It was the same result for New Hampshire as the previous nine wins, but this year, it was achieved slightly differently.
This year’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl game was billed as a battle between the fast-paced, no-huddle spread offense of Vermont and the power running game of New Hampshire’s Wing-T offense.
As usual, power won out as New Hampshire rolled up 300 yards of rushing for a 34-20 victory at MacLeay-Royce Field in Windsor on Saturday.
New Hampshire leads the series 42-13-2, with a 10-game wining streak dating back to 2001.
While Vermont’s passing attack was somewhat effective, with 311 yards in all, the Green Mountain Boys failed to take advantage of a sloppy first half by the Granite Staters. Despite five first-half turnovers, New Hampshire took a 27-14 halftime lead.
New Hampshire did not play particularly disciplined football either, with 18 penalties for 165 yards, plus an ejection when Milford’s Brian Airoli punched a Vermont player.
Plymouth’s Kyle McAuliffe returned an interception for a 90-yard touchdown, the first of two interceptions for the day. McAuliffe led a strong New Hampshire defensive secondary that kept Vermont’s passing attack from making any big plays.
Considering that New Hampshire usually fields bigger and stronger players than Vermont, it stands to reason that the Granite Staters would emphasize the run and the Vermonters would choose speed and deception as the way to counter the size and strength advantage of their opponent.
The Vermonters tried that approach last year, and the result was a 40-6 whupping by New Hampshire. After ten straight losses, it might be time for the Green Mountain Boys to try something different.
The local angle
Win or lose, the experience of being selected to play in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl is the ultimate honor for Vermont and New Hampshire high school football players.
Devin Rhodes of Brattleboro, selected as one of Vermont’s tri-captains, was in the starting lineup as center. At 190 pounds, he’s undersized as a offensive lineman, but that has never kept him from excelling on the football field.
He also had a good summer on the baseball diamond too, as he helped pitch Post 5 into the semifinals of the state American Legion Baseball tournament. He had to shift gears rapidly, going from the Legion tourney to Shrine camp with just a day in between.
This was Rhodes’ last football game. He’s going to Southern Vermont College this fall, and will be a pitcher for their baseball team.
Brattleboro halfback/defensive back Davin Freeman upheld a family tradition, as his father Jim and uncle Dan both played in the Shrine Bowl. He had seven tackles in Saturday’s game, including one that forced a fumble.
It was also Freeman’s last football game. He’s headed to Coastal Carolina University, where he will major in business.
Bellows Falls linebacker Josh Pratt rounded out the local contingent in Saturday’s game. He had one sack and saw plenty of action on special teams.
Fall sports practices begin soon
The Shrine game both marks the end of the summer sports season, and the beginning of the fall high school sports season. It won’t be long before the fields around Brattleboro Union High School will be filled with football, soccer, field hockey and cross country athletes.
The first BUHS varsity football practice will begin on Monday, Aug. 16, with double sessions from 8 to 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 to 6 p.m. There will be a player/parent/coaches meeting on Sunday, Aug. 15 at 5 p.m. The meeting will be preceded by equipment handout. Seniors should report at 4 p.m., juniors at 4:15 p.m. and sophomores at 5 p.m.
A scrimmage with Mount Anthony in Bennington is planned for Saturday, Aug. 21. The Colonels’ season opens at St. Johnsbury on Saturday, Aug. 28.
The first practices for the other sports at BUHS will begin on Monday, Aug. 23.
There will be a mandatory player meeting for interested boys soccer participants on Sunday, Aug. 22 at 6:30 p.m.
Practice times for the first week of boys soccer will be as follows: freshman who do not wish to try out for JV or varsity will practice Monday through Friday, 4 to 5:30 p.m. JV and varsity practices will be from 7 to 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Thursday and Friday, the JV team will practice from 4:30 to 6 p.m., while the varsity will continue double sessions, practicing 7 to 8:30 a.m. and 5:15 to 7 p.m. Practices will be at the TIC Field.
BUHS girls soccer tryouts will begin with solo practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. On Tuesday and Thursday, there will be double sessions, 7 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Practices will be at Fort Dummer Field.
BUHS cross country practice starts at 9 a.m. on Aug. 23 at the Natowich Field track. Participants should bring completed paperwork and be ready to run.