THIS & THAT: The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl game

The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl game took a step forward last Saturday.

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From left to right: Bellows Falls’ Shane Clark, Logan Cota, and Jared Zobkiw and Fall Mountain’s Chris Bashaw.
Photo by Doug MacPhee.

Vermont won for the third straight year, but most importantly, the game was more competitive. The Shrine Committee, which sets the parameters for the game, has worked for years to make competition be the next most important thing to the children whom the game benefits. That’s probably the biggest reason the playing field for the game changed drastically four years ago.

You see the game had basically turned into a New Hampshire rout. Those who were interested in the contest for the rivalry between the two states had clearly lost interest. David can only defeat Goliath when several conditions line up perfectly.

 

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Logan Cota, a quarterback and a running back for the Terriers, played different roles in the Shrine game. He makes a tackle playing as a special teamer. He also saw time at tight end. Photo by Doug MacPhee.

I spoke to Shrine general chairman Kristi Morris last week, and he was pulling for a closer outcome. The final score was 24-13 Vermont, and the winners had to come from behind after halftime. The final count of 24-13 isn’t perfect, but it is a step in the right direction.

Morris told me this week, “We were very pleased competition-wise. We did expect even a closer game. We knew New Hampshire would be bigger size-wise, but that Vermont interception for a score in the first half gave Vermont the advantage they needed.”

 

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Shane Clark carried the ball for 20 yards in the Shrine game. Clark reports to Westfield State on Friday to begin his freshman year of practice in the sport.
Photo by Doug MacPhee.

There are formulas for the game. New Hampshire can select 12 representatives from each of their three divisions, while the Vermont formula is 8 players from Division I, 12 from Division II, and six from Division III. There will have to be some kind of change this year because New Hampshire is sporting four divisions again.

The current formula – which is also tagged with the stipulation that New Hampshire players can no longer play in both the New Hampshire CHAD East-West Game and the Shrine Game – will be reviewed again by the committee.

Formulas are necessary because New Hampshire has more teams, bigger schools, and more powerful programs in the top ranks than Vermont. That is why the dominance of the annual get together became so one-sided in the first place. In addition, the New Hampshire players playing in the East-West game were already in tip-top shape by the time July arrived because their game is in late June, and New Hampshire had even more of an advantage at one time because of that.

 

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Fall Mountain’s Chris Bashaw (52) is trying to make some progress here against a Vermont line. Bashaw had two tackles for New Hampshire on the day. Photo by Doug MacPhee.

I’m sure the powers that run the game aren’t interested, but my next move would be to keep the Vermont numbers exactly the same but change the New Hampshire numbers to 12 Division I, 10 Division II, 10 Division III, and four Division IV. The general understanding with the numbers is that the concern is with Division I specifically. Sometimes New Hampshire and Vermont can have more Division III players, and no one cares.

The other change I would make currently would be New Hampshire could have six players who actually played in the CHAD Game. Lately, the scales have definitely been tipped towards Vermont, and this allowance could help even things up even more.

 

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The Vermont offensive line was one of the keys to the Shrine Game victory. The nearest blocker in white is Jared Zobkiw doing his job, which many graded him highly on for his play. Photo by Doug MacPhee.

And now the best news of all, 5,229 fans attended the game – the largest crowd in some time – meaning the children at the Shriners Hospitals benefited from the fans’ generosity.

In case you didn’t hear, the bad news was that kick-off was delayed one hour and 25 minutes by thunderstorms. That may have put a damper on all, but once things started, the action was the closest outcome in three years.

Area football begins

All three area football teams begin practice next Monday. Side-by-side states are easy to make comparisons with, and usually when we make these comparisons, Vermont gets the edge, but this time I give the nod to New Hampshire.

Both states commence workouts the same day, but New Hampshire has a three-week preseason while Vermont only allows two. I prefer the third full week with scrimmages on consecutive Saturdays the final two weeks. In Vermont, since they have been limited to two weeks, many try to scrimmage twice during that second week.

Bellows Falls Bob Lockerby cut back to one scrimmage beginning last year choosing not to sacrifice skill time for the tune up tests. Lockerby does see a positive to the one scrimmage scenario. He tells me, “I have even got away from a lot of contact in practice. I know you can’t scrimmage twice in four or five days in the preseason and expect to keep your team relatively healthy.” Bellows Falls’ only scrimmage will be Saturday, Aug. 25 at 10 a.m. in Windsor. The Terriers open the regular season at home Labor Day weekend, Friday, Aug. 31 versus Spaulding at 7 p.m. They compete in Division II.

Both Springfield and Fall Mountain will scrimmage twice including once against each other. The two teams will pop the pads at Fall Mountain Tuesday, Aug. 21 at 4 p.m. in Langdon. The Cosmos will also take part in a four-team affair in White River Junction Aug. 25. They will see action versus Hartford, Woodstock, and Burr & Burton. In a very strange scheduling twist, the Cosmos don’t face Woodstock, a division opponent nearby. If the schedule makers did this to help Springfield play a more competitive schedule to their program, I salute the move. I certainly can’t think of any other common sense reason. Springfield opens their season at home the same night Bellows Falls does, Friday, Aug. 31, hosting Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax at 7 p.m.

Fall Mountain has that extra week before beginning regular season play Saturday, Sept. 8 on the road at Raymond in a 1:30 p.m. contest. The Wildcats hope to stage a second scrimmage against Newport, but no date had been set as of Tuesday.

 

If you would like to comment on the sports in this paper, feel free to email me at bmurphy@vermontjournal.com.

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