Granite State wins 68th Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl

  • Newport's Josh Sharron, left, and his New Hampshire teammates celebrate Sharron's pick-six during the 68th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton University's Dave Wolk Stadium in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. New Hampshire won, 21-0. (Caledonian-Record - Michael Beniash) Caledonian-Record photographs — Michael Beniash

  • Windsor's Owen Abrahamsen, right, Evan Reed (11) and the Vermont defense celebrate a fourth-down stop during the 68th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton University's Dave Wolk Stadium in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. New Hampshire won, 21-0. (Caledonian-Record - Michael Beniash)

  • Hartford quarterback Cole Jasmin looks to sling a pass against Newport defender Josh Sharron during the 68th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton University's Dave Wolk Stadium in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. New Hampshire won, 21-0. (Caledonian-Record - Michael Beniash)

  • Hartford quarterback Cole Jasmin slings a pass to a Vermont teammate during the 68th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton University's Dave Wolk Stadium in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. New Hampshire won, 21-0. (Caledonian-Record - Michael Beniash)

  • Hartford's Jacob Dwinell (34) picks off a New Hampshire pass late in the first half during the 68th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton University's Dave Wolk Stadium in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. New Hampshire won 21-0. At far left is Windsor's Owen Abrahamsen. (Caledonian-Record - Michael Beniash)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/7/2021 9:28:03 PM
Modified: 8/10/2021 3:15:02 PM

CASTLETON, Vt. — Josh Sharron saw nothing but green turf between him and the end zone.

2020’s NHIAA Division IV player of the year, Newport High’s Sharron is used to scoring touchdowns — he scored five rushing and two receiving during the regular season.

But this time, in Saturday’s 68th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, Sharron was on defense. In at linebacker and playing the quarterback spy role, he perfectly read a short pass play intended for the running back. He hid behind a defensive end, jumped the route and intercepted the pass to run it back 20 yards for the score.

“I knew that was a momentum-changer, and it worked in our favor,” Sharron said. “It was amazing. To know that was my last game ever, my last touchdown, like that, is unbelievable.”

Sharron’s key play helped turn the final football game for many of the Twin States’ top graduated seniors from a scoreless slugfest into a 21-0 win for New Hampshire on Saturday at Castleton University’s Dave Wolk Stadium. The pick-six happened on Vermont’s first play from scrimmage after a short touchdown run broke a 0-0 tie midway through the third quarter.

Prior to Saturday’s contest, which was the first since 2019 after COVID-19 forced a cancellation last summer, New Hampshire head coach Paul Landry made no attempt to conceal his game plan.

Landry intended to control the pace of the game from the opening kickoff. His offense would operate from tight formations, and keep the ball on the ground for most of the afternoon. He essentially dared Vermont to make his team throw the ball.

The Granite State squad stuck with its strategy throughout despite early scoring difficulties. They attempted just four passes on the afternoon, none of which were completed.

But they won the battle in the trenches, on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Offensive linemen consistently opened up holes for their running backs, and on defense, the linemen closed holes sought by Vermont ball carriers.

New Hampshire won the time of possession battle by nearly 8½ minutes. Even as the game was tied, 0-0, at halftime, the total yardage and possession advantage pointed toward an eventual New Hampshire victory.

Landry, head coach at Kingswood Regional High in Wolfeboro, N.H., knew his players would break through if they kept playing the way they did in the scoreless first half.

Landry credited his defense for the dominant performance.

“The better team that tackles is generally the team that comes out on top. And we played really sound defense today,” Landry said. “It was apparent by the scoreboard. But more importantly, they just kind of hung together through the whole game. They did a great job.”

The New Hampshire running backs capitalized on those openings.

Exeter High’s Ulysses Ellis, in particular, stepped up. He logged 17 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown, which came on a four-yard run for the first points of the game with 4:48 to play in the third quarter.

That initial touchdown opened up the game. Landry said his kids became noticeably more relaxed after the touchdown after being frustrated that they had played well in the first half but failed to score.

Ellis wasn’t paying attention to his yardage totals but was simply having fun playing one last high school football game. He said his teammates came out for the second half motivated to finish the job.

“We used the first half as a warmup, got our feet under us, and then we just started moving it,” Ellis said. “Guards were pulling, backs were blocking, feet were moving. It was awesome.”

New Hampshire scored the game-sealing touchdown late. Landry opted to keep his offense on the field on fourth and goal from the Vermont 1-yard-line with less than 3½ minutes to play, and John Stark Regional High running back Thomas Johnston punched it across the goal line.

Vermont didn’t quit, however.

The Green Mountain squad drove inside the New Hampshire 10-yard-line with less than 1½ minutes remaining, only to have the game called with 52.9 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter due to nearby lightning. Officials decided to end the game rather than declare a weather delay.

Hartford High head coach and offensive coordinator Matt Trombly, a Vermont assistant coach, enjoyed watching his three Hurricane representatives. Hartford wide receiver and returner Jacob Dwinell came up with several big plays. He intercepted a deep pass New Hampshire attempted on the last play of the first half, and had multiple long kickoff returns to give Vermont good field position.

Trombly said Vermont wore down as the game went on, and the way New Hampshire controlled the clock made it tough to launch a comeback. But he added that the kids had a great experience throughout the week that transcends the final score.

“Overall, it’s not about the wins and losses,” Trombly said. “The week itself was awesome. I think the kids, this is going to be an experience they remember for the rest of their lives.”

The Granite State victory continued its domination over the Green Mountain State in the Shrine Bowl. It’s the second consecutive win for New Hampshire, and it extended its series lead to 49-17-2.

Landry said the Shrine Bowl experience and the win are significant for the players.

“It means an awful lot,” Landry said. “Especially with this past year, with COVID and everything, with the restricted amount of playing time. This was great for these kids to be able to have one more (game).”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.




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