Shrine Bowl a final game for Beliveaus
The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl annually marks the final time a class of football players from New Hampshire and Vermont will be representing their respective high schools.
This year’s game will also signal the end of a special duo from Souhegan High School.
When New Hampshire takes the field on Saturday, it will be the last time coach Mike Beliveau and his son, Tim, share the sideline as mentor and player.
There is certain to be some emotion for both, especially if New Hampshire is to win its 12th straight in the series against its neighboring state. But in some ways, there will be some relief for both father and son to no longer be head coach and player.
One relationship can have great influence on the other, and that’s something that both Beliveaus have tried to avoid going back to Tim’s days playing Pop Warner football for the Amherst Patriots.
Back then, Mike, in addition to coaching at Souhegan, was an assistant coach when his youngest son was learning the game, and at times, he took those lessons a little too far.
“When Tim was a youth player, I think I was driving him away from the game, because after practices and after games, I’d critique him,” Mike said. “I kind of went home and made it almost like practice at home. I think I was hurting the situation. In high school, I made a point, unless Tim wanted to talk about it as a captain senior year, I didn’t want to bring it home. I wanted him to let it go on the field.”
But when a barrier like that is set up, the temptation to cross it can be too much at times, especially for something that both parties are eager to discuss.
“There’d be times at home that I’d bounce ideas off his head or draw up plays on a napkin at the dinner table or stuff like that,” Tim said. “We both have that passion in football and we both could bond in that way. That stuck with us over the years and it will continue to stick, that love for football.”
Never was the love for football more evident on the home front than the first viewing of game film. For Mike, it was the anticipation of seeing “the first cut” of a game and what the Sabers looked like on the screen.
“I have a gentleman who brings the film to my house and we both were excited to put it on and see it for the first time,” Mike said. “That was kind of a fun thing, to know your son was as excited as you to watch the first cut of it, so to speak. You know you’re going to watch it a hundred more times with the coaches, but to watch it together …”
While they were trying not to be coach and player at home, both Mike and Tim tried not to take the father-son relationship out on the football field as well. By all accounts, they accomplished that.
“You wouldn’t know that Coach B is Tim’s dad,” said Merrimack coach Joe Battista, who was Mike’s assistant at Souhegan and is on the New Hampshire staff for the Shrine game. “Mike handles it the right way and you wouldn’t even know that they’re related.”
Battista remembers a time while he was still a coach at Souhegan when Mike asked him to work with Tim.
“I remember him when he was in seventh grade,” Battista said. “Mike asked me to take him down to the two-man sled and teach him how to do some run-blocking. Now to look at him, he’s a young man and he’s got muscle on him. I can’t believe how much he’s grown. He’s come a long way from that.”
From the beginning of his high school career, Tim had hoped that he would be treated just like one of the other players. If that meant rotating with others at his position – end in Souhegan’s spread offense – and not having plays called specifically for him, than that’s what it meant.
“I just felt like that’s the way it should always be,” Tim said of the lack of special treatment. “I would tell him that, but he would already know, he would already do the right thing. We’re both on the same page. If this is going to work, that’s the way it has to be, and that’s what we did.”
That was evident on a play during Tim’s junior year. With the Souhegan offense near the goal line, the Sabers came out lined up in the T-formation and quarterback Michael Luks threw to the left end. The receiver laid out in the end zone and made a finger-tip catch for the touchdown.
That season, Souhegan had four ends who rotated on their own throughout the game. It wasn’t until after the play was over that Mike realized it was Tim who had made the catch.
“I jumped up, but the guy on the headset, JT Anderson, my offensive guy, he said ‘that was Tim by the way’ and I said ‘really?’ ” Mike said. “I didn’t know. They were subbing themselves because some of them were playing defense, too. A lot of times, I didn’t know he was on the field.
“After his career, watching a couple of things, it was really neat. But while he was playing, he was another player. He was another kid that maybe could make a block.”
But of all the plays, the greatest memories for Mike were two embraces that came once the game was over.
For years, it seemed no matter what Souhegan did, it couldn’t beat Plymouth, especially on the road. When the Sabers finally did, the coaches and players weren’t the only ones who were excited.
“We would lose big, we would lose close, but we won that day,” Mike said. “I remember my older son (Andrew) was a freshman and he traveled at that point. I hugged him quick.
“Then I see this little guy running at me with a Pop Warner jersey on and it’s Tim. He launched himself, literally, up into my arms. I caught him and I kept doing a spin. As I’m spinning, his legs are flying around and we might have spun five times or 10 times. I was balling like a baby (because of) the win and that my son was really overjoyed for his father was huge for me.”
The second hug came after Souhegan defeated Portsmouth on a last-second play to win its third straight Division III title in 2010, Tim’s junior season.
“That was such a great game and being a part of that team, winning that game together, that was the best moment by far,” Tim said.
“He’s a part of these moments, of things that as he grows up and he gets older, you don’t forget,” Mike said. “You might forget the big catch, but I won’t forget those two embraces after those pretty spectacular situations.”
The pair will try to take advantage of their last chance to make a memory on the football field against Vermont on Saturday.