Perhaps no family is more all-in for the 60th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl than the Callans, who plan to travel en masse from Franklin County to support brothers Dylan and Darren when they suit up for Vermont at Dartmouth College today.
But even if the extended family didn’t make the trek, the BFA-St. Albans twins already had each others’ backs on the gridiron — just like they have since Day 1.
“It’s pretty cool because we’ve played on the same teams our whole lives,” said Dylan Callan, who will start at linebacker
“I wouldn’t want to be on the team by myself,” added Darren Callan, a starting defensive back. “He’s always been there with me.”
The hard-hitting Bobwhites are two pieces of a Vermont squad looking to vanquish a 12-year losing streak against New Hampshire in the longstanding summer all-star rivalry that kicks off again at 5:30 p.m. at Memorial Field.
The Green Mountain State last tasted victory in 2000, and head coach Jason Thomas of Burr and Burton Academy hopes to spread the field to his advantage to get back into the win column.
New Hampshire, which brings a talented stable of running backs into this year’s contest for coach Ray Kershaw’s Wing-T offense, leads the all-time series 44-13-2.
“We also have some pretty good skill kids, so we’re not going to have to go toe-to-toe with them,” Thomas said. “We’re going to make them cover the whole field and because we have a quarterback — we’ve got two quarterbacks — and once you have a good quarterback you can stretch the field and it changes the complexion of the game a little bit.”
Thomas’ BBA signal-caller Jake Stalcup earned the starting nod at quarterback and is one of four Vermont captains with Burlington’s Billy Katon, Essex’s Noah MacGillivray and Champlain Valley’s Ryan Beaudry.
Stalcup and Joey Picard of Essex, also in the mix at quarterback, spent the past week training with a diverse receiving corps that includes Hartford’s Taylor Potter, Essex’s James Olsen, BBA’s Chris Redding, Beaudry and Fair Haven’s Dakota Euber.
After lining up against BBA in the past, Euber is now a luxury item in Thomas’ up-tempo offense.
“I finally like him because I don’t have to coach against him,” Thomas said. “He’s an electric player; he’s having a good camp.
“We’re hoping he’s going to do a lot of things for us but he’s one of many weapons.”
Tasked with keeping pressure off Stalcup and Picard, and opening holes for runners such as BFA-St. Albans’ Doug Saffo, the Vermont offensive line will be tested against a Granite State front anchored by tackle Ricky Holt of Portsmouth, a University of New Hampshire commit. Alec Distler (CVU), Joey Ramada (Essex), Katon, Matt Hock (Rutland) and Travis Gault (Woodstock) are slated to start in the trenches for Vermont.
“Jason and I, we traded film in the beginning, so we know what each other are going to run,” Kershaw said. “He’s got a bunch of great kids, a great quarterback, we’ve got a bunch of great kids — it’s going to be an exciting game.
“I think it will be an even game for sure. It will be a fast-paced game.”
Aside from the Callan twins, BFA-St. Albans’ Lucas Kelsey also starts at linebacker for Vermont. The trio is joined by Jon Carlson and Nolan Frechette of Hartford, which edged the Bobwhites in two of the last three Division I championship games.
“It’s nice to meet them all. The Hartford guys, we’ve got rivalries from years past, but they’re actually cool kids,” Dylan Callan said. “They’re really a bunch of nice guys, goofy guys, to hang out with.”
Romeo Masuku of Trinity, Tyler Grant of Exeter and Tolbert Nemo of Concord are three of the running backs Kershaw has available to pound the ball at the Vermont defense. Goffstown’s Connor Benjamin lines up under center.
“They’ve got some good size and they’ve also got some athletes. Even their quarterbacks are athletes,” Thomas said. “There’s no shortage of talent on their side of the ball.”
But when it came to assessing why his team could beat New Hampshire, Thomas was blunt.
“Because I’m not very intelligent,” Thomas said during training camp Monday. “I respect New Hampshire, I know what they bring to the table, I know that their coaches are here running a professional organization — I get it. But my whole thought process is that it’s going to come down to execution.
“And regardless of if they’re bigger and faster and stronger than us, it comes down to execution.”