When Jason Thomas became Burr and Burton Academy's head football coach in 2008, the Bulldogs had suffered through nine consecutive losing seasons. Four years later he guided Burr and Burton to the Division II championship game.
Thomas will face a similar challenge this summer, when he coaches Vermont's Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl team.
New Hampshire has won the last 12 meetings with Vermont, and has outscored Vermont 433-145 in those 12 games. New Hampshire set a record for points in a game last summer, when its posted a 62-24 victory and increased its lead in the series to 44-13-2.
“I'm a Vermonter, and I have a lot of pride in our state,” Thomas said. “We're small, but we have some really good football players here.
“When you look at the size difference we don't have the linemen to line up and pound it at New Hampshire. I want to play at a tempo New Hampshire is not used to.”
Thomas, who played football at the University of Massachusetts, said he learned the basics of his fast-paced offense while he was an assistant coach at the University of New Hampshire, and current Oregon head coach Chip Kelly was UNH's offensive coordinator..
“Chip really laid the foundation for me in terms of offense and what I wanted to do,” Thomas said.
Mascoma Regional's Ray Kershaw will be New Hampshire's head coach. Mascoma, which began playing varsity football in 2008, had never posted a winning record until last season, when the Royals lost to Franklin in the Division VI championship game. Kershaw became Mascoma's head coach in 2010.
“Being named New Hampshire's Shrine coach was very exciting for me,” Kershaw said. “It's a great honor because of what the game is all about [raising money for the Shriners' hospitals].”
This year's Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl will be played Aug. 3 at Dartmouth's Memorial Field. The Vermont and New Hampshire rosters will be released later this month.
One of the first players Thomas selects will likely be quarterback Jake Stalcup, a three-year starter at Burr and Burton. Stalcup was named Vermont's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011, following his junior season.
Stalcup passed for 2,613 yards and 31 touchdowns (nine interceptions) last season. He also threw 31 touchdown passes as a junior.
“He's as steady as they come,” Thomas said. “He doesn't really get rattled. He's 6-2, 200 pounds and has a live arm. He has 'it' as a quarterback.”
Practice for this year's game has been shortened from nine days to seven. There have also been added restrictions placed on how New Hampshire must select its roster. New Hampshire's initial roster before any injuries) must feature six players from each of the state's six divisions. In past year's New Hampshire was allowed to take more players from its larger schools.
New Hampshire has 57 schools with varsity football. Vermont has 34.
“To be honest I don't care about their selection process,” Thomas said. “I want their best against our best. This seems like it gives them an excuse if we do beat them.”
ROBERE NETS 1,000TH POINT
Brianna Robare became the second Winooski girls basketball player to score 1,000 career points when she tossed in 20 during a 53-42 loss to BFA-Fairfax on Saturday.
Robare reached the milestone when she made a 3-pointer with 2:06 left in the first quarter. Robare's sister Bobbi also scored 1,000 points for Winooski.
Chace Carpenter (17 points), Kayla Baczewski (15) and Meghan Bochanski (11) scored in double figures for BFA-Fairfaix, which improved to 6-0. The Bullets trailed by two points entering the fourth quarter, but outscored Winooski 17-4 over the final eight minutes.
The loss dropped the Spartans to 5-2.
TOOF REACHES CENTURY MARK
Mount Mansfield-South Burlington girls hockey coach Mickey Toof earned his 100th career coaching victory when MMU-SB defeated Colchester last week.
Toof is in his ninth season as a head coach. He was Burlington's head coach for four years, and is now in his fifth season with South Burlington.
Toof has an overall record of 100-64-15 in nine seasons.
VERGENNES BOYS OFF TO STRONG START
The Vergennes boys basketball team made 26 of 29 two-point field goal attempts during an 87-59 triumph over U-32 during the first round of the Fran Pinard tournament on Dec. 28.
Vergennes, which lost to Mount St. Joseph in last year's Division II championship game, is off to a 10-0 start this season. The Commodores picked up victory No. 10 by beating Montpelier 53-43 Saturday.
Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader, and has been covering high school sports throughout New England since 1992.