Even in defeat, Alvirne and Campbell football have reasons to be proud
DURHAM – They’ve been related for years, but unfortunately the Alvirne and Campbell High School football programs shared something else other than origin on Saturday.
They both fell in their respective state title games – games in which they had the lead at halftime at the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Stadium.
Campbell was up on Monadnock 12-6 at the intermission of the Division III title game, before falling 15-12 to Monadnock Regional.
“They’re a very good team,” Campbell coach Glen Costello said of the Huskies. “I didn’t think 12 points would be enough to knock them out of this contention. Realistically, you have to score 28 points on them if you’re going to beat them.”
The Broncos were up 18-15 at their break before they succumbed 29-18 at the hands of Plymouth in the Division II title game that followed Campbell’s.
The Broncos, who had plenty of Litchfield players when they first began playing varsity football in the mid 1990s, were seeking their first state title. Campbell has two in its trophy case, including last year’s triumph over the same Huskies.
Could back-to-back title games decided by a combined seven points be the start of a great rivalry? Perhaps.
” It’s starting to be that way, isn’t it,” Monadnock coach Ryan Avery said. “I think (it can continue). Two pretty similar teams, we like to play good defense, we’re hard nosed, it leads to pretty good games.”
“Coach Avery does a good job, he puts those guys in the right position,” Cougars coach Glen Costello said, “and they succeeded.”
The Cougars simply couldn’t muster enough offense, as Costello alluded. Campbell couldn’t get outside except for two Conor Sweeney TDs, and the middle was clogged all day “They have four big kids (up front) and they have two aggressive linebackers, and it starts with (Chandler) Matson and (Tim) Hart. So they force everything in, bunch everything up in the middle so it makes it tough to go anywhere.”
This was Costello’s first year as head coach, and he certainly wants to see if Campbell can keep these UNH appearances, two straight now, a regular thing.
“I think across the board with the athletics in Litchfield, there’s a high level of expectation,” he said. “And the kids work hard, and you see products like this, getting to the championship (game) in back to back years, the soccer team, the cheer team, there’s a standard of excellence.”
Campbell did miss two-way standout Keegan Mills, who was a force in last year’s title game but missed this one with an ankle injury. A junior, he’ll be back for his senior season.
“Keegan Mills is a very talented player,” Costello said. “He’ll be a finalist for Gatorade Player of the Year next year, so it’s tough replacing a kid like that.”
The Cougars do lose some key seniors, including quarterback Adam Breton, corner-wideout Jason Rubino, nose tackle Jason Kidwell, etc.
But besides Mills, another cornerstone of next year’s team should be lineman-defensive back Carter Vedrani. A junior, he had a monster game on Saturday with 19 total tackles, 10 unassisted, one for loss.
“Carter Vedrani doesn’t get enough credit, which is crazy since he’s 6-4, 225,” Costello said. “The kid’s banged up but he fights through everything, one of the smartest football players I’ve come across.”
Costello was clearly proud of his players for not only hanging in with a Monadnock team that blew them out 36-14 during the regular season, but actually setting the tone for the game. Now comes some down time, and then the wheels will be set in motion for next season.
“We’ll take a couple of weeks off, re-evaluate where we need to go, and be back at it near Christmas,” Costello said. “Overall, I would say the sense of community and the support from the people of Litchfield was nothing like I’ve experienced as a coach. … The kids played hard, and left it all on the field.”
It was a memorable Saturday afternoon both on and off the field for Alvirne High School.
Great crowd, great enthusiasm, great feeling coursing through the veins of every member of the Broncos football program, great first half … and a disappointing ending.
Certainly, the positives outweigh the negatives for coach Tarek Rothe.
“This all shows what happens when you work hard for it,” said the coach, speaking about this program’s dedication to the effort that began last December and seemed to be unwavering.
“I just told the kids, I fully experience to be back here next year. We’re in the right division. We have the chance to compete, and the kids believed in it.”
Kyle Gora’s play and leadership took another level on Saturday as the sophomore quarterback added a new chapter on toughness to his resume.
“The kid was throwing up on the sidelines in the first quarter,” said Rothe, noting that Gora had taken a helmet to the stomach early that bothered him the rest of the way. “He was in pain the whole way and never let on. He just fought his heart out.”
Gora was by no means the only Bronco to lay it on the line at UNH.
Senior end Jamie Bertrand went out a champion in so many eyes, racking up 193 yards of total offense.
“The kid never played football before this year. If he did, there would be college coaches all over him,” said Rothe. “He’s not just an athlete who tried to play football. In one season, he became a football player, and that says so much about him.’ …
Defensively, Alvirne held the Bobcats to a mere 4.7 yards per snap, something that few might have expected. Tyler Clegg had six solo tackles and five assists to lead the way inside, while Grady Hudson had five solos, with six assists, including a tackle for loss.
Alec Prescott delivered four solos and six assists, while Mitch Dobek gets the “Never quit, all motor all the time Award” for constantly rallying to the football and racking up 11 assists. …
Big Gregg Ellis had a sack and another tackle for loss among his six combined stops. Linebacker Alex Giuffrida finished with eight tackles in a big night, while Thomas Keegan closed out a spectacular year with four tackles and one big tackle for loss. …
Most touching moment of the night on the Broncos’ sideline came with Plymouth in victory formation in the final minute.
Alvirne defensive tackle Jacob Champagne, who had played his heart out in the trenches all night, came flying off the ball.
Originally, Rothe was livid, thinking his team’s class might be compromised.
Champagne hit the sideline and emotionally explained he didn’t know the Bobcats were taking a knee. The two embraced. It was just one of those special pieces of the game, a coach and his player pouring all they had into an event and sharing the pain. Great stuff.
Both UNH and the NHIAA deserve amazing props for a great day of football action. All three games contested at high levels, and the adults involved did their best to make it special for the athletes and fans. It was awesome! But …
What was the NHIAA thinking, handing down the edict to the UNH folks that no replays were to be shown on Wildcat Stadium’s amazing video board?
Who would make that decision? And why?
I mean, talk about the thrill of an athlete or a parent, able to look up and relive a jaw-dropping effort or play. It’s a huge reason the game is held there, or so I thought.
After a day of lamenting why the NHIAA would not allow replays.
At first, I figured maybe it was so not to “rub it in” to the opposition. These are politically correct times and that would be understandable.
And then I heard Queen’s “We are the Champions” for the third time that day when Bedford outlasted Pinkerton Academy, 28-14, in the Division I game.
You know, “We are the Champions,” as in the lyrics, “no time for losers, ’cause we are the champions,” so that was ruled out.
Nope, this had to be on the officials working the games. They obviously didn’t want calls questioned. I need someone in the know to tell us that is not the case. Please.
I would hate to see the student-athletes, you know the reason we do all this for, suffered because some well-paid adults, who choose to be there, didn’t want to have their judgment put in question.