In the third consecutive Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl held at Windsor High School, the recently graduated seniors of New Hampshire beat Vermont for the 11th consecutive year with a 45-21 victory over the Green Mountain State.
This game started and ended, with New Hampshire running back Max Jacques, who rushed for a Shrine Game record 265 yards, to go along with three rushing touchdowns which also tied a record. Jacques will be playing football for Marist College in the fall.
Despite much larger enrollment numbers and a marked edge in physical stature, it was believed by some that the Vermont had the talent to really compete with the Granite State this year and if it had not been for some costly first half turnovers, Vermont did have a fighting chance in this one.
Vermont actually got on the board first just a minute into the game, when quarterback Christian McCormick from Rice Memorial, threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Rutland's Troy Davine for a 7-0 lead. New Hampshire bounced back to tie the score on their next possession, before Vermont drove right down the field again, but an interception in the end zone ended the drive.
New Hampshire took advantage of the turnover to take a 14-7 lead, then made it 21-7 late in the first quarter after recovering a fumble deep in Vermont territory. Nicholas Lawrence then scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 21-7. But Vermont bounced right back to make it 21-14 at halftime, after a 24-yard touchdown catch from South Burlington's Kareem Hines.
In the second half, however, the Granite Staters made Vermont pay for those early turnovers by running the ball and eating up the clock. Winnacunnet's Stephen Cronan hit Bishop's Mike Kelly with a 66-yard touchdown bomb a minute into the second half.
Then, Winnacunnet’s Stephen Cronan connected with Bishop Guerin’s Mike Kelly with a 66-yard strike a little more than a minute into the third quarter to push New Hampshire’s lead to 28-14. After New Hampshire caused another turnover with an interception, they made it 35-14 after a 12-play, 90-yard drive was capped off with a 2-yard Lawrence touchdown run.
New Hampshire would add another touchdown, before McCormick hit Davine for a second time in the end zone for Vermont, but the contest was essentially out of reach well before then. This game could have been much closer if it not for five Vermont turnovers, but the New Hampshire power-running game and big offensive line is what won this game.
New Hampshire only passed the ball six times in the entire game (including three completions for 92 yards), rushing for 16 first downs and racking up a whopping 445 yards on the ground. There's not much of a need to pass the ball when the running game is producing those kinds of numbers.
For Vermont, the QB McCormick had good passing numbers, completing 22 of 48 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns, but also had four interceptions. Despite the loss however, Vermont was more competitive this year and could have made this a closer game, minus the turnovers.