Roger Brown's First and 10: CHaD event good practice for frosh 'Cats
Retired Concord football coach Bob Camirand starts the East Team's practice on Wednesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
Souhegan of Amherst offensive lineman Jake Kennedy has no trouble recalling the conversation he had with University of New Hampshire football coach Sean McDonnell that took place during Kennedy's official visit to UNH last December. Among the topics discussed: What should Kennedy do if he's picked to play in a postseason all-star game?
"They encouraged me to play," Kennedy said. "Some schools don't want kids to play for fear of getting hurt. I'm glad UNH is allowing me to play."
Kennedy and Portsmouth defensive lineman Rick Holt have each signed a national letter of intent and will play football for UNH. Each player was picked to play in the CHaD East-West All-Star Game, which will be held at UNH on Saturday, June 29. Kennedy will play for the West, and Holt will represent the East.
The CHaD game features 74 New Hampshire football players who graduated from high school this year. Each team held its first practice on Wednesday.
Kennedy and Holt have also each accepted an invitation to play in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, which will be held at Dartmouth College in August. Both all-star games raise money for charity.
"I remember telling Coach McDonnell that I was selected for the CHaD game and he said, 'Yeah, you can play,'" Holt said. "Same thing with the Shrine game. He said he knows the tradition and how much of an honor it is to represent your high school."
It's not unusual for college coaches — football or other sports — to prohibit incoming players from participating in all-star football games. McDonnell, who is in his 15th season as UNH's head coach, said UNH typically has eight to 10 signed recruits selected to play in all-star games each year.
"I talk to the kids about it during the recruiting process," he said. "We tell them if they get picked they can go ahead and play. I know some people are concerned with possible injury. My feeling is if a kid's going to get hurt, he's going to get hurt doing something."
Last year McDonnell allowed two of his signed recruits — Trinity of Manchester's Andrew Lauderdale and Lebanon's Andrew Morrill – to play in the Shrine game even though it meant they wouldn't be at UNH for the first few days of practice.
"I think it's a great cause and the best players in the state of New Hampshire should be playing in it, whether it's the Shrine or the CHaD game," McDonnell said. "It's a great opportunity for kids to represent their high school, the state of New Hampshire, and, for the first time, the University of New Hampshire. I think we've done a pretty good job of understanding what the game means to people.
"The other thing is when kids play in these games they usually show up (to UNH) in pretty good shape, and that's a benefit to us. It's a win-win."
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WEST head coach Jim Schubert said Goffstown's Connor Benjamin will be used as a running back. Benjamin was Goffstown's starting quarterback during his junior and senior seasons.
"He played in a spread offense and that's not what we're running," Schubert said. "Plus it's the position he wants to play."
Benjamin rushed for 1,660 yards and 24 touchdowns, and passed for 1,342 yards and 15 TDs last season. His best game may have been in the Division III semifinals, when he rushed for a touchdown and the two-point conversion in overtime to give fourth-seeded Goffstown a 54-53 triumph over top-seeded Souhegan.
Benjamin completed 15 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns in that victory. He also carried the ball 29 times for 162 yards.
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EXETER'S Logan Laurent would appear to give the East an edge in the kicking game. Laurent, who will punt as well as handle the placekicking duties, received a scholarship to kick at the University of Massachusettts.
"I didn't deliberate about taking a kicker at all," Camirand said. "He was one of my sure things and I'll tell you why: I watched him pretty much decide the championship game against Pinkerton two years ago."
Laurent kicked three field goals (23, 35 and 40 yards) that day to help Exeter post a 23-13 upset in Derry. He also put four of his six kickoffs in or out of the end zone. One of his two other kickoffs was a squib kick that the Blue Hawks recovered.
In addition to kicking, Laurent will also earn a position on the East offense, Camirand said.
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SCHUBERT coached Central to six state championships and guided New Hampshire to a Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl victory in 2006. Camirand was Concord's head coach when the Crimson Tide won the Division I title in 2000. He was also an assistant coach for three teams that won the Division I championship: Salem (1983), Concord (1987) and Concord (1989). … Milford's Keith Jones coached the West to a 44-12 victory in last year's game. … Twenty-two players on the CHaD rosters were also picked to represent New Hampshire in this summer's Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl. ... Wilson provided this year's game shirts. … Nashua South quarterback/defensive back Trevor Knight, a junior who is a likely candidate to play in next year's CHaD game, received a scholarship offer from Albany this week. He also has offers from UNH and UMass.