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Royals Turn the Page: Mascoma Football Coach Brings New Look

  • Mascoma High quarterback Hawk Shawn prepares to throw a pass during the Royals' Aug. 14, 2018, practice. The team is preparing for its first season under former assistant and new head coach Kyle Colburn. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint » —Tris Wykes

  • Kyle Colburn takes attendance before the Mascoma High football team's Aug. 14, 2018, practice. The former Lebanon High quarterback and junior varsity boys basketball coach is in his first season guiding the Royals. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint » Valley News — Tris Wykes

  • Caleb McAlister, Mascoma High senior football player. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint » —Tris Wykes

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 8/22/2018 12:59:19 AM
Modified: 8/22/2018 3:14:42 PM

West Canaan — For a guy new to being in charge, Kyle Colburn relies a lot on lessons learned from other guys in charge.

From Kieth Matte, Colburn is employing practice plans that involve construction and repetition. From Ray Kershaw, Colburn is instituting game plans that involve recognition and improvisation.

Colburn is trying to shake things up a little bit in his first year as Mascoma High’s football coach. The people with whom he’s coached in the past are providing the guide.

“The biggest thing is they’re actually hanging in there when it’s getting tough,” Colburn said after the Royals’ scrimmage with Windsor High on Tuesday, Mascoma’s first such encounter of the preseason. “There’s a whole brand-new system; we’re going through things since day one starting fresh. We’re doing nothing in the double wing that they’ve done in the past. So I’m really happy with the effort they’ve put forth and staying with it and learning the program and not just memorizing plays.”

That latter point will largely determine Mascoma’s success this season. So will the NHIAA’s decision to stretch its football alignment to four divisions from three.

For the former, Colburn is working toward an offense that recognizes what defenses allow and adjusts on the fly accordingly. That’s a bit of a change from former coach Les Lawrence, whose Mascoma teams tried power football with mixed success.

On the latter, the Royals (343 students) can expect a schedule with more teams their size this fall. Gone are the encounters with schools such as Stevens (548), Kearsarge (541), InterLakes-Moultonborough (503) or Monadnock (502) that frequently resulted in lopsided losses. The new NHIAA Division IV consists of eight schools that are either smaller than Mascoma or within about 100 students of the Royals’ size.

“I think it’s going to make the playing field more level,” junior quarterback-defensive end Hawk Shawn said. “It’s not going to be any more schools that are three times our size coming down and putting us down 42-zip in the first half, then putting their whole jayvee out the second half. I think it’s going to help us tremendously.”

Colburn has gained a lot from a working relationship with Kershaw, the former Mascoma coach now entering his third year at Newfound Regional. Kershaw’s teams keep the football between the tackles and present a conservative offensive front. But there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye, and Colburn has made it his first priority to make the Royals more flexible.

“There was a lot of reading back then,” Colburn said. “His was more simple, but with the Shrine team (in 2012), with the athletes we had, we could do more. ... You can’t coach a team the same every single year. If they’re able to incorporate more and are able to read the game faster, then you can keep adding stuff.”

From coaching Lebanon High boys basketball with Matte, Colburn is working toward instituting a system of play with the Royals rather than working from a script. As players become more comfortable with the system, the team develops greater flexibility, particularly within the flow of a game.

“The kids have grasped it pretty well,” Colburn said. “The colleges use it all the time. ... You’re doing progressions on everything you do, like pass routes, run blocking; it’s all progressions. Basketball has helped a lot; every single day, you’re practicing all of the repetitions — if they do this, all of the counters.”

That’s raising the excitement level for Mascoma’s returning lettermen.

“Everybody’s got to be paying attention; everybody’s got to be focused,” senior fullback-linebacker Caleb McAlister said. “Everybody’s got to be committed to what we’re doing. ... The coaches are doing a great job of teaching us. It’s a great coaching staff this year. All the guys, they really want to be here, really want to learn. We really want to win, so that makes it easy, learning.”

Colburn didn’t expect perfection from his Royals against Windsor, the two-time defending VPA Division III state champions. There were aspects of Mascoma’s play worthy of praise, other elements in need of correction. Owning a bye in the first week of the NHIAA schedule means the Royals will have plenty of time to work.

The first-year coach saw progress on Tuesday. So did some of his charges.

“I think we learned we are a much stronger team than we thought, in the past years, compared to (the Yellowjackets),” Shawn said. “In past years, we’ve just been beaten and battered against these guys. ... We’ve got the energy, and we’ve got a team. We want to win.”

Audibles: McAlister credited Mascoma wrestling coach Rick Simula with helping football get a start on the year by opening the school weight room to workouts while his grapplers engaged in open-mat sessions over the winter. The workouts helped the Royals stay in shape until Colburn’s mid-June hire. “We were really thankful for that,” said McAlister, who plays basketball in the winter. ... Colburn estimated a roster on either side of 30 for the time being and expressed hope that a few more athletes would turn up when school starts next week. The new coach said Mascoma has at least four confirmed junior varsity games on its schedule. ... The Royals will play two road games, on Sept. 8 at Franklin and on Sept. 15 at Bishop Brady, before hosting their first home contest on Sept. 22 with Farmington-Nute. All D-IV schools will have seven-game schedules.

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

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