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June 23. 2012 8:28PM

Coach's son inspires winning West team


Sitting on the shoulders of Team West captain Nick Dragon, CHaD patient Harris Jones, 6, of Milford, gets a fist bump from Team East captain Jerickson Fedrick, of Salem, prior to the inaugural CHaD East-West High School Football All Star Game Saturday afternoon at Cowell Stadium in Durham. (JOSH GIBNEY / UNION LEADER)


After flipping the pre-game coin, CHaD patient Harris Jones, 6, of Milford, shakes hands with Team West captain Nick Dragon, of Monadnock, prior to the inaugural CHaD East-West High School Football All Star Game Saturday afternoon at Cowell Stadium in Durham. (JOSH GIBNEY / UNION LEADER)

DURHAM — Keith Jones has often said his 6-year-old son would be an amputee if not for Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD).

So, picture this: Harris Jones — on his own legs — walking to the 50-yard line Saturday at the University of New Hampshire's Cowell Stadium.

Injured in a snowmobile accident three years ago, Harris conducted the ceremonial coin toss for Saturday's inaugural New Hampshire East-West High School Football All-Star Game, an event co-sponsored by the Union Leader.

Talking about Harris and the 37 surgeries he has undergone since January 2009 forced Keith, the West all-stars coach, to choke up after a convincing 44-12 win.

“Unbelievable,” Keith said while holding his second son, Jamieson, born in January. “I'll start crying.”

Keith brought Harris into Team West's locker room before the game. The coach's message: “Remember what you're playing for,” he said.

The head coach at Milford High downplayed the role his son's pre-game appearance played in the matchup's lopsided outcome.

But, he said, “it made a difference.”

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Fundraising totals were announced at the game's conclusion.

A whopping $301,000 — including $58,000 of in-kind donations — was raised for CHaD and Kristen's Gift fund for pediatric oncology.

“It's a great foundation for the future. We're all winners. We're all fighting for the same cause,” said Nick Vailas, the game's founder. “Raising $301,000, it's pretty remarkable in this economy. We want to build from here, though.”

If there was one shortcoming, Vailas said, it was the game's lack of competitiveness. But, he quickly added, “it was still a great venue.”

“Regardless of the outcome, we raised a ton of money for the kids. And we had a blast the past (10) days,” East coach Bill Raycraft said. “We'll take that.”

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The game's most exciting play was the 50-yard touchdown reception by West all-star and Manchester Central receiver Thaddeus “Junior” Brown.

Would you believe it resulted from an audible?

Brown said East's cornerback was playing press coverage, within 2 yards from the line of scrimmage.

“(Manchester Memorial quarterback) Cody Dalton just looked at me, gave me the (eye) signal” said the 6-foot 3-inch, 180-pound wideout, who raced down the right seam.

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Two all-stars did not play due to injury.

East's Mike Estes, a two-way lineman from Somersworth, sustained a concussion during practice. West's Shannon Tucker, a running back and linebacker from Newfound of Bristol, suffered a knee injury.

mthaler@unionleader.com


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