September 24. 2017 9:48PM

Roger Brown's The State of Sports: Cerne has spot in NH lore

New Hampshire Union Leader

Who is the best high school football player New Hampshire has ever produced? We could debate that from now until the end of the season and not agree on an answer.

Here’s what’s not up for debate, however: Few players could impact a game like former Timberlane running back/defensive back Matt Cerne, who was inducted into the Timberlane Athletic Hall of Fame last Wednesday during a ceremony at Atkinson Country Club. If you have doubts about that last statement then just ask Exeter coach Bill Ball.

Cerne is best known for his efforts during his senior season, when he played the starring role for a Timberlane team that won the 1999 Division II championship by upsetting Exeter 28-14 in the title game. Cerne returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and finished that game with 305 all-purpose yards. The victory ended Exeter’s 26-game winning streak.

“That game was really special,” Cerne recalled. “Exeter was such a powerhouse. They had the winning streak and they were the team everyone else aspired to be.

“Coach (Mike) Pariseau and Coach (Blaise) Zambrano had the guys confident in the locker room that day. We were ready. When we returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown that set the tone for the rest of the game. The guys we had on that field were special guys.”

Cerne had 2,465 all-purpose yards (897 receiving) and scored 22 touchdowns for the Owls that season. Timberlane finished 10-1 and its only loss came against Exeter during the regular season.

Cerne’s Timberlane athletic resume includes two years on the track and field team. He also scored 1,086 points during his high school basketball career.

Cerne, 35, flirted with some Division I (FBS) and Division I-AA (FCS) schools before deciding to enroll at Division III Tufts. He caught 23 passes for 284 yards as a freshman at Tufts, but injuries derailed much of his college career.

Cerne is currently employed by State Street Bank in Boston. He lives in Atkinson with his wife, Lisa, and their 2-year-old son, Ryan.

Is he the best NHIAA football player these eyes have seen? Maybe. He’s certainly in the conversation.

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The Hockey East men’s preseason coaches’ poll is scheduled to be released Tuesday during the league’s media day in Boston.

UNH returns 12 forwards — including four of the team’s top-five goal scorers from a year ago — six defensemen and three goaltenders from the 2016-17 team. The returnees include senior goaltender Danny Tirone, who started in 38 games last season. Tirone will enter the season with 2,705 career saves. Kevin Regan, who stopped 3,235 shots from 2005 to 2008, is the only UNH goalie who has recorded more saves.

The freshmen include Mike Robinson, a goaltender from Bedford; Kohei Sato, a forward from Nishitokyo, Japan; and Max Gildon, a defenseman who played for the U.S. National Under-18 Team last season. San Jose selected Robinson in the third round of the 2015 draft, and Florida picked Gildon in the third round of this year’s draft.

The Wildcats will be seeking their 19th NCAA tournament appearance in Dick Umile’s 28th and final season as the program’s head coach.

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ICYMI: Hampstead’s Lauren Thibodeau won the Granite State Junior Championship on Sept. 17 at Keene’s Bretwood Golf Course. The event featured 24 golfers from New England and Canada.

Thibodeau shot a two-day total of 145 to finish six strokes better than Alexis Florio of Cranston, R.I. , and Rebecca Skoler of Needham, Mass. Thibodeau was the only golfer who finished under par in the second round. She shot a 70 on Bretwood’s South course.

Thibodeau, who attends Pinkerton Academy, will attempt to become the first female to win four straight NHIAA individual state championships when she competes in the NHIAA girls’ state tournament Saturday at Campbell’s Scottish Highlands. She will play golf for Louisville next fall.

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Congratulations to Bobby Cliche, a three-sport athlete at Exeter High School (football, basketball and baseball) who recently committed to play Division I baseball at the University of Maine. It was Cliche’s two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning that propelled Exeter past fourth-seeded Spaulding of Rochester, 7-6, in the Division I semifinals last spring. Exeter extended it season by scoring three runs after its first two batters were retired in the seventh.