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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Defense keys West to win in CHaD All-Star Football Game

MANCHESTER – Paul Lavigne had no reason to worry after all.

The West coach spent all week trying to prepare his defense for the East’s spread offense, but he said it was difficult because his team couldn’t go live against it in practice. That left him wondering whether his team would actually be ready come Saturday. ...

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MANCHESTER – Paul Lavigne had no reason to worry after all.

The West coach spent all week trying to prepare his defense for the East’s spread offense, but he said it was difficult because his team couldn’t go live against it in practice. That left him wondering whether his team would actually be ready come Saturday.

By the end of the first series, all of Lavigne’s fears vanished.

The West defense dominated the East from the beginning, holding its offense to 131 total yards for the game and just 32 yards on 30 plays in the first half, to cruise to a 24-7 victory in the CHaD New Hampshire East-West All-Star Football Game at Saint Anselm College.

The West had four interceptions and four sacks and allowed the three East quarterbacks to complete a combined eight passes. The East had eight first downs – only three in the first half – and spent much of the first quarter pinned inside its own 20-yard line.

“I credit the coaching staff,” said Milford High School’s Harrison Urda, who had a tackle and an interception. “They got us ready to play, and we knew what we were going to do right from the start, so I was ready to play and everybody else was ready to play.”

Concord’s Marc Gaudet, who finished with six tackles and an interception, was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player.

The West’s defensive dominance, particularly in the first half, gave Nashua South’s Trevor Knight and the offense good field position throughout the game, leading to three quick scoring drives on its first four possessions to go up 18-0 early in the second quarter.

“Our defense pretty much won us this game,” said Knight, who completed 4 of 14 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.

Knight, who will play at the University of New Hampshire in the fall, said some of his struggles came from the unfamiliarity with taking snaps under center and rolling out on passing plays.

But he had success early as he completed three passes, including a 16-yard strike to Bedford’s Nicholas Vailas on a fourth-and-7 and a 7-yard touchdown pass to Manchester Central’s Nick Makris to put the West up 6-0.

“It wasn’t really my type of offense to run, but it’s OK,” Knight said. “I’m just glad we won.”

The West’s defense shut down the East’s offense in its next three possessions, giving its offense the ball at the 41-, 35- and 31-yard lines.

Hanover’s Shawn Cavallaro put the West up 12-0 with 5:45 left in the first quarter on a 27-yard run on fourth-and-1. He found the end zone again two series later with a 1-yard run to make it 18-0.

“That was very important to our defense because now we can play a little bit more conservative back there,” Lavigne said. “Not worried about up tight, not worried about this and that.

“So scoring a couple of touchdowns put us in more of a relaxed mode, and when the kids are in a relaxed mode, they play a lot better.”

After the East cut the deficit to 18-7 on a 2-yard run by Pinkerton Academy’s Manny Latimore late in the third quarter, the West answered with a pair of strong offensive series led by Merrimack’s Devin Gillis at quarterback.

Gillis, a late addition to the West squad, completed 4 of 7 passes for 69 yards and hit Milford’s Mitchell Banuskevich for an 8-yard touchdown throw early in the fourth quarter.

Gillis also lofted a nice 32-yard pass into the arms of Manchester Memorial’s Deon Ball in his next series.

“Everyone on the sidelines was going crazy out there,” Merrimack teammate Colin Healy said. “They didn’t expect it out of him because he’s so small.

“I knew that because he’s my quarterback, so I was telling them that’s how he is. It was great.”