EXETER — Chris Ford is unique among Pembroke Academy football players.
Because he’s the only Pembroke player ever selected to play in a postseason high school all-star game. Ford, an offensive and defensive lineman, will represent the East in Saturday’s CHaD East-West All-Star Game at the University of New Hampshire.
“Ever since he was selected to play in this game he’s been working hard to prove he belongs,” Pembroke Academy coach Brian Gridley said. “He was our best player on both sides of the ball. The opposing coach would come over and shake his hand before he would shake mine after the game — that’s the kind of kid we’re talking about.”
Ford, who’s listed at 5-10 and 255 pounds, was a two-way starter for Pembroke for three years. He even lined up at fullback at times last season. According to East head coach Bob Camirand, Ford will play primarily defensive tackle Saturday.
“I love defense,” Ford said. “I would say I’m significantly better on defense than I am offense.”
Ford said he felt “overwhelmed” when he found out he was selected to play in the CHaD game, which features recently graduated high school players from throughout the state. The game, which benefits Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, was played for the first time last summer.
“I remember hearing about it last year and I really wanted to be a part of it,” Ford said. “It’s an excellent cause. I didn’t want to jinx myself, but I definitely had a feeling I was in the running for it. When I found out that I had been picked I was on top of the world.”Camirand said Ford has been one of the hardest-working players during training camp. He called Ford an old-school football player.“Some of these lower-division kids (Pembroke competed in Division III last season) don’t get a lot of press, so they show up and feel like they have something to prove,” Camirand said. “He’s a well-mannered player — a hard-working kid who’s really coachable. He’s one of those kids you love to be involved with. He’ll be an asset for us Saturday.”
Ford’s football career won’t end with the CHaD game. He was selected to play for New Hampshire when it faces Vermont in the Shine Maple Sugar Bowl in August. After that he’ll play Division III college football for Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine.
“When I opened that letter (the invitation to play in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl) that was like Christmas morning to me,” Ford said. “No one from my school has ever been invited. I remember being a freshman saying I wanted to be that guy.
“My school has been real supportive about fundraising and stuff. They’re real excited that I’m playing in both of them.”
Saturday’s kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. The gates will open at noon.
“I’ve been so excited for this,” Ford said. “I’ve been chomping at the bit to put on pads and get started. I’m excited to see the West lose.”