You could make the case that the two best offensive high school football players in New Hampshire last season will face each other in Saturday’s CHaD New Hampshire East-West All-Star Game.
University of New Hampshire-bound quarterback Trevor Knight will lead the West, which has a 2-0 lead in the series. Knight, who played for Nashua South, passed for 1,791 yards and 19 touchdowns (two interceptions) in 10 games during his senior season, when he also ran for 1,536 yards and 19 TDs.
“Trevor is a phenomenal athlete,” East coach Tony Johnson said. “I’m more concerned about Trevor running the ball (than passing). He can make an unbelievable play out of a potential sack. He’s going to do a lot of things on the fly.”
Running back Manny Latimore is the top offensive threat on the East roster. Latimore was a four-year varsity player for Pinkerton Academy in Derry, and finished his high school career as Pinkerton’s all-time leading rusher (4,142 yards). He also scored 64 career touchdowns, four shy of the school record set by Ryan Mihalko.
Latimore will continue his football career at Lackawanna College next season. Lackawanna is a junior college in Scranton, Pa.
“I saw Manny play a couple times last year and he’s the type of kid you can’t get a good clean shot at,” said West coach Paul Lavigne. “He can make you look foolish standing there by yourself. Not only is he fast, he’s powerful too.”
Saturday’s game, which benefits Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD), will be played at St. Anselm College’s Grappone Stadium (1 p.m.). The first two games were held at the University of New Hampshire’s Cowell Stadium, but renovations being done to Cowell this summer forced a change of venue.
Each roster features players who graduated from NHIAA schools this year.
“I don’t really have a feel for what kind of game it’s going to be,” Johnson said. “I like my defense, but the West has a lot of speed and it’s an all-star game, so it could be a shoot-out.”
Eric Waddington (Dover), Collin Richardson (Exeter) and Zach Wiggin (Pembroke Academy) are the East captains. Knight, Kyle Reisert (Plymouth Regional), Jared Kuehl (Plymouth Regional) and Marc Gaudet (Concord) were chosen as West captains.
The East will use an option offense that Johnson ran when he was the head coach at Bishop Guertin of Nashua. The West will attack with a Pro-Style offense that West assistant coach Jim Schubert ran when he was the head coach at Manchester Central.
“We can change gears if we have to,” Johnson said. “We’ll stick with what’s working. If we can throw the ball we’ll throw the ball. If we can run the ball we’ll run the ball. We have to be able to run our option game.”
Johnson has not announced his starting quarterback. Donovan Phanor (Portsmouth), Derek Stegman (Dover), Jack Athanas (Gilford) and Christian McKenna (Campbell of Litchfield) are the quarterbacks on the roster.
Shawn Cavallaro (Hanover) was supposed to start at tailback for the West, but suffered a hamstring injury in practice Tuesday and it’s uncertain whether he’ll play. Walters Ndi (Concord), Mitchell Banuskevich (Milford) and Kuehl will also be in the West backfield.
Each team had to declare a defensive alignment. The West will line up in a 4-4, the East in a 4-3. Blitzing is not allowed.
The East may have an edge in the kicking game, since Johnson has place-kicker/punter Hayden Middleton from St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover on his roster. Middleton made a 50-yard field goal last season, and 35 of his kickoffs were touchbacks. The West did not select a kicker.
Cavallaro, Knight, Kuehl and Reisert will all play at UNH next season. Three players in this year’s game will continue their football career at St. Anselm: West tight end/defensive end John Vidal (Nashua North), East tight end/split end Jake Poore (Salem) and East lineman David Crichton (Windham).
Both head coaches said they feel the strength of their team is on the defensive side. Lavigne served as the West’s defensive coordinator last year, when the West posted a 13-7 victory in overtime.
“(East coach) Bob Camirand ran a lot of Wing-T last year,” Lavigne said. “When you’re defending that, it’s just buckle up your helmet and play football. The bigger difference this year is we’re defending a wide-open type of offense.”