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May 01. 2014 11:47PM

Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Saturday's a reality check for gridders

DURHAM -- The University of New Hampshire football team steamed past the halfway point between games that matter and now the Wildcats put on their jerseys and line up in front of real officials and play at Cowell Stadium on Saturday at noon in the annual Blue-White scrimmage that marks the end of their spring football session.

“We were just joking about how fast things go by,” said Sean Goldrich, the starting quarterback who will be a junior in the fall. “It seems like not too long ago that we were playing North Dakota State and the next thing you know, spring’s over and the next thing you know we’ll be back getting ready to do our summer training.”

Toledo awaits.

The Wildcats open the season at Toledo, an FBS school a step above UNH’s FCS level, on Aug. 30.

As of Saturday’s scrimmage, the opener will be 118 days away.

The Wildcats say last season and their last game, 134 days ago on Saturday, fuels them.

After losing three of its first four games in 2013, UNH qualified for the FCS tournament for the 10th straight season and advanced to the semifinals, the furthest it has been in the event.

The Wildcats lost at North Dakota State, 52-14, on Dec. 20. The Bison went on to beat Towson, 35-7, for their third straight national championship.

UNH came close. But not close enough.

“We started 1-3 and we did what we did and it was special and all that,” said running back Nico Steriti, who will be a senior. “But I think a lot of the guys on the team are not satisfied at all. I really believe that. We got a little taste and we want more.”

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UNH’S new senior captains — left tackle Rob Bowman of Cheshire, Conn., and defensive end Cody Muller of Telford, Pa. — will lead the team into Cowell Stadium for Saturday’s spring game.

Head coach Sean McDonnell announced the new captains on Thursday.

Both will be in their third year as starters in the fall. Bowman, 6-foot-5 inches and 305 pounds, has been moved from right tackle to left to take the place of the graduated Seamus O’Neill of Manchester.

Muller, 6-foot-4 and 254 pounds, received a medical redshirt from the NCAA that grants him a sixth year as a Wildcat.

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SATURDAY’S Blue-White game offers one last chance for players to impress coaches and for coaches to assess how players react in game-like situations.

McDonnell made note of a few players who have had good springs.

Wide receiver Kyon Taylor and tight end Jordan Powell, who will both be sophomores, were two of the players he mentioned on offense. Powell backs up senior Harold Spears.

Senior Brian Ciccone, who has been moved between tight end and defensive end a few times, benefited from getting a full spring on the defensive side, McDonnell said.

“I’ve really been pleased with Brian Ciccone,” the coach said. “He’s probably our most improved defensive player in the spring. He’s never really got a spring like this to practice, watch tape, get coached and go practice again. It’s so huge to see yourself and what you’re doing.

He’s a high-energy kid and he’s got great skills. With him and Cody (Muller) you’ve got two really solid guys that can play the position and now we’ve got to find a third.”

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SOPHOMORE hurdler D’mahl McFadden of Penacook, senior thrower George Jumpp of Manchester, senior sprinter Allison Brehm of Pembroke, junior hurdler Virginia Lavallee of Kingston, senior thrower Bacall Liset of Dover and senior distance runner Anne Twombly of Exeter are among the in-state athletes who will be looking for points in the America East track and field championships at Vermont on Saturday and Sunday.

“D’mahl’s just a natural hurdler,” said coach Jim Boulanger. “He has good foot speed and all the things you need to be a good hurdler.”

Jumpp competes in a tight field in the hammer where, Boulanger said, there are four throwers within about three feet of each other.

“Ginnie Lavallee should do well in both the high and intermediate hurdles, Allison Brehm should do a nice job should in the 100 and 200, Anne Twombly is one of the favorites in the 800 and 1500 and Bacall Liset is ranked third in the hammer,” Boulanger said.

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THE lacrosse team is looking for its first win in a tournament game since 2009 when it takes on host and No. 1 seed Stony Brook tonight at 5 in an America East semifinal game.

UNH is 7-9 overall and was 2-3 in league games and is the No. 4 seed.

Stony Brook is 14-3 and 4-1 and had an 11-game win streak snapped with an 8-7 overtime loss to Vermont on Saturday. The Wildcats dropped a 15-5 decision at Stony Brook on April 19.

No. 2 Albany, 13-2 and 4-1, and No. 3 Vermont, 12-5 and 5-2, play in the other semifinal at 7:30 tonight.

The winners meet for the championship on Sunday.

alessels@unionleader.com


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