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St. Anselm will host NHIAA football title games

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 26. 2012 9:58PM

Granite State football fans have long clamored for multiple NHIAA championship games to be played at one site on the same day.

Consider the grid wish granted.

NHIAA executive director Pat Corbin said Monday night that St. Anselm College's Grappone Stadium, which accommodates 4,500 spectators, will be the host site for the 2012 state finals in football's six divisions. Title games for Divisions IV, V and VI will take place Sunday, Nov. 11. Divisions I, II and III will crown champions Saturday, Nov. 17.

'It's all set as long as we can work out the (logistical) details: cost, how we're going to organize it,' said Corbin, noting the NHIAA and St. Anselm are working on finalizing a one-year contract. 'They, quite frankly, have done very little with inviting high school events to their venue. They've been kind of a closed campus. That's not a criticism, just an observation.'

But, Corbin said his office last fall was approached by St. Anselm officials about partnering for championship games. The timing was perfect.

Football committee members, Corbin said, began discussing a year ago the desire to find one venue for football's half-dozen finals.

'It would elevate football to where most other sports are,' Corbin said, 'in terms of having a neutral field with lights, artificial turf and terrific seating with lots of parking.'

Corbin said Bishop Guertin of Nashua athletics director Tony Johnson helped forge the partnership. Johnson led the Division II Cardinals to six titles. He now serves as an assistant coach at St. Anselm.

'I'm a big advocate of making sure our championship games are played in a big venue that everyone can see - on turf,' Johnson said. 'As an AD and coach, I've always wanted that and expressed it a number of times in meetings.'

The NHIAA annually determines champions in various sports at the University of New Hampshire, Southern New Hampshire University and Plymouth State University. Verizon Wireless Arena and Northeast Delta Dental Stadium have also opened their doors.

Of course, moving football's finals to the Hilltop resolves another issue: the need for fans to choose which championship game they'd most like to attend.

Championship games - traditionally played at the home field of the higher-seed team - in the past kicked off at the same time, or close to it.

'Obviously, playing at home is a nice thing,' Pinkerton Academy of Derry head football coach Brian O'Reilly said. 'But the aspect of being able to play multiple games in one place, which would increase fan support and interest, it seems like a good thing.'

Corbin estimated at least 50 individuals are needed to help with parking, concessions and the gate. St. Anselm's football players and coaches, he said, will be called upon to help with the effort.

'We're trying to help them with the logistics of running something like this,' Corbin said. 'We're excited about it.'