Courtesy photo Milford High grads Nik Lapan and Owen Zalenski are in Castleton, Vermont, this week, preparing for Saturday's Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl football all-star game, pitting the top graduated seniors from New Hampshire against Vermont's finest.

For at least one member of Team New Hampshire, a week of three-a-day football practices in the brutally blazing July sun has to feel like a week’s vacation on Lake George.

Milford’s Nik Lapan will battle on Saturday at Castleton University, representing the Granite State in the 2019 Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl against the top graduated seniors from Vermont.

As many of his teammates labored this week, Lapan might as well have told them to walk in his shoes. You see, since graduation from Milford High back in June, Lapan has toiled on a road construction crew.

In a summer of chock-full of 90-plus degree blazers, tearing up asphalt and hanging out around freshly laid hot tar might rank right up there with the worst jobs ever.

“I can tell you it’s not the worst paycheck ever,” laughed Lapan, who will play guard and interior defensive tackle in the game set for Saturday, 5:30 at Spartan Stadium in


“I’ve grown up with hard work. I’ve been taught you get what you earn. I’ve been working hard since I could walk.

“This is pretty cool, though. Being out here on the field with some of the best guys in New Hampshire. It’s safe to say I’m excited.”

Stepping away from that paycheck for one week was a no-brainer for Lapan, and the paving folks were excited to let him “enjoy” the time … once they heard what it was about.

“When they saw how the game was for the children’s hospital, they were more than happy to let me do it,” said Lapan, who raised about $500 for the cause on his own.

Once he and former Spartan teammate Owen Zalenski hit campus in Vermont, it’s been pretty much business.

“Game week is a pretty tight schedule with three practice a day,” said Lapan.

Originally, this week was to be a bit of a boot camp for Zalenski, a prep week for his freshman football season at Plymouth State University.

Instead, the 2019 Milford High grad is looking at his time in Castleton, Vermont, with Team New Hampshire as a football celebration, a career capper if you will.

Zalenski will still head up to Plymouth in about a month, but he’ll do it strictly focused on his physical education studies with hopes of someday being a teacher.

“I just couldn’t be totally committed to football, and I wasn’t going to take a spot away from someone else who was,” said Zalenski, who chewed up yards last fall for the 6-3 Spartans as one of Division II’s most reliable running backs.

“I did everything I could on the football field in high school. Maybe I’ve played enough.”

Well, not quite.

Zalenski has soaked in one final week of the game he loves as a member of Team New Hampshire.

Saturday at 5:30 on Spartan Field at Castleton University, he and some of the Granite State’s top graduated seniors will

tangle with Vermont’s finest in 2019 Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl.

He and Milford High teammate Nik Lapan hit the New Hampshire camp on campus Sunday and have been ripping it up in the summer heat as they prepare for the heavy-duty collision.

“There is such a rich history, it’s a real honor to play in this game,” said Zalenski, who has moved to the defensive side and will start at linebacker in this one.

“It’s a last shot at football for me. And it’s a great reason to play … for those kids in the Shrine hospitals.”

The teams got a chance to meet with some of those children this week, and that can be an enlightening experience, something Zalenski was certainly looking forward to.

After that, though, it’s all football for now.