The battles during this week’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl practices weren’t limited to the players. Dave Jackson, New Hampshire’s head coach, and New Hampshire defensive coordinator Kip Jackson played tug-of-war with Bedford High School’s Nick Vailas to determine what Vailas’ primary position would be in today’s matchup with Vermont.
Dave Jackson wanted Vailas to play wide receiver in New Hampshire’s spread offense. Kip Jackson lobbied to use Vailas as a defensive back.
“Kip and I had that problem with a lot of kids,” Dave Jackson said with a laugh. “We fought.”
Apparently, Dave Jackson won the fight, because Vailas will start at wide receiver when New Hampshire and Vermont face each other in the 61st Annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl. The game, which features 2014 high school graduates from each state, will be played at Dartmouth’s Memorial Field. The opening kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
“I do like the offensive side of the ball, but I just want to get on the field and play,” Vailas said.
Vailas said he’s been attending the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl with his father since he was 8, and playing in the game has always been a goal.
“When I got the call I knew what I was playing for,” Vailas said. “Not myself or my teammates, but the kids from the Shriners Hospitals. Football has been such a big part of my life, and this has always been a great game.”
Vailas played three years of varsity football and three years of varsity lacrosse in high school. He said he plans to play both sports at Bowdoin College as well.
“Nick isn’t a rah-rah guy,” Bedford football coach Kurt Hines said. “He’s quiet, but he always gets the job done.”
The storyline entering today’s game is a familiar one: Can Vermont find a way to upset New Hampshire, or even keep the score close? New Hampshire will be attempting to extend a 13-game win streak today, and has scored at least 40 points in five of the last six games. New Hampshire has a 45-13-2 edge in the series.
In addition to Vailas, this year’s offense features Winnacunnet of Hampton wide receiver Alec Boucher, Salem running back Jason Martinez, Hanover slot back Shawn Cavallaro, St. Thomas of Dover slot back Jake Geppert and Nashua South quarterback Trevor Knight.
“These kids are all great athletes,” Dave Jackson said. “When we picked the team, we tried to look at kids who were special at a particular position. (Vailas) picked everything up real quick, He’s smooth. It looks like he’s not even trying.”
The game raises money for the Shriners Hospitals in Montreal, Boston and Springfield, Mass.
“It’s a special experience for all of us,” Vailas said. “Luckily I’m here, and I’m here to play.”
MARTINEZ, Concord’s Marc Gaudet, Dover’s Eric Waddington and Keene’s Alex Parenteau were named team captains on Thursday. … Former Manchester Central standout Steve Schubert is one of nine players who scored three touchdowns in the game. No player from either state has scored more than three TDs. … Tickets for today’s game are $15 at the gate. … Add Trinity of Manchester’s Tristan Theroux to the list of New Hampshire players who will soon be playing for UNH. Theroux, a tight end/defensive end, will join the program as a preferred walk-on. Knight, Cavallaro, Martinez, Jared Kuehl (Plymouth), Kyle Reisert (Plymouth), and Hayden Middleton (St. Thomas) are the other players on the New Hampshire roster who are headed to UNH.