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Saturday, June 28, 2014

West All Stars’ defense could decide NH CHaD football game

The best of the recently graduated high school football players will take the field Saturday afternoon to play in the third CHaD East-West NH High School All-Star Game.

And if this year’s contest is anything like last year’s, West coach Paul Lavigne will be happy. ...

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The best of the recently graduated high school football players will take the field Saturday afternoon to play in the third CHaD East-West NH High School All-Star Game.

And if this year’s contest is anything like last year’s, West coach Paul Lavigne will be happy.

A year ago, the West won a defensive struggle, 13-7 in overtime, with Lavigne serving as the defensive coordinator for head coach Jim Schubert. Now the head coach of the West, Lavigne would certainly like to see his defense rise to the occasion again. This year’s game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Saint Anselm College.

“If it is a defensive game, I’ll be tickled pink,” Lavigne said. “I feel like if it’s a good defensive game, I feel like we’re in a good position to win it.”

The West has plenty of star-power on its roster, with three players who signed to play at the University of New Hampshire in the fall – Trevor Knight (Nashua South), Jared Kuehl (Plymouth) and Shawn Cavallaro (Hanover) – plus five players from Concord, which won the Division I championship, and another from Bow, which won Division III.

But with many of the West’s offensive players trying to pick up an unfamiliar system, which will be coached by Schubert, the defense hit the ground running.

“It’s different terminology (on defense), but it’s either a four, or five, or a three (man front),” Lavigne said. “They have the concepts, and after the first day of getting the terminologies, it sets fast. The defense gets ahead pretty fast, until you get to the game. The defense should be ahead of the offense.”

The biggest change for anyone is likely Knight, who has played quarterback in a spread offense for most of his life, but has been taking snaps under center for the last two weeks.

“I haven’t taken an under-center-snap since middle school maybe, I can’t remember,” Knight said. “Not only that, just being so close to the line, everything about being under center, I’m just not used to it. Also, calling the play in the huddle is rough, too.

“(At South) I didn’t have to say the plays, ever. I just had to tell the line things. I’m just adjusting and still getting there. Hopefully, I can keep improving.”

One thing the West team hasn’t had a problem with is playing together. Knight feels he and his teammates have been on the same page since the first day of practice, and Lavigne feels the team is in even better shape than a year ago.

“I was here last year, and last year, I think we ran a pretty good ship,” said Lavigne, who coached college and high school football in the state for over 40 years before retiring two seasons ago.

“I think the kids are getting here earlier, they’re more enthused, they seem to be pulling together as a team a lot sooner than last year, and last year was a good team. I enjoyed it immensely last year, but this year, I’m hoping that all these things show we’re moving faster in that direction.”

The roster is filled with several players from Greater Nashua, including Knight’s teammate, lineman Kelmy Anziani, and Bishop Guertin’s Mike Devereau, John Miller and Stavros Anagnost, all of whom are in the rotation on defense.

Milford’s Harrison Urda has also seen a lot of time at defensive back, while fellow Spartan Mitch Banuskevich was getting most of his reps at outside linebacker, but was also practicing at running back after a hamstring injury slowed Cavallaro.

Also on offense will be Merrimack lineman Colin Healey while his former teammate, Devin Gillis, will serve as Knight’s backup. North’s John Vidal is also on the roster, but a foot injury has kept him from practicing going into Wednesday.

There’s a solid contingent of Bedford kids, but while last year’s quintet was all skill players.

This year’s group includes linemen Trent Fortune and Matthew Johnston on offense, and Robert Lamy on defense. They’re joined by Nick Vailas, who has been getting reps at receiver.

“I think overall, I’m very happy and satisfied,” Lavigne said. “I try to take what we’re going to learn and apply it to what we think we’re going to see. It’s a crapshoot. You hope and pray that you’re coaching ability will understand what they have.”

Lavigne expects to see a mix of things from East coach Tony Johnson, the former Bishop Guertin coach.

“We think they’ll probably run a wishbone and they might run a spread,” Lavigne said.

“We hope we’ll cover a little of everything. I wish we had a few more days of practice to get all covered up, but we’re doing fine.”