MANCHESTER — The eighth annual CHaD East-West All-Star Football Game could come down to speed vs. strength.
Team East will have some big bodies on the field Saturday at 6 p.m., when the ball gets kicked off at Wildcat Stadium in Durham. Team West, meanwhile, is heavy on quickness and athleticism.
“They have a few big guys on the line, a few fast kids,” East lineman James Phennicie, a 265-pound lineman out of Winnacunnet High School, said of the West. “It should be a good matchup.”
The East has a pair of linemen — Alvirne’s John Porter and Londonderry’s Josh Berube — listed at 290 pounds. Exeter’s Ryan Whitney, the East’s left tackle, recently set a record 555-pound squat at the NH/VT Powerlifting Championships, which are held in Newmarket each spring.
Londonderry’s Pat Hagearty (6-3, 275) was one of the top defensive linemen in the state last fall. Tight end/defensive end Joe MacDougall of Winnacunnet is a game-changer at 6-foot-6, 231 pounds. Pinkerton’s Gannon Fast (6-0, 205), when he’s not carrying the football, is a punishing tackler at the first and second levels. Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough product Ryan Caswell (6-2, 270) will be another key cog.
Toss in a rangy and physical group of linebackers that includes St. Thomas’ Evan Briggs, Winnacunnet’s Devin Miller, Exeter’s Adam Gray and Salem’s Will Michaud — and you’ve got the makings of a defense that could do some damage on Saturday night.
“I came from St. Thomas, so I’m used to standing up players, holding my ground,” said Briggs, who will continue playing at Husson University in the fall. “Defensively, going up against West, it’s probably going to be just like any other team — majority run, facing little amount of passing. So I don’t think I’m going to see anything different.”
West has a decent rebuttal: Bedford’s Ryan Toscano.
There aren’t many like the reigning Gatorade New Hampshire Player of the Year. He was a ball-hawking linebacker/safety hybrid for the Division I state champion Bulldogs, racking up 15 tackles for a loss. He’s just as dangerous as a running back, topping 1,000 yards last season with 17 rushing touchdowns and another three receiving.
Toscano is a West captain and one of seven Bulldogs on the roster. Wide receiver Lucien Mumpini, another Bedford product, is a tough cover. Add in some of the skill guys from Concord, Manchester Central and Nashua North, and this group looks tough to contain on paper.
“I’m just ready to go reckless abandon and do some damage to West,” Briggs said.
The blind side
Team East will play two quarterbacks — Londonderry’s Evan Cormier and STA’s Shawn DeKorne — and will work mostly out of the spread on offense.
Whitney, as the left tackle, has been learning a bit on the fly as a product of Exeter’s run-heavy approach.
“It’s going to be interesting,” he said. “It’s very different from Exeter. Got to learn pass protection.
“A lot of the stuff’s similar and a lot of the mechanics are similar. So it’s not that big of a change, it’s just which play’s which.”
Wave of talent
Dover has four players on the East roster, and all four could make an impact on the offensive side of the football.
Ty Vitko’s back at wide receiver, where he lit it up at Dover in 2017 before switching to quarterback. Willem Federico, an All-State tight end for the Green Wave, could be deployed in a variety of ways as a split back. Aaron Oroh will line up as a slot receiver and could also get some carries. Luc Normandeau (RB/LB) was announced as one of four East team captains on Thursday night.
“You’ll have to watch on Saturday, but it will be fun,” Vitko said. “We’ll have some good stuff in the plan.”
The CHaD East-West All-Star Football Game doubles as a key fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock.
Three local guys are near the top of the money list.
Exeter teammates Adam Gray ($3,790), Zach Tucker ($3,525) and Whitney ($700) had raised over $8,000 combined for the cause as of Thursday morning.
MacDougall was another leader at $3,835, along with classmate Witham ($1,060) and Dover teammates Vitko ($654) and Federico ($655). Bedford’s Thomas Morgan, of Team West, was the lead fundraiser at over $10,000.
The event has already raised $214,443.80 of its $300K goal for CHaD.
General admission tickets are $10 and will be available for purchase at www.chadallstarfootball.org right through kickoff. In-person ticket sales and will-call pick-up begin at 4 p.m. on game day at UNH.