Payback time? After three straight losses, N.H. looks to end Shrine Game slide

  • Hartford High School's Nick Porter, of Quechee, leads a cheer at the conclusion of morning practice at training camp for the 2019 Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, at Castleton University, in Castleton, Vt., on Friday Aug. 2, 2019. With him left is Fair Haven's Cam Coloutti, BFA-St. Albans' Mark Howrigan, and at right St. Johnsbury's Renwick Smith and Rice Memorial's Ryan Byrnes. (Rick Russell photograph) Rick Russell photographs

  • Simon Roach, of Hanover, N.H., far left, practices a defensive play at Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl football practice at Castleton University in Castleton, Vt., on Friday Aug. 2, 2019. (Rick Russell photograph) Rick Russell

  • Newport's Gavin Lovely gestures to a teammate during morning practice in preparation 2019 edition of the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, set for Saturday at Castleton University, in Castleton, Vt., on Friday Aug. 2, 2019. (Rick Russell photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/2/2019 9:49:57 PM
Modified: 8/2/2019 9:49:42 PM

CASTLETON, Vt. — Three consecutive losses have New Hampshire looking to break the slide, and Vermont expecting the toughest fight it’s faced in years.

The Twin State squads of recently graduated senior standout football athletes will face off on Saturday afternoon in the 2019 Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton University’s Dave Wolk Stadium, with the Green Mountain state looking for its first four-game winning streak in the All-Star showdown’s 66-year history.

Vermont has outscored the Granite State, 93-15, since it broke a 15-year slide in 2016; last year’s contest was the first competitive tilt in years, a 24-13 victory that was powered by strong second-half performances by Vermont quarterback Seth Balch (Windsor) and running back Tyler Hamilton (Hartford).

This year, New Hampshire is looking to Windham High to help end the slide. Bill Raycraft, who coached the Jaguars as its athletic director and football coach for nine seasons, is coaching the Granite State at this week’s training camp at Castleton, bringing with him a slew of Windham assistants. Quarterback Cody Potter, a lanky three-year starter for Windham, has been entrusted to lead the offense.

“The best thing I can say about Cody is that he’s adaptable,” said Raycraft, who stepped down from Windham in March before being named athletic director at Malden (Mass.) Catholic in May. “Early on (in his varsity career), we were a really run-heavy team. As he matured and developed, we came into a more throwing team. … It’s great having him out here. He’s a coach on the field.”

Potter threw for 1,422 passing yards and 21 touchdowns in nine games for the Jaguars in the fall, his last varsity season before he heads to Endicott College to play quarterback at the next level. Nashua North quarterback Mike Loveless will be the No. 2 quarterback when Saturday’s Shrine Game begins.

“We needed (Potter),” Raycraft said. “If you bring in a quarterback from another offense to try to fit them in, you can do it but it’s not quite the same. … There’s that trust there, too. If he comes over and says, ‘Hey, this is there.’ We’ve been there for three years so we know. You’ve got it.”

Potter will have plenty of weapons at his disposal, including Hanover High running back Simon Roach. Raycraft recruited 10 running backs and four receivers onto New Hampshire’s roster and expects to change up personnel throughout the game.

Nashua South’s Nathanael Tejada, who was named one of the Granite State captains by his teammates, will help lead New Hampshire’s defensive unit, which has had trouble stopping Vermont’s shifty running backs in years past.

“I think we’re really fast,” said Tejada, who has traveled back and forth from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to Castleton this week to continue undergoing radiation treatment for a Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis he received in March. “We have a lot of good and athletic players that we can do some damage if we just do our job.”

Vermont will be led offensively by two different units that are able to do very different things.

The first unit is built on chemistry between Rutland quarterback Ryan Moore and running back Dakota Peters, a fellow Raider. Moore is an accurate passer with a keen eye for defensive schemes, said Vermont head coach Marty Richards, of Mount Mansfield. Peters, a speedy-yet- undersized back at 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, had 1,739 yards and 24 touchdowns in 10 games for the Raiders.

The second unit is centered on Fair Haven quarterback Cam Coloutti and Mount Mansfield running back Jehric Hackney. Coloutti does most of his damage with his legs, relying more on speed and less on passing accuracy. Hackney was a bell-cow for the Cougars, rushing for 1,795 yards and 22 touchdowns for the VPA Division I champions.

“Me and Jehric have become really close,” said Coloutti, who’s taking a gap year next year to put on some weight. “We kept Ryan and Dak together because we thought that would be the easiest, most comfortable for them. I mean, they’ve been meshing with each other for how many years now? Once me and Jehric knew we were going to be the 1-2 duo in the backfield, me and him started getting really close.”

Jake Cady, the St. Johnsbury Academy star quarterback, Assumption College recruit and Vermont Gatorade Player of the Year, was removed from the Shrine roster in January after conflicts with college football got in the way. Moore was his replacement.

“It’s the same offense, just different plays,” Richards said of the difference between the two quarterbacks. “There are slightly different things we’ll do within the same play. They’re both very smart quarterbacks. They understand what we’re doing, the various different options on various plays. It’s not a simple offense to learn in one week, but they’re picking it up.”

Coloutti said he likes the way the offense is structured, a two-pronged attack that can give New Hampshire different looks on different drives. Fair Haven teammate Jesse Tucker also is slated to pair with him at tight end. But he particularly likes playing with Hackney, a versatile offensive weapon the likes of which he’s never had in his backfield.

“What does he not do well?” Coloutti said. “He can catch, he can block, he can run. He’s literally a little bit version of Dakota (Peters). Dakota is fast and really agile. Jehric is just a little bit bigger than he is. Our backfield is insane.”

On defense, Richards is especially excited about what he has defending against Potter’s passes. Rice cornerbacks John Rousseau and Andrew Snell and Hartford safety Nick Porter have been impressive in camp, he said.

“(Porter) is everything we thought he was and more,” Richards said. “And we have both Rice kids at corner, they’re doing a fantastic job.”

Vermont’s second-half offensive surge won the game last year, scoring on all three possessions after halftime. Tejada, the New Hampshire lineman from Nashua South, is expecting a dogfight. He’s also confident that the Granite State — which holds a 47-17-1 advantage all-time, can hold its own.

“If we all just do our jobs and are in the right place, we’re fast enough. We have the guys to do it,” Tejada said. “We know (Vermont), they like to put up points. But if we do what we can do and control the game, we’ll be good.”

Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the gate. Proceeds from the game benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Kickoff is 5:30 p.m., with a pre-game parade at 3 p.m.

Josh Weinreb can be reached at or 603-727-3306.

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