Shrine Bowl: A gridiron tradition returns

  • Hanover's Ben Wagner blocks another player during a New Hampshire Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl football practice at Castleton University in Castleton, Vt., on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America photographs — Alex Driehaus

  • Windsor's Owen Abrahamsen plays defense during a New Hampshire Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl football practice at Castleton University in Castleton, Vt., on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Mascoma Valley Regional High's Caleb Hobbs blocks another player during a New Hampshire Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl football practice at Castleton University in Castleton, Vt., on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/7/2021 2:56:24 PM
Modified: 8/7/2021 2:56:24 PM

CASTLETON, Vt. — The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl is back.

The game was wiped out in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the 68th annual New Hampshire vs. Vermont high school football senior all-star game will commence on Saturday at Castleton University.

The game will kick off at 12:30 p.m. at David Wolk Stadium, with pregame festivities set to begin around noon.

The game benefits Shriners Hospital for Children — all net proceeds go to the hospitals.

New Hampshire has dominated the series, owning a 48-17-2 record in the Shrine Bowl. New Hampshire won the last game in 2019.

For the graduated seniors selected to participate in the game, it’s a chance to play one last game before moving on to college or whatever else awaits.

After playing 7-on-7 touch football in 2020, the Vermont team will get to play a full-contact game for the first time in nearly two years.

Hartford head coach and offensive coordinator Matt Trombly is an assistant for the Vermont team, joined by three of his Hurricanes assistant coaches.

He said the full Shrine Bowl experience, including the week of practices at Castleton leading up to the game, is an important aspect of the event for the kids. He felt it’s the coaches’ responsibility to ensure they have a good time.

“Our kids are really enjoying themselves,” Trombly said. “We’re getting our work done and we’re competing, but in the same breath, it’s an all-star game. We want the kids to have fun and enjoy the experience and really understand the meaning of what it means to play in this game.”

Both sides feature numerous players to watch during Saturday’s game. As Trombly said, you have to be talented to get on the roster.

Trombly was excited about Rutland defensive back, quarterback, wide receiver and returner Evan Pockette.

He also said St. Johnsbury tight end, halfback and defensive lineman Zebb Winot will be important. Winot will end his high school career on the same field where his college career will begin, as he’ll suit up on the defensive line for Castleton this fall.

Hartford quarterback Cole Jasmin is one of four Upper Valley representatives on the Vermont team, along with Hartford wide receiver Jacob Dwinell, offensive lineman Jackson Balch, and Windsor wide receiver Owen Abrahamsen. Dwinell is headed to Norwich University for football in the fall.

Other key Vermont players include Fair Haven running back, wide receive; and defensive back Kohlby Murray; Champlain Valley running back Seth Boffa; Colchester offensive and defensive lineman Jake Ring; and St. Johnsbury running back, offensive and defensive lineman Jaden Hayes.

On the New Hampshire side, head coach Paul Landry from Kingswood Regional High feels his team is strong in all three phases of the game.

He’s confident in Plymouth quarterback Cody Bannon. He said Exeter running back Ulysses Ellis and linebacker Owen Roth will also be key. Defensively, Landry shouted out Concord safety Kevin McDonough. He added that Merrimack offensive and defensive linemen will be a big presence for New Hampsjhire in the trenches. And on special teams, Landry likes Nashua North kicker Lucas Cunningham and Campbell punter Kyle Wark.

Upper Valley schools sent six players to the Shrine Bowl. Three hail from Newport: center Josh Orlowski, running back and linebacker Josh Sharron, and running back Jagger Lovely.

Mascoma center and guard Caleb Hobbs is also on the team, along with Hanover guard Ben Wagner and Stevens defensive back Owen Taylor.

Hobbs will be an honorary captain on Saturday, as he was the top fundraiser among the New Hampshire team.

Landry is expecting a fast-paced game. He said his New Hampshire squad is run-oriented and will stay compact offensively, while he’s anticipating Vermont will run a spread offense with a lot of read option.

He’s kept his team busy throughout the week adjusting to his offense and getting prepared for the game. But he said success in the Shrine Bowl goes beyond the scoreboard.

“(What will make Saturday successful is) if we can play every single kid a lot of time, and they got a great experience from this. Ultimately, raising money for a great organization,” Landry said. “And in the end, if we win, that’s a bonus. But we’re here for the kids.”

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




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