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Second-half surge leads New Hampshire to Shrine game win

The Vermont losing streak in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl is now up to 12, as New Hampshire once again beat the Vermonters, 62-24, on Saturday in the 59th annual showcase of the two states’ recently graduated high school seniors.

New Hampshire scored eight touchdowns — five on offense, two on defense, one on special teams — en route to setting a new Shrine game record for most points scored.

This year, the Vermont team loaded up with players from Hartford High School, which won the Division I state championship in 2010 and 2011. Nine members of the Hurricanes, including seven on defense, were in the starting lineup when the teams walked onto the turf at Dartmouth’s Memorial Field, and Hartford head coach Mike Stone served as the defensive coach for the Green Mountain boys.

Over the past 12 years, Vermont has tried various strategies to slow down the Granite State juggernaut, to no avail. On Saturday, New Hampshire scored two touchdowns before they even had a series on offense. The Granite Staters led 17-7 after one quarter, thanks to a 61-yard punt return by Chris Chininis of Souhegan, a 28-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Interlakes’ Conor Donovan’s and a 38-yard field goal.

Fair Haven quarterback Robert Coloutti connected with his teammate Levi Ellis on a 79-yard touchdown pass, which set a new Shrine record, to put Vermont on the board. But New Hampshire responded with a 1-yard touchdown run by Salem’s Jerickson Fedrick. A touchdown grab by Manchester Central’s Thaddeus Brown Jr. then made it 31-7.

Just when it looked like New Hampshire was pulling away, Coloutti then threw for two touchdowns late in the first half. First, he found Middlebury’s Marshall Hastings wide-open on a sideline pattern.

Then, with 36 seconds left in the half, Couletti hooked up with Rutland’s Kyle Kelly and cut the lead to 31-21. A surprise onside kick attempt failed, and Donovan would kick a 22-yard field goal as time expired to give New Hampshire a 34-21 lead at the break.

Coloutti finished the first half with 178 yards and three TDs on 8 for 17 passing, while Hastings had 142 yards rushing and receiving.

Unfortunately, that was the high water mark for the Green Mountain Boys as New Hampshire scored four unanswered touchdowns to put the game away. Fedrick ran for two more scores and Manchester Memorial’s Codey Dalton caught a touchdown pass, then returned an interception 37 yards for another score. Fedrick led all rushers with 140 yards on 18 carries.

New Hampshire now has a 44-13-2 record in the Shrine game, and has won 29 of the last 32 games. New Hampshire has outscored Vermont 433-145 during the 12-game win streak.

One reason for the long losing streak is that New Hampshire’s players are usually bigger, stronger, and able to run the ball at will. How much bigger? This year’s Granite State roster listed 23 players weighing 200 pounds or more, and three players topping 300 pounds, including 345-pound tackle Adam Morin from Monadnock. By comparison, Vermont had 16 players weighing more than 200 pounds, and no 300-pounders.

The biggest foe for both teams this year was the weather. There was a 90-minute delay due to a thunderstorm that arrived at halftime. The weather delay, the first in the game’s history, combined with a 30-minute halftime, effectively gave the teams a two-hour intermission between halves.

Besides returning to Dartmouth for the first time in three years, this year’s Shrine game featured some rule tweaks. Overtime was introduced, although ties haven’t been an issue in the series, considering the last one came in 1960.

A rule that allowed a team trailing by 10 or more points after it scored to receive the ensuing kickoff, something that benefited Vermont more often than not, was eliminated. The ban on blitzing was lifted, eliminating the confusion over enforcing a rule that defenses and fans alike were unhappy with.

Finally, the restrictions on what offensive or defensive formations each team could use in the game were removed. Previously, each team had to declare what type of offense and defense they were going to use before the game.

Attendance for the game topped 5,000, helped in part by the large contingent of Hartford players, plus representatives from nearby schools such as Windsor, Stevens, and Lebanon.

Fall sports practices begin next week

• The Vermont fall high school sports season begins on Monday, Aug. 13, when football teams around the state begin practicing.

For the soccer, field hockey, and cross country teams, practices will begin on Thursday, Aug. 16.

Bellows Falls will get a jump on everyone in football, as they will host the first night game in the school’s history on Saturday, Aug. 25, against Newport, N.H. After the debut of the lights at Hadley Field, the Terriers begin their league schedule on Friday, Aug. 31, at Fair Haven at 7 p.m.

Brattleboro will open its varsity football schedule at Essex in a 7 p.m. game on Aug. 31.

The rest of the fall seasons will begin on Aug. 30.

In boys’ soccer, Bellows Falls will open at Twin Valley on Thursday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. It will be the first varsity soccer game at Baker Field in Wilmington since 2010. Last season, the Wildcats played all of their games on the road as flood damage from Tropical Storm Irene trashed Baker Field. Leland & Gray travels to BFA-Fairfax on Saturday, Sept. 1, while Brattleboro opens on the road at Burr & Burton on Thursday, Sept. 6.

In field hockey, Brattleboro and Bellows Falls both open with home games as Brattleboro hosts Hartford on Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m., while BF hosts Woodstock on Monday, Sept. 10, at 4 p.m.

Twin Valley hosts Leland & Gray at Baker Field on Sept. 4 to open the girls’ soccer season. Brattleboro starts the season with a 7 p.m. game at Tenney Field on Sept. 4 against Stevens. Bellows Falls opens its season on the road at St. Johnsbury on Sept. 11.

The cross country season begins for Brattleboro and Bellows Falls with a boys and girls combined meet at Bellows Falls on Sept. 4.

U.S. Open moves from Stratton to Vail in 2013

• The Burton U.S. Open, which first took place in 1982 and is now the longest-running snowboarding competition in the world, is leaving Vermont and taking up residence in Colorado.

After spending the last 27 years at Stratton Mountain Resort, Burton founder and CEO Jake Burton announced last week that the U.S. Open will be held at Vail Mountain’s Golden Peak, beginning Feb. 25, 2013.

“Stratton not only hosted the Open for 27 years, but also played a pivotal role in making resort riding a reality,” Burton said in a news release. “And as we look to the future progression of the U.S. Open, I feel that Vail offers us the ideal venue to host the event. Vail is an incredible mountain and has been my snowboarding home-away-from-home for over 20 years. I have no doubt that the US Open at Vail will only grow in its legacy as the premier rider-driven event in the world.”

West Dover’s Kelly Clark was among a group of Burton pro riders who were out in Vail last month to check out the proposed location of the 22-foot halfpipe. Afterward, Clark said she was pleased with the event’s new home.

“The U.S. Open is one of my favorite events by far, and I couldn’t be more excited about its next evolution,” said the five-time U.S. Open halfpipe champ and three-time Olympian in a news release. “Burton has always been about progressing the sport and doing what’s best for snowboarders, and I truly believe that this move to Vail will make the Open even better for the riders and the thousands of fans who come out to watch.”

Burton and Clark’s words sounded the right notes, but the reality is that southern Vermont is losing a major sporting event that routinely attracted the biggest names in snowboarding and thousands of spectators.

Looking at the pros and cons of Stratton versus Vail, it’s easy to see why Burton moved the event to Colorado.

Transportation is a wash. Vail is a two-hour drive from Denver, or about the same distance Stratton is from Bradley International Airport in Connecticut.

Vail would definitely get the nod for weather, given that Colorado’s mountains do not see rain, sleet, and ice like Vermont.

There will be more to do in Vail, as promoters are talking about putting in a festival area at the base of the halfpipe, with free outdoor concerts and other entertainment.

There are more skiers and snowboarders in Colorado, so the opportunities for growth are certainly there.

But there is one big strike against Vail. It’s not Vermont, the place where the modern age of snowboarding began. The place where Jake Burton founded his company and built the sport from an oddity to an industry. The place the biggest event in snowboarding, the U.S. Open, was born.

Yes, having the U.S. Open in Vail will fit Jake Burton’s desire to grow the sport. And, as we saw a few years ago when Burton ended production of its boards in Vermont, his love of Vermont ends where the bottom line of his company begins. But it just does not seem right that the state with the richest heritage in the sport will no longer host any major snowboarding competitions.

Pool closes for season on Sunday

• There may be another six weeks of summer according to the calendar, but according to the Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department, summer will be ending on Sunday, Aug. 12, at 8 p.m. That’s when they will be closing the swimming pool at Living Memorial Park for the season.

For the past few years, the town has been closing the pool in mid-August to save money, and unless a private benefactor shows up, the pool will continue to close early, with too much summer left.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #164 (Wednesday, August 8, 2012).

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