All-Star football players from Vermont and New Hampshire have been butting heads in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl since 1954, and you could argue that Vermont has never needed a victory more than it does this year.
New Hampshire leads the series 43-13-2, and has won the last 11 meetings – many by one-sided scores. New Hampshire's recent dominance has some concerned about the game's health.
“There's no question there's pressure on Vermont,” said Rutland coach Mike Norman, who will coach this year's Vermont team. “For every athlete we have, they probably have one-and-a half or two. Hopefully we'll be coached up well enough to compete and get after New Hampshire a little bit.”
This year's game will be played Aug. 4 at Dartmouth College. The opening kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
Practice for this year's game began Thursday at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden.
This is Norman's third tour of duty as Vermont's Shrine coach. He also served as Vermont's coach in 1998 and 2001. Vermont won 21-13 in 1998, and New Hampshire prevailed 21-0 in 2001.
Norman, who has led Rutland to seven state championships, said Fair Haven's Robert Coloutti will likely be Vermont's starting quarterback. Hartford's Tucker Stone, the other quarterback on the roster, is penciled in to start in the defensive backfield. Each quarterback led their team to a state championship last season.
“[Coloutti] is from a spread offense,” Norman said. “He'll play basketball at Castleton State. He was recruited to play football too. He can use his feet. He's an athlete.”
Stone, who is expected to be a defensive back at St. Lawrence, is one of nine Hartford players on the roster. Hartford has won the last two Division I state championships.
“We're gonna have to rely on the Hartford kids,” Norman said. “There's a bunch of them on the team, and they've had some success. In order for us to be successful it will have to be those guys leading the way.”
Mike Beliveau, the head coach at Souhegan High School in Amherst, N.H., is New Hampshire's head coach. Beliveau was New Hampshire's head coach in 2000, when Vermont posted a 47-40 victory. It was the highest-scoring game in the event's history.
New Hampshire has prevailed by using a power running game the last few years, but Beliveau said New Hampshire fans can expect to see his team throw the ball often in this year's contest.
“We will be different than the last few New Hampshire Shrine teams, when their were 60 snaps and maybe five or six passes,” Beliveau said. “We'll be way more balanced than that.”
The game will feature 15-minute quarters, and Norman said he plans to use a two-platoon system as much as possible.
“We'll be on the turf, it'll probably be hot and it's a long game,” Norman said. “We'll try to get as many people involved as possible. It's a matter of not panicking early, and getting into the flow of the game.”
VERMONT SHRINE MAPLE SUGAR BOWL ROSTER
Tucker Stone (Hartford), Matt Rafus (Windsor), Kyle Kelly (Rutland), Levi Ellis (Fair Haven), Marshall Hastings (Middlebury), Sam Kelly (Oxbow), Zach Devoid (Bellows Free), Jayson Collette (Milton), Jakob Oliver (Burr and Burton), Rob Coloutti (Fair Haven), Dillon Robinson (Middlebury), Owen Newton (Hartford), Soren Pelz-Walsh (Brattleboro), Alec Kozlowski (Colchester), Mike Schreiner (Bellows Free Academy), Travis Wilson (Hartford), William Thompson (South Burlington), Ryan Flemming (Champlain Valley), Alex Cross (Mount Anthony), Troy Bell (Hartford), Miles Latham (Hartford), Taylor Raftery (Bellows Free Academy), Dylan Raymond (Champlain Valley Union), Robert Murray (Hartford), Mack Shea (Rutland), Cody Collins (North Country), Steven Ladka (Hartford), Bobby Annis (Hartford), Adam Fortin (North Country), Austin Quesnel (Middlebury), Joseph Johnson (Hartford), Mathew Keir (Mount Anthony), Parker Lamoureux (Mount Anthony), Jamie Holbrook (Milton), Ben Thieken (Bellows Free Academy), Ryan Ragosta (Rutland).
Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report. He has been reporting on high school sports throughout New England since 1992.