to returning quarterback Cole Jasmin, who threw for 836 yards and eight touchdowns out of Hartford’s traditional wing-T last year. Kobe Peach (three TD receptions) and Jacob Dwinell front the Canes’ receiver corps and will be key defensive back in seven-man along with lanky junior Colin Vielleux. Coach Matt Trombly also likes his deep supply of linemen, who will play pitch and catch against each other in the seven-on-seven format.

“The new format fits our smaller, quicker skill players,” Trombly said. “Our linemen have progressed quickly learning a new system.”

LEBANON

Coach: Chris Childs (14).

Last year: 10-2, lost to Trinity in NHIAA Division III final, 28-21.

League: NHIAA Division II.

Returnees: Seniors — Calvin Bates (WR/DB), John Carrier (OL/DL), Jake Hibner (RB/DB), Josh Mondragon (OL/DL). Juniors — C.J. Childs (RB/LB), Cam Davio (OL/DE), Justin Decarlo (TE/LB), Jack Stone (QB/S), Zach Whitcomb (C/DE).

Newcomers: Senior — Logan Sanchez (RB/LB). Juniors — Connor Brown (OL/DE), Zander Colonese (OL/DL), Hunter Grant (WR/LB), Noah Mekus (RB/LB/K), Steve Miller (OL/DL), Cole Shambo (RB/LB; transfer from Hartford), Nyoti Punni (RB/LB), Sebastian Yates (OL/DE). Sophomore — Tanner Ames (TE/DE).

Analysis: A shift in population parameters has bumped the Raiders back to Division II for the next two seasons after coming within one game of grabbing their first state championship since 2010 in last year’s D-III title game. That squad lost a superb quarterback in Jon Willeman (reportedly a preferred walk-on with the UNH men’s basketball program) and a very good all-purpose back in Wade Rainey (1,531 offensive yards, 21 TDs, Upper Valley-best 179 points) to graduation, a blow somewhat lessened by the transfer of running back Cole Shambo (698 rushing yards, five TDs) from Hartford High. Junior Jack Stone steps into Willeman’s shoes behind center, and C.J. Childs should be a factor on both sides of the football.

“We look forward to playing football,” 14th-year head coach Chris Childs said. “Our kids have worked hard this summer and look forward to see how we stand at the end of the year.”

MASCOMA

Coach: Kyle Colburn (3).

Last year: 3-4, missed playoffs.

League: NHIAA Division IV.

Returnees: Seniors — Josh Evans (RB/DB), Bryan Lowell (WR/DB), Zack Mardin (WR/DB), Cooper Peavey (RB/DB), Mike Evans (QB/DB), Kolbi McBee (OL/DL), Caleb Hobbs (OL/DT). Juniors — Roman Farnsworth (RB/DB), Joshua Williams (RB/DB), Owen McKinney (OL/DL), Hawkens Barton (OL/DL). Sophomore — Asa Michetti (RB/LB).

Newcomers: Senior — Elyas Jenkins (RB/DB). Juniors — Tyler Mekus (WR/LB), Ethan Gelinas (K/LB), Isaiah Roussel (OL/DL), Chris Robison (WR/DE). Sophomores — Leigham Tetreault (WR/DL), Micah Hawxhurst (RB/DB). Freshmen — Connor Hobbs (RB/DB), Tyler Mardin (QB/MLB), D’Amien Nestle (RB/MLB), Gabby Pierce (OL/DL), Nate McGrody (RB/DB), Tyler Stark (WR/OL/DE/MLB).

Analysis: A young Mascoma team improved gradually last fall to the point where the Royals nearly slipped into the Division IV playoffs. Mike Evans leads the returning cast, having nearly thrown for 1,000 yards with nine TD passes in 2019. Receivers Josh Evans (277 yards, three TDs) and Cooper Peavey (222 yards, three TDs) are also back; the trio also combined for more than 800 rushing yards. All-staters Caleb Hobbs and Hawkens Barton return to the line, as does Josh Evans to the defensive backfield. D-IV, however, is larger and deeper than last year, with Newport and Somersworth joining to make it a 10-team circuit.

“We know it’s going to be a tough year, with probably the hardest schedule the school will ever face,” third-year coach Kyle Colburn noted. “But we look forward to just having the chance to compete every week against great competition.”

NEWPORT

Coach: John Proper (2).

Last year: 4-6, lost to eventual champion Trinity in first round of D-III tournament.

League: NHIAA Division IV.

Returnees: Seniors — Bryce Willey (WR/CB), Marius Edwards (QB/LB), Chase Hamilton (TE/DE), Ryder Lovely (WR/CB), Tanner Proper (TE/LB), Josh Sharron (HB/LB), Jagger Lovely (HB/LB), Josh Orlowski (C/DT), Adriano Urista (T/DT). Juniors — Darshawn Chesser (HB/S), Devyn Heino (FB/DE), Lian Almstrom (T/DT), Kaiden Seymour (T/DT). Sophomore — Makyi Matheson (T/DT).

Newcomers: Seniors — Kyle Ashley (QB/S), Caleb Turgeon (T/DT), Hunter Brunt (G/DT), Hayden Patenaude (G/DT), Nick Hogan (TE/LB), Adam Whipple (TE/DE). Juniors — Jayden Conroy (QB/CB), Karter Pollari (FB/LB), Bryce Ashley (FB/LB), Dylon Carpenter (G/DT), Luke Bartlett (C/DT), Sam Hebert (TE/DE), Jackson Dame (TE/LB), Cameron Howard (TE/DE). Sophomores — Tyler Patenaude (QB/S), Garion LaCasse (QB/CB), Tyler Gobin (HB/LB), Darren Janicke (WR/CB), Geoffrey Morrie (G/LB), Arthur Stanley (C/LB), Tommy Spiker (G/LB), Timmy Fratzel (G/DT), Jack Simard (T/DT). Freshmen — Dominic Johnson (HB/DE), Logan Ash (G/DT), Andrew Chartier (T/DT).

Analysis: The Tigers have returned to NHIAA Division IV, and they should be competitive from the start. Halfback Josh Sharron (10 TDs) is the top returning rusher in the Upper Valley, and quarterback Marius Edwards returns after tossing six touchdown passes in 2019. Returning starters fill a total of 21 positions on both sides of the ball, giving second-year coach John Proper a good foundation for the new campaign.

OXBOW

Coach: Chad Wescott (2).

Last year: 3-6, lost in first round.

League: VPA Division III.

Returnees: Seniors — Dylan Shaw (OL/DL), Drew Shaw (OL/DL), Jordan Johnson (QB/DB). Juniors — Gavin Tellier (RB/LB; attends Blue Mountain), Dana Blair (WR/DB). Sophomores — Nikk Schwarz (RB/LB; attends Rivendell), Will Ilsley (RB/S), Ben Knehr (TE/LB), Calvin Carbee (OL/DL).

Newcomers: Seniors — Memphis Cahill (OL/DL), Justin Qui (WR/DB), Cody Brown (WR/DB; attends Blue Mountain). Sophomores — Xavier Beaudoin (WR/DB), Ryland Cahill (QB/LB), Chase Lund (RB/LB). Freshman — Kody Schwarz (RB/S; attends Rivendell), Hunter Fahey (TE/LB; attends Blue Mountain).

Analysis: If there’s ever a time to break in a young roster, second-year Oxbow coach Chad Wescott has found it. Vermont’s seven-on-seven format will take the pressure off the Olympians to stay healthy — the varsity roster counts just 17 athletes — in a geographical division filled with D-I and D-II teams. The prolific pass-catch combination of Cooper Simmons and Hunter Locke graduated; senior Jordan Johnson and sophomore Ryland Cahill will take over. Seven-man football will give the Olympians a season to rebuild their skill-position ranks in advance of a return to regular D-III play next year.

“We are a very young, inexperienced group this year; graduated all of our skill players,” Wescott noted. “We have added some good athletes that, once they get a grasp on the game, will be dangerous the next few years.”

STEVENS

Coach: Paul Silva (10).

Last year: 6-5, lost to eventual champion Trinity in D-III semifinals.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returnees: Seniors — Braxton LeBlanc (TE/LB), J.J. Tursky (WR/DB), Owen Taylor (QB/S), Clayton Wadsworth (WR/DB), Eddie Brodeur (OL/DL). Juniors — Keegan Batchelder (WR/S), Zack Bundy (QB/DB), Pascal Lemieux (RB/LB), Angelo Gardner (RB/LB), Hunter Christian (RB/LB), Tobyn Von Kahle (OL/DL), Liam Williams (OL/DL). Sophomores — Kaden Thyne (WR/DB), Jai-Lique Ribeiro (RB/LB), A.J. Rozzell (OL/DL), Robert Inglee (OL/DL), Carson Vielguth (C/DT), Lucas Smith (OL/DE), Colby Shepard (OL/LB), Xavier Glidden (OL/DL), Cam Oxton (C/DL).

Newcomers: Senior — Luke Forrest (WR/DB). Juniors — Nick Burke (WR/DB), Quade Salony (OL/DL). Sophomores — Evan Lee (WR/LB), Aiden White (RB/LB). Freshman — Kurtis Chaloux (WR/LB), Tyler Christian (QB/LB), Aiden Barry (RB/LB), Wyatt Burke (OL/DL), Braeden Pignatiello (OL/DL), Brayden Rostron (OL/DL).

Analysis: The Cardinals may have graduated the Upper Valley’s most prolific running back of the past three years in Keaghan McAllister — and a fair number of other starters, too — but opponents know well enough to not undersell any team Paul Silva coaches. The 2016 state champs and semifinalist in four of the past five years, Stevens is always prepared for the next challenge. Returning quarterback Owen Taylor (729 passing yards, four TDs) will be dealing with a rebuilt backfield but he’ll have at least three starting linemen returning for protection.

“We will have growing pains as the younger players learn on the job, but that is how you get better — by playing,” Silva said. “Just getting the chance to play contact football in these unprecedented times is a win. We are taking it one day at a time and not taking any day for granted.”

WINDSOR

Coach: Greg Balch (7).

Last year: 4-6, lost to eventual champion Poultney in semifinals.

League: VPA Division III.

Returnees: Seniors — Caden Lockwood (WR), Logan Goad (WR), John Cook (RB), Jackson Davis (RB), Jordan Place (QB). Juniors — Austin Gauld (WR), Ben Gilbert (WR), Dalton Clifford (WR). Sophomores — Logan Worall (RB), Maison Fortin (QB).

Newcomers: Seniors — Gage Dillingham (C), Owen Abrahamsen (WR), Owen Rhoad (WR). Juniors — Kaleb Smith (WR), Kaleb Swett (WR), Richie Young (WR). Sophomores — Roger Peterman (WR), Bradley Bowers (WR), Vance Martin (WR), Charles Palmer (WR), Jordan Hart (WR), Travis McAllister (WR). Freshman — Landon Mas (WR), Tanner Moody (WR), Corey Lockwood (QB), Bradley Adams (WR), Anthony Cook (WR), Brody Osgood (WR).

Analysis: Vermont’s football teams could have taken the news of seven-on-seven as a depressing sign of the pandemic times, or they could respond as seventh-year head coach Greg Balch’s Yellowjackets have. With many players adjusting to new roles in lineman-less football, Balch has been impressed with how his team has attacked the challenge. That leaves him optimistic going into a season in which almost all of their foes will come from bigger schools.

“The strength of this team centers around their attitude, effort and togetherness,” Balch said. “They have embraced (seven-on-seven) and are working every day to improve. The biggest challenge will be adjusting to a completely different game, but the early results are encouraging.”

WOODSTOCK

Coach: Ramsey Worrell (8).

Last year: 0-9, lost in first round.

League: VPA Division III.

Returnees: Senior — Caleb Palazzo (C/WR/LB). Juniors — Corey White (WR/DB), Wyatt Begin (WR/DB), Memphis Begin (WR/DB), Eric Blanchard (WR/LB), Colby Eaton (QB/DB), Robby Macri (WR/DB).

Newcomers: Juniors — Liam Harper (WR/DB), Ryan Leonard (WR/DB), Nixon Malik (WR/DB), Otto Nisimblat (WR/DB), Alexander Rice (WR/LB), Jake Weir (WR/LB). Sophomores — Cody Bartlett (WR/LB), Ezekiel Linder (WR/LB), Judson Maxham (WR/LB), Izaiah Moses (WR/LB), Willy Underwood (WR/DB), Ethan Westney (WR/LB). Freshmen — Meridian Bremel (WR/DB), Jordan O’Neal (WR/DB), Brooks Ruderman (QB/DB).

Analysis: Like Hanover, Woodstock has only up for a direction after a winless season last fall. Colby Eaton steps into the quarterback role left by the graduated Trevor White. The Wasps do have a skill position anchor in Corey White, who led the team in rushing and receiving yards last season.




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