VT/NH Teams Prepare for Shrine Maple Sugar Game

Published 07/28 2014 11:06PM

Updated 07/28 2014 11:16PM

Castleton, VT -- The Shrine Maple Sugar Game is an annual end of summer tradition for out-going high school football stars in Vermont and New Hampshire. Some of the players on the two rosters have been dreaming about Saturday's game and the training camp leading up to it since they first put on a pair of shoulder pads. 

"Since like the 4th or 5th grade since I've been really starting to play football, starting to get into it, I've been dreaming about Shrine." said Vermont quarterback James Shufelt III from VT Division 2 runner-up Lyndon Institute. "I've had a couple cousins come up through Shrine. It's just so awesome to be here. Be practicing with the guys. Be out there on the field."

"It's a really cool feeling just to get all the guys together." said Rice Memorial (Vermont) state champion WR Tommy Fitzgerald. "Get all the best players around. It's really cool to be able to play with everyone. Coming together to have a shot to play New Hampshire."

"It's a game you've got to have a passion for." said RB Dan Blanchard Jr. of Mill River Union (VT). "I picked it up in the 7th grade and I've loved it ever since. And Just don't ever want to stop playing it."

Every year, these players come in to camp thinking only about football until the annual visit to the Shriner's Hospital in Springfield, MA. After that visit, their perspective changes.

"We went to the hospital yesterday." said Hanover (NH) HS RB/DB Shawn Cavallaro, a UNH recruit. "It's special to be able to get picked in this kind of game and be able to play with a lot of great kids around the state. But I mean the most important thing is raising money and how much we'll get from the game. That's what we're thinking first of all."

"We got to meet a sweet little girl." Blanchard said. "Took pictures with her, signed her cast on her leg. It was probably the one thing I won't forget about this whole experience."

Another tradition is the New Hampshire squad celebrating a 13-year winning streak over Vermont. Both teams hold a strong belief that no two teams or years are alike.

"We know we kind of have an edge but we're still going to practice with that intensity like we're going to go out there and we have to show them that we're the better team." said Stevens (NH) HS lineman Kai Kleynsteuber.

"I know the last 14 years haven't quite gone our way but the last 14 years was not this team." Shufelt said. "It was not the New Hampshire team this year. It's a different year. It's a different team. And we are coming out saying, you know what? We are going to win this."

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