Vermont gave it a good try, but in the end, the result was the same as New Hampshire rolled over Vermont, 45-21, at the 58th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl on Saturday at MacLeay-Royce Field in Windsor.
New Hampshire holds a 43-13-2 edge on Vermont and has won 21 of the previous 23 contests. Vermont’s last victory in the game that matches the top recently graduated senior football stars came in 2000.
Vermont hoped to break the losing streak with an aerial attack. Champlain Valley’s Jim Provost, coach of the Vermont squad, installed a spread offense for starting quarterback Christian McCormick, who threw for 2,619 yards and 37 touchdowns in leading Rice to the Division II title last fall.
As in past years, New Hampshire had bigger, stronger athletes than their Vermont counterparts, which made speed the only option for the Green Mountain Boys. McCormick threw for three touchdowns and completed 22 of 48 passes for 278 yards. Unfortunately, he also threw four interceptions.
Vermont trailed 21-14 at the half, but the Granite Staters poured it on in the second half. Three touchdowns in the third quarter dashed any hopes of a Vermont comeback.
Salem’s Matt Jacques, who holds his school’s all-time rushing record with 4,559 yards, was the star of the game for New Hampshire. He rushed for 265 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns. His performance broke the previous Shrine game record of 206 yards set in 2004 by Plymouth’s Mike Boyle.
Bellows Falls running back Ryan Hayward was the lone local representative in this year‘s game.
These games may be one-sided, but the real winners are the Shrine hospitals in Montreal, Boston and Springfield, Mass. The Shrine game has raised nearly $5 million over nearly six decades for these three hospitals.
• The Claremont Cardinals finished the regular season of the Connecticut River Valley Baseball League in first place with an 11-4 record. They wrapped up the regular season Sunday with a 15-0 rout of the Keene Black Dawgs. John Grainger and Paul Felix had three hits each for the Cardinals.
The Chester Pirates maintained their hold on second place without having to play a game. They finished with an 8-4 record after their game with Saxtons River was cancelled.
That left the Saxtons River Pirates and the Brattleboro River Rats tied for third with 7-7 records. The Putney Fossils beat Brattleboro, 5-2, at Dummerston School. Travis Watson was the winning pitcher for Putney, he also had 3 hits and scored 2 runs.
The win put Putney in sole possession of fourth place with a 5-10 record. Keene finished last with a 4-10 record.
The CRVBL playoffs begin on Friday night. This year’s format features three, three-game series over Friday and Saturday with series winners squaring off for a single elimination championship round on Sunday.
On Friday, Claremont hosts Putney at 7 p.m. at historic Barnes Park, while there will be two games under the lights at the new baseball field in Walpole, N.H. Keene takes on Chester at 6:15 p.m., followed by Saxtons River facing Brattleboro at 8:15 p.m.
The playoffs continue on Saturday morning. Keene takes on Chester at Vermont Academy in Saxtons River at 10 a.m. If the series is tied, Game 3 will be played at 12:30 p.m.
Game 2 of the Brattleboro/Saxtons River series takes place at Vermont Academy at 2:30 p.m. Game 3 is scheduled for 5 p.m., if necessary.
Putney and Claremont square off in Game 2 of their series in Walpole at 11 a.m. If a third game is necessary, it will be played 1:30 p.m.
The tournament ends on Sunday in Walpole. The second and third remaining seeds play at 11 a.m. The winner of that game plays the top remaining seed at 1:30 p.m.
Fall sports season coming up
In the Vermont sports world, the Shrine game marks the end of summer and the beginning of preparations for the fall high school sports season.
Football teams around the state can begin practice on Monday. For soccer, field hockey and cross country, the first team practice day is Monday, August 22.
The high school football season begins on Sept. 2, when Brattleboro hosts Essex at Natowich Field for a 7 p.m. game. The defending Division III champions, the Bellows Falls Terriers, host Fair Haven in their home opener at Hadley Field on Saturday, Sept. 3, at 1 p.m.
The rest of the fall sports begin on Tuesday, Sept. 6, starting with the Brattleboro and Bellows Falls cross country teams’ first meet of the season in Westminster.
Boys’ and girls’ soccer also opens on Sept. 6. For the boys, Twin Valley travels to Bellows Falls, Brattleboro heads south to play Monument Mountain in Great Barrington, Mass., and Leland & Gray hosts Mount St. Joseph.
Brattleboro kicks off the girls’ soccer season against Stevens at Tenney Field in a 7 p.m. match, while the Bellows Falls girls host Fair Haven on Sept. 7.
Field hockey also gets going on Sept. 6, as Brattleboro hosts Monadnock in its home opener at Tenney Field. Bellows Falls doesn’t open the season until Sept. 12, when they host Woodstock.