Team NH hoping new recipe gets old result at Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl

Mike Beliveau is trying to avoid getting a reputation.

In 2000, the Souhegan High School head football coach got his first shot at coaching the New Hampshire team in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl. That year’s team set records for the number of yards it put up, and scored 40 points, a total that in most years would win the game.

But that year, Vermont was a little bit better, claiming a 47-40 victory over the Granite State.

New Hampshire hasn’t lost since.

When Beliveau and his team take the field at 2:30 p.m. at Dartmouth College on Saturday, they’ll be looking to extend New Hampshire’s win streak to 12.

The roles will be a bit reversed this year, as Beliveau and his coaching staff – made up of the coach’s current and former assistants – have implemented the spread offense the Sabers have used since 2006, the first time New Hampshire will go into the game without a run-first offense. Meanwhile, Beliveau expects Vermont head coach Mike Norman to use a more balanced attack.

All of this has Beliveau feeling a bit anxious.

“The part that has me anxious is that I’m trying a different recipe,” he said. “We’re going to try to be victorious, maybe in a different way than New Hampshire has been victorious.

“For the kids, it probably hasn’t come up, but I think they know. For me, it’s playing a lot psychologically because I’m the one who lost the last time. I don’t want them to say ‘why don’t we have the Shrine have the guy from Souhegan coach so Vermont can have the W.’ I want to get rid of that.”

The players know, and for some of them, especially the ones who played for Souhegan, getting a win for “Coach B” is on their minds.

“It doesn’t mean that it’s a curse,” Salem running back Jerickson Fedrick said. “Definitely (want to get a win for him). He’s a great guy and he’s been coaching real well. We just want to go out there and win.”

For Souhegan’s Chris Chininis, playing in the game was a goal he set before his senior season, and when Beliveau was named the coach, he wanted to make sure he got the chance to play for his coach again.

“It’s kind of special because you only get one more game in with coach,” Chininis said. “He doesn’t want to be the first and the last in that streak. It would mean a lot to him.”

Beliveau plans on coaching this year’s game in the same way he did in 2000 –everyone will have a chance to play, thanks to preset rotations, but the goal is to win.

“We’ll live with who has been practicing on both sides of the ball,” he said. “In 2000, that’s how we played. There were some kids in the secondary who were struggling but they practiced hard all week.

“We’ve got kids who are giving up nine days of their life. They want people who are in the best position to move the ball. We’ll do what it takes to win.”

It didn’t take long for the players, specifically the skill guys, to take to the spread offense. To Rob McCormick, who was Beliveau’s quarterback at Souhegan in 2011, practice has been almost like a dream.

“We have amazing receivers,” he said. “They are all fast, strong, they can jump. It’s just amazing and it’s such a big difference than playing with a regular high school team. And then you have Kevin Davies and Jerickson Fedrick in the backfield, it’s incredible.”

McCormick will share time at quarterback with Timberlane’s Evan Bidgood, who will get the start. Manchester Memorial’s Cody Dalton has also taken reps, but will start in the defensive backfield.

“We started off with two getting most of the reps,” Beliveau said. “Then we started thinking, if one goes down, and we’re down to one, what if he goes down? We’re getting a third one ready.

“The thing about Cody and Rob is that they come from spread offenses. Evan comes from under center mostly, but Evan has a big arm and it’s starting to come out now. He started off on a little bit of a low, and then it’s coming together. As his confidence is coming together with the plays, he’s ripping the ball down field.”

If Bidgood, McCormick and Dalton can do that on Saturday, New Hampshire will be in good shape to make it’s win streak an even dozen.