New Hampshire’s bonds produced big Shrine win

HANOVER – The Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl was over and the New Hampshire players were about to scatter to all ends of Dartmouth College’s Memorial Field.

Before that could happen, Mike Beliveau shouted to his New Hampshire players, asking for just a few more minutes. And the players came, stepping away from friends and family, and even interviews with the media, to gather around the Souhegan High School coach.

Beliveau thanked the players for their time and effort in helping the Granite State get a 62-24 victory to extend its winning streak over Vermont to 12 games. And then the coach led the team in a chant of “Live Free or Die.”

“I think we were successful, two or three days in (practice), we felt like we had achieved something,” Beliveau said. “What we achieved was, they all came as opponents from the East-West game and (high school rivalries) and then two days in, they said ‘we’re 603, we’re New Hampshire.’ I think they really bought it. They’re like a brotherhood and they really liked each other.”

This year’s team had a lot to play for, not only to keep the streak alive, but to help Beliveau avenge a previous loss as the New Hampshire coach. Beliveau led New Hampshire in 2000, the last time Vermont won the Shrine game.

“We wanted to get that off his chest,” said Tim Beliveau, the coach’s son. “These players,they really enjoyed playing for him and they really wanted to win for him. And win for ourselves, too, because we really came together. It’s awesome how we bonded.”

And New Hampshire did it in the way the coach had hoped, scoring multiple touchdowns in all three phases of the game. Souhegan’s Chris Chininis started the scoring a minute into the game on a 61-yard punt return and Trinity’s Mike Leonard followed it up with a 28-yard fumble return for a score on Vermont’s next play from scrimmage.

Cody Dalton,of Manchester Memorial, added another defensive score in the fourth quarter,returning an interception of Vermont’s Rob Coloutti 37 yards for a touchdown.

“We had 14 points before the offense stepped on the field and I think that was a huge partof the game,” Chininis said. “Some of those points were offense, some were defense and some were special teams. It wasn’t just the offense. Everyone contributed in some way.”

Record setters

The 62 points scored by New Hampshire set a record for a single team in the Shrine game, besting the 47 points Vermont put up in 2000.

Is it a coincidence that Beliveau was coaching in both games?

“It’s a coincidence, however, my approach is that you have all-starts,” he said. “You need to figure out as many ways to throw it, catch it, run it and get in the end zone. I don’t think a good all-star game is 3-0.”

The players were thrilled that their point total erased the record set by Vermont.

“Breaking the record for most points is sweet, too,” Hollis Brookline’s Zach Migneault said. “Coach (Beliveau) has been in my life for the last 12 years. To turn it around and destroy the Vermont record is awesome.”

Long halftime

When the first half came to a close, 30 minutes were put on the scoreboard for halftime. The Shriners went through their annual ceremonies and a band comprised of New Hampshire and Vermont musicians entertained for the rest of the time.

And then Mother Nature put on a performance, bringing showers, thunder and lightning to the field.

Just as halftime was coming to a close, lightning struck nearby, meaning play would be postponed for another 30 minutes. Every time lightning crashed across the sky,the clock was reset.

By the time the players returned for the second half, more than two hours had passed.

The delay appeared to have an effect on New Hampshire, as it turned the ball over on its first possession. Vermont turned the miscue into a field goal that made it a 10-point game.

“It’s tough to have a long break like that,” Chininis said. “Your legs kind of get dead. You could tell we came out slow, but we picked it up.”

It took awhile, but New Hampshire closed the game on a 28-0 run.

First things first

Chininis turned in his fair share of big plays while at Souhegan, so it should be no surprise he did the same for New Hampshire.

After Vermont went three-and-out on its first possession, Jakob Oliver punted right to Chininis.

“I looked up and I saw (Dylan) Spence with a huge block,” he said. “That sprung me around the corner. I saw a guy behind me, but I just turned the corner. I heard Cam Blewitt’s block and it was wide open to the end zone.”

Chininis had a clear path down the sideline and no one was going to catch him.

“I think the biggest thing was that our defense and special teams scored the first 14 points before our offense even stepped on the field,” Merrimack’s Sam Prive said. “That was a bonus because it takes a lot of pressure off the offense.”

It took a lot of pressure off Beliveau, too.

“To come back 12 years later, to put up 62, I’d say the memory is getting erased pretty quickly,” he said. “No doubt about it.”