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August 19. 2013 12:26AM

Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Offense clicking early and often

The offense had an edge on the defense at the first major checkpoint of preseason camp at the University of New Hampshire.

The Wildcats are just over a week into camp on the way to their Sept. 7 opener at Central Michigan and scrimmaged late in the day on Saturday.

“I thought we did a very good job of executing on offense,” said head coach Sean McDonnell on Sunday afternoon. “We did a good job of throwing and catching. The top two quarterbacks had two or three incompletions between them. I thought the kids executed on the offensive side a lot better than on the defensive side.”

He attributed that in large part to the offense having more players with experience, starting with guys like Seamus O’Neill, the senior left tackle out of Manchester Central, juniors Rob Bowman and Mike Coccia and senior Ricky Archer on the offensive line.

“It makes a real big difference when you have those experienced guys up front,” McDonnell said.

Junior tight ends Harold Spears and Brian Ciccone help, too.

The competition remains close for the starting quarterback job between Andy Vailas, the junior out of Bedford and Bishop Guertin High School of Nashua, and sophomore Sean Goldrich, according to McDonnell.

“They’re both playing very well,” he said.

Running backs Chris Setian and Jimmy Owens are both playing well. Nico Steriti, who led the team in rushing last season, has been slowed by a “slight concussion” and McDonnell expects him to be back soon.

The coach cited the play of redshirt freshman running back Dalton Crossan, who scored a pair of touchdowns in the Blue-White game that ended spring football.
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DAVID BALL, UNH’s all-time leading wide receiver, had himself a whirlwind week and a half with the Philadelphia Eagles and if his playing career has to end that way, it was a heck of a way to go out: contending for a spot on a team coached by Chip Kelly, the Manchester guy who coached him in Durham.

“Zero regrets,” Ball said last week from his home in Vermont. “The only regret would have been if I didn’t go. If I had declined because of a fear of failure, or if I had just not gone.”

But Kelly called — or texted. And Ball took another shot at the National Football League.

It ended with Ball being released and needing surgery on a mangled right pinky finger and now facing months of recovery and rehabilitation. He will continue teaching physical education at Spaulding High School in Barre, his alma mater, and likely help out with the team there that he coached last year.

A top priority will be getting healthy.

After that? “Who knows?” Ball said. “It was such a great opportunity and where I always felt I belonged. If it has to end now, it would be much better than the way it ended before.”

Then it was a year and a half ago with the Erie Explosion, an indoor team, and it was not a very satisfying way to end.

Ball said he had a feeling that if Kelly ever got to the NFL perhaps he might put in a call to a sure-handed receiver, if he had not yet turned 30, who helped Kelly and McDonnell and quarterback Ricky Santos make history and turn a program around in Durham. Ball said he kept himself in playing shape, just in case that happened.

Kelly got his job and sure enough Ball, 29, got a call.

He was nearing the end of vacation with his fiancee’s family at Moosehead Lake in Maine and was headed into town for dinner when Kelly texted.

“He sent two texts in about two minutes and asked what my status was,” Ball said. “I had a feeling he was going down a list and if you didn’t give him the right answer he would move to the next name. I told him I was healthy and in shape and ready. He told me he’d have his GM call me in five minutes.”

Ball was on a flight out of Bangor the next morning, Saturday, July 27, and the next day was practicing with the Eagles.

The next day he slashed his finger doing a release drill.

“The receivers work on getting off a jam and getting into their routes as quickly as possible,” he said. “I slashed it across a shoulder pad, a hand or a forearm, it’s still hard to tell what happened. It detached a tendon and dislocated a bone and fractured a bone in four spots.”

He wasn’t sure how badly it was hurt and at first tried to practice with for a couple of days.

But it was a no go. That was it.

“It had to be dealt with immediately,” Ball said.

He had his surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center 10 days ago.

alessels@unionleader.com On Twitter: @AllenLessels


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