Coronavirus cancels Shrine Game for first time in its history

  • Concord's Marc Gaudet (14) runs upfield as St. Thomas Aquinas' Mayden Middleton kicks off the ball in the first half in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl all-star football game in Hanover, N.H., on Aug. 2, 2014. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Concord’s Marc Gaudet (14), who finished with seven tackles and also scored a touchdown, heads upfield as St. Thomas’s Mayden Middleton kicks off. Valley News File photograph — Sarah Priestap

  • Lebanon High football lineman Mason Adams talks with assistant coach Brandon LaHaye during halftime of a Sept. 17, 2017, game at John Stark. Adams, who also competes in ice hockey and baseball, was born without his left hand. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Purchase a reprint » Valley News file photograph — Tris Wykes

  • New Hampshire punter Zach O'Brien (Stevens) yells for the team's 11th player to get on to the field in the first quarter of play in the annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl in Castleton, Vt., on Aug. 5, 2017. Vermont won, 19-0. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News file photo — Geoff Hansen

  • New Hampshire quarterback Joe Bernard, of Bishop Brady High, gets the ball jarred loose by Vermont linebacker Maxwell Pockette, of Rutland High, in the first quarter to cause a turnover in the annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl in Castleton, Vt., on Aug. 5, 2017. Vermont won, 19-0. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2020 9:18:57 PM
Modified: 7/1/2020 9:48:00 PM

LEBANON — Mason Adams chose to be grateful.

The recent Lebanon High School graduate has a lifetime of interactions with the Shriners Hospital for Children. Born without a left hand and part of a left forearm, Adams has made multiple visits to the Shriners’ facility in Springfield, Mass., for treatment and the prosthetic devices that ultimately allowed him to be a three-sport athlete.

He also set a goal of playing in the annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl all-star high school football game, first targeted when Adams served as Shrine Game king at the 2010 contest at Windsor High’s MacLeay-Royce Field. He came one step short of achieving the goal of playing in the game when Shrine officials canceled this summer’s encounter Tuesday night, the latest victim of the coronavirus pandemic.

Adams learned the news Wednesday morning.

“I worked for 8½, nine years on my football game to get to this point; I fell in love with the game in 2010 when I first went,” Adams recalled in a phone interview. “To get that stripped away definitely hurt, but we have to realize there are bigger things than a football game. It’s more about safety right now.

“I’m still trying to raise money for it. It’s all about the patients now, not about the game.”

Like many people, Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl organizers had hoped in March that the pandemic would have settled enough to play the 67th edition of the Vermont-vs.-New Hampshire contest Aug. 1 at Castleton University. Like many people, they were overly optimistic.

Prohibitions on contact sports and large gatherings in both states combined with the unpredictable nature of the health crisis to create a logistical nightmare that game general chairman Kristi Morris didn’t see ending anytime soon. The call to cancel came at a Tuesday night meeting at the Shrine Game’s downtown Lebanon office.

“We’re heartbroken, frustrated, all of the adjectives you’d want to use; it’s awful,” Morris said in a phone interview afterward. “When you’re thinking from the heart, we wanted to keep it going. But thinking from the brain right now, it’s a clear choice that we can’t keep limping along hoping.”

Members of the game’s board of governors, host Castleton and the staff of Vermont Shrine coach Rich Alercio, of St. Johnsbury Academy, took part in Tuesday’s meeting, Morris said. The New Hampshire coaching staff of Alvirne’s Tarek Rothe provided input but couldn’t attend. All events connected with this year’s game were canceled, including the weeklong training camp, a fundraising golf tournament, media day and game-day band, cheerleading, and parade activities.

Players selected for the game are asked to raise money on the Shrine’s behalf; Adams said he met his $500 minimum within a week of starting and has raised about $800 to date. With organizers still sponsoring a prize raffle including tickets to Patriots and Red Sox games, opportunities to aid the Shriners remain.

Adams lost his senior baseball season at Lebanon to the pandemic (he also plays ice hockey for the Raiders), so the disappointment of the spring helped salve the disappointment of this week.

“I was looking forward to it since my freshman year,” he said. “That’s when it hit me; it all begins now. I’ve never looked back. I don’t regret what’s happened; I’ve only looked forward.”

Aside from Adams, eight other Upper Valley football standouts had been chosen for the Shrine Game: Caleb Smith (Lebanon), Caleb Morse (Hanover), Quentin Bicknell (Stevens), Keaghan McAllister (Stevens), Caleb Meagher (Windsor), Dakota Chapman (Hartford), Kyle Hamilton (Hartford) and Andrew Lucke (Hartford).

The game raises money for Shriners facilities in Boston and Montreal as well as the Springfield, Mass., hospital that enabled Adams — who will enter Southern New Hampshire University this fall — to earn a spot on the New Hampshire roster.

“All I can do is say thank you to that entire organization,” Adams said.

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

Valley News

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