One Final Time to Get Some Kicks: Hanover’s Celaya MVP at CHaD East-West Game

  • Matthew Eylander (27), Lebanon tries to gain control of the ball in the annual CHaD East/West game at UNH on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

  • Nick Putnam (69), Hanover tries to shunt a pass by Cody Graham (9), Portsmouth in the annual CHaD East/West game at UNH on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

  • Moises Celaya (10), Hanover, takes a practice kick prior to going on the field at the annual CHaD East/West game at UNH on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

  • Moises Celaya (10), Hanover, kicks an extra point in the annual CHaD East/West game at UNH on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

  • Moises Celaya (10), Hanover, receives the MVP award at the conclusion of the annual CHaD East/West game at UNH on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

  • The "West" team celebrates their victory at the conclusion of the annual CHaD East/West game at UNH on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Alan MacRae/Valley News)

Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 30, 2018

Durham, n.h. — There was a time when Moises Celaya thought he might not play high school football. Now he’s headed to a college program as his senior all-star game’s most valuable player.

Celaya, exclusively a kicker during four seasons at Hanover High, was 3-for-3 on extra points, booted a 33-yard field goal and averaged 53.8 yards on four towering punts to earn MVP honors in the West’s 24-20 win in the CHaD East-West all-star game at the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Stadium on Saturday.

Goffstown quarterback Andrew Duvall rushed around the right side from seven yards out for the winning score with 4 minutes, 28 seconds remaining as the West prevailed for the second straight year and fifth time overall in the seven-year history of the game, which raises money for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth.

The 55-yard drive was set up a bad snap by the East that resulted in a minus-3-yard punt, one of a pair of special teams miscues that cost the Easterners. The other, an extra point blocked by Newport’s Peter Thibault, ultimately meant the East trailed by four points instead of three late and couldn’t tie it with a late field goal.

Celaya and the West, conversely, dominated on special teams. The Marauder kept field position in the West’s favor during a scoreless first quarter with punts of 55 and 54 yards, the latter pinning the East inside the 1-yard line.

Celaya later had a booming 63-yard punt that had the packed West stands oohing as though watching early fireworks, bouncing out of bounds at the 3-yard line. He was down the middle on a 33-yard field goal with 7 seconds left in the third quarter.

Eschewing soccer in favor of football in seventh grade, Celaya played full contact in junior high, but his parents insisted he didn’t in high school. He ended up the Marauders’ four-year starting kicker and has been recruited to do the same at NCAA Division III Colby College in Maine beginning this fall.

“Baseball was kind of my favorite sport, and (my parents) just didn’t want me to get hurt and not be able to play that,” Celaya said after receiving the MVP trophy at midfield. “(Hanover football) coaches agreed that I could just kick, and I put a lot of work into it after that. I know a lot of people think that kickers don’t really do anything at practice, that we don’t push ourselves and are just kind of there goofing off, so I wanted to prove them wrong.”

West special teams coach Colin Brown — son of head coach Eric Brown, of Concord High — was certainly glad to have a kicking specialist on his side on Saturday.

“What a weapon,” Colin Brown said. “He’s got a really strong leg and great technique. We all know special teams is a huge part of football, but it’s another thing to go out there and execute. For him to put the ball inside the 5 twice and make all his kicks in a game like this, it just tells you he’s a special player.”

Celaya said his kickoffs are his best strength. He had two touchbacks on Saturday, but Salem’s Josh Sibanda had returns of 33 and 57 yards on kicks that fell just short of the end zone. The former helped set up an East touchdown in the second quarter.

Celaya’s only other hiccup came on the kickoff following his own field goal. Experiencing cramps and not wanting to boot it back to Sibanda (220 all-purpose yards), Celaya squibbed a kick that trickled out of bounds inside the 10, the penalty giving the East the ball at the 35.

“It’s tough when you’re cramping up, because you still have to kick,” said Celaya, who also received a $500 book award from the Joe Yukica Chapter of the National Football Foundation as part of winning the game MVP. “I thought a squib would be the best thing in that scenario.”

The East outgained the West in total offense, 307-182, and twice led in the second half.

The West struck on the first play of the second quarter, newly inserted QB Robert Connor, of Bedford, scrambling 35 yards to paydirt on his first play from scrimmage and Celaya’s PAT making it 7-0.

The East answered on the ensuing drive, Portsmouth QB Cody Graham finding Spaulding receiver Mitchel Stokes for 23 yards on third-and-10 before connecting with Dover’s John Cantwell for a 20-yard score on another third-and-long. Pat Zepf’s PAT made it 7-7.

The East went ahead during the final minute of the quarter, Graham hitting Stokes on a 12-yard pass to give the it a 14-7 edge at halftime.

“We had some adversity to overcome in this one, which we talked about at halftime,” said Eric Brown. “What I liked about this team and our performance was that we kept coming back.”

The West tied it up on its first possession of the third quarter, Nashua South QB Sean Holland finding Goffstrown’s Andrew Duval for 32 yards on third down before a 24-yard connection with Lebanon’s Matt Eylander, who shook off defenders before getting wrestled down at the 3. Two plays later, Holland found Plymouth’s Garrett Macomber for a scoring pass to make it 14-14.

Following a West fumble on a punt return, Graham hit Tim Bouchard for a 23-yard score to regain the lead for the East. Thibault, who had five tackles playing on the defensive line, got a mitt on the Zepf’s PAT attempt to keep it 20-14.

The West pulled within 20-17 on Celaya’s 33-yard field goal with seven seconds left in the third.

The West took over with 7:09 to play following the East’s punting miscue, and finally got its ground game going on the winning drive. Duval rushed for 24 yards and Joe Eichman for 23 to the East 11, and two more running plays, capped by Duval’s keeper, made it 24-20 following Celaya’s third PAT.

The East earned jut one first down on the ensuing drive and took its final timeout with 2:32 to play and the West in possession. A 17-yard rush by Bedford’s Thomas Norfleet iced it.

Extra Points: Lebanon’s Ryan Shippa saw time on the offensive line and Hanover’s Nick Putnam made one tackle while playing defensive end. … Nick’s twin brother, Caleb, was selected to the team but sat out because of a shoulder injury. Caleb Putnam, who ran for 1,025 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Marauders last fall, intends to walk on to the football program at UNH, Nick Putnam said. Meanwhile, Nick Putnam (Plymouth State), Eylander (Western New England) and Shippa (Ithaca) are all slated to play college football. … The game’s fundraising efforts and sponsorships raised around $271,000 for programs and services at CHaD, according to a game representative.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.