Hartford’s Porter has a chance to rewrite the end of his high school football career

  • Hartford High’s Nick Porter.

  • Newport High’s Gavin Lovely.

  • Hanover High’s Simon Roach.

  • Windsor’s Gavin Harriman.

  • Woodstock’s Gabe Marsicovet

  • Woodstock’s Caden White.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2019 9:49:35 PM
Modified: 7/30/2019 9:49:26 PM

CASTLETON, Vt. — Nick Porter didn’t end his four-year varsity football career at Hartford High the way he would have wanted.

A severe left ankle injury kept the shifty running back off the field for the latter half of his senior season with the Hurricanes, returning at about 75 percent for a first-round playoff loss to St. Johnsbury. He still was chosen for the Vermont North-South All-Star Football Game, but still wasn’t totally right.

Porter, from Quechee, said he felt like he left something on the football field unfinished.

Luckily, he’s got another chance. Porter and five other Upper Valley athletes will participate in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton University’s Dave Wolk Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the annual fundraiser for the region’s Shriners Hospitals for Children.

The game, which will be played for the 66th time, the last five at Castleton, raised closed $4.5 million in its first 65 years.

“Obviously I’m healthy now, which is the main thing. I’m 100 percent,” Porter said with a smile. “(I’m) trying to end my football career on a high note. … It’s great to be here with the best players in the state, playing against the best players in New Hampshire. It’s truly an honor.”

Porter was one of the Upper Valley’s most dominant rushers before he was hurt on Oct. 5 in a kickoff return against Brattleboro. He’s headed to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall to play lacrosse.

“Hartford football, we’re kind of a small school … football is kind of a tradition there,” he said. “(Tyler Hamilton, the former Hartford quarterback now at Bates College) played safety (and running back) here last year. I’m playing safety here this year. I have big shoes to fill, but I’m up for it.”

Shrine Game camp opened over the weekend, forcing many to quickly adapt to a sport they haven’t played in months. Caden White, the power running back from Woodstock, admitted as much, though he’s been thinking about football for some time. He and Wasps teammate Jed Astbury — who is not participating in the Shrine Game — are headed to NCAA Division III’s Maine Maritime Academy to play football in the fall.

The week-long camp has also been a great way to get ready for college ball.

“I’ve definitely been training for (college this summer), I don’t want to show up unprepared,” White said. “I’m glad I made this game because it’s getting me excited. I think I might have an edge on some of my teammates come the fall.”

White was part of a dominant Woodstock team that went undefeated in its VPA Division III championship run, and will play Saturday’s Shrine Game with Wasps teammate Gabe Marsicovetere, a lineman. Being a D-III athlete on an all-state All-Star squad can be a little intimidating, he said. But it’s also pushed to work a little harder for a spot in the starting lineup.

“I don’t know about the other guys, but I’m definitely going hard every practice,” White said. “That little 7,500-population town is what I call home. I’m representing all of them. We really need to show up in practices. They didn’t have starting spots set up, but there was kind of a pecking order that was established. I made sure, the first practice, I was going to make my way to the top.”

White will play outside linebacker for Maine Maritime this fall and defensive end for Vermont on Saturday. Gavin Harriman, the defensive end from Windsor High, rounds out the Upper Valley representation for the Green Mountain state’s squad.

Hanover High bell-cow running back Simon Roach and Newport center Gavin Lovely will represent the Upper Valley on the New Hampshire squad.

For Roach, the participation is a clue for how far the Marauders’ football program has come in recent years as a consistent presence in NHIAA Division II. Hanover’s Robert Putnam was chosen for New Hampshire’s CHaD East-West All-Star Game in late June.

“I think by getting some of our players here, the younger players (at Hanover) can look up and say, ‘I want to get to that point, as well.’ ” Roach said. “Hopefully they put in that extra work in the weight room, during practices they’re working harder, during games they’re working harder to keep the program running like it is.”

Getting used to football again has been something of a challenge, Roach said. The first few days were a wake-up call. But a few days in and most of the team is used to familiar motions of every day practices. Then, Roach said, it’s about building chemistry as quickly as possible.

It also helps to have a little bit of an extra edge. New Hampshire, which fields both sides of the East-West game and the Granite State side of the Shrine Game every summer, has been outscored 93-15 in three consecutive losses. New Hampshire players are allowed to play in only one summer all-star game.

“I think it’s just like this motivation within us,” said Roach, who’s headed to Elon University to study communications in the fall. “Like this morning, we got up at 4:30 a.m. for practice. It’s extra motivation to get up and practice.”

Kristi Morris, the general chairman of the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, said he and the Shriners are still keeping a close eye on competitive balance; Vermont won by lopsided victories in 2016 and 2017. But Morris said he feels the annual showcase has found a formula that works — fundraising and attendance have risen in recent years, and last summer’s game was a competitive showdown that ended in a 24-13 Vermont victory.

“One thing we always consider and are passionate about are the quality of players that we’re getting,” Morris said. “We realize (New Hampshire players having a choice between the East-West Game or the Shrine Game) can have an effect on some of the bigger, blue-chip players from the bigger high schools.

“Rutland County is a football community. We’ve put a lot of people in the stadium, we’ve seen an uptick in attendance. The fundraising with the players seems to be going a lot more smoothly. That’s working well, and we’re able to give some significant funding to the hospital which is our goal.”

Game time for Saturday’s game is 5:30 p.m.

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.

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