AFTER New Hampshire stretched its Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl winning streak to 12 games by beating Vermont 62-24 last summer, the game's organizers searched for a solution that would help level the playing field.
That search ended when it was determined that added restrictions would be placed on how New Hampshire could select the players on its roster. Mascoma of Canaan's Ray Kershaw, who coached New Hampshire in Saturday's game, had to choose six players from each of the six divisions that were in place last fall.
In previous years, New Hampshire's initial roster had to include nine players from Division I, eight from Division II, six from Division III, six from Division IV, four from Division V and three from Division VI.
The move had its critics among New Hampshire's high school coaches. Even Jason Thomas, Vermont's Shrine coach this year, voiced his displeasure.
"I don't like it," Thomas said. "We have a lot of pride in this state, and I'd rather have our best play their best. To me, this gives New Hampshire a built-in excuse."
New Hampshire was allowed to choose players from higher divisions when it needed to find replacements this year. One player didn't report to camp, so New Hampshire ended up with a 35-player roster that featured eight players from Division I, four from Division II, five from Division III, six from Division IV, seven from Division V and five from Division VI. Exeter had three players on the team, more than any other school.
Kershaw said he understood why some were critical of the new rule.
"I can see how some people would question why we should have the same number of players from Division I as Division VI, but I like the idea of getting more lower-division kids on the roster," Kershaw said. "These kids are all all-stars."
CHANGE OF VENUE: Both teams practiced at Castleton State College in Vermont this year, after using Kimball Union Academy in Meriden as a practice site for six years. No practice site has been chosen for next year's game.
Practice for this year's game was shortened from nine to seven days. Kershaw said he had plenty of time to adequately prepare his team.
"It comes down to how much you want to install," Kershaw said. "If I had two or three more days I would have installed more stuff. About midweek I had to make a call and see how much the kids had absorbed. I wouldn't mind a couple more days, but we didn't need to put any more in."
EXTRA POINTS: New Hampshire's captains were Goffstown quarterback Connor Benjamin, Trinity running back Romeo Masuku, Trinity linebacker Ryan Carrier, Lebanon linebacker Dylan Drew and Winnacunnet offensive lineman Jordan Cutting. . Saturday was the 50th time the game was played at Dartmouth's Memorial Field. The game has also been played at Nashua's Holman Stadium, Manchester's Athletic Stadium (now Gill Stadium), Centrennial Field in Burlington, Vt., Durham's Mooradian Field and MacLeay-Royce Field in Windsor, Vt. . Saturday's game had a 5:30 p.m. kickoff. It was the first time the game has been played at night. . New Hampshire has 57 varsity football programs. Vermont has 33. . A late decision was made to shorten the quarters from 15 minutes to 12 minutes.