The Four Norsemen - The Caledonian-Record - St. Johnsbury, VT
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Football - Hawaii

home : sports : regional August 27, 2015

The Four Norsemen
Lyndon quarterback James Shufelt winds up to throw to a receiver during practice for the 61st Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton State College on Monday. Photo by Austin Danforth/Burlington Free Press.
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Lyndon quarterback James Shufelt winds up to throw to a receiver during practice for the 61st Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton State College on Monday. Photo by Austin Danforth/Burlington Free Press.

Lyndon linebacker Miguel Collazo yells after a play during practice for the 61st Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton State College on Monday. Photo by Austin Danforth/Burlington Free Press.
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Lyndon linebacker Miguel Collazo yells after a play during practice for the 61st Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl at Castleton State College on Monday. Photo by Austin Danforth/Burlington Free Press.

Brad Usatch
Sports Writer

HANOVER, N.H. -- At Dartmouth College today, four recently graduated Lyndon Institute football players will come together one more time for perhaps their toughest challenge yet: breaking Vermont's 13-year drought against New Hampshire at the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl.

Nose tackle Dakota Ball, wide receiver Kyle Cipollone, linebacker Miguel Collazo and quarterback James Shufelt have been working out at Castleton State College all week for one more chance at glory to cap a 9-2 senior season that ended with a 27-21 loss to Rice in the Division II championship.

They have been joined by the top graduates from across Vermont for the opportunity to represent the state in its 61st annual meeting with New Hampshire's best.

With four players on the roster, Lyndon trails only Division I champion Middlebury and D-II champ Rice, each of which is sending five. On Friday it was learned that Shufelt would be the sole Lyndon representative to get the nod as starter.

Shufelt marshaled the Vikings' option attack in 2013 to the tune of 1,795 yards rushing and another 621 yards passing.

The Maple Sugar Bowl is one of 30 Shrine football games hosted around the country every year, all sharing the motto "strong legs run that weak legs may walk." Aside from highlighting the football prowess of top recent graduates from both sides of the river, the Maple Sugar Bowl is a fundraiser for Shrine children's hospitals. On Sunday, both teams and their families had the opportunity to visit the Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Mass. and attend a barbecue with some of the children being treated there.

"Honestly, that was really cool," said Collazo of the visit. "We met a few of these kids, and just to see the smiles on their faces. ... We were signing their stuff and taking selfies with them. I don't know how to explain the feeling, it was like euphoric just to see them happy. And it was very cool to see the dedication the people at these hospitals have toward the children."

"It makes you really realize what you're playing this game for," Cipollone said. "To go there and see the care they are giving to all these kids, it really was touching."

The elephant on the field in any discussion of the Maple Sugar Bowl is the question: can Vermont win? While the game may have been competitive in the olden days, recent history has not been kind to the Green Mountain State. Last year's 43-0 drubbing made it 13 in a row for New Hampshire, by a combined score of 476-145. The overall record now stands at 45-13-2 in favor of the Granite State, but at least the Lyndon contingent is having none of it.

"I feel we all have the right mindset and the right attitude," said Ball. "We're all bitter towards New Hampshire. We want to end this streak. We're sick of it."

"We're playing with some big kids and I feel confident we can get the job done," said Collazo. "Don't get me wrong, I've seen them practicing and they look good, but New Hampshire has nothing on us, nothing we can't handle. The only team that can stop us is ourselves, by shooting ourselves in the foot."

Cipollone said the three-a-day practices that began on Monday among groups of former bitter rivals may have started chippy as players fought for positions and time on the field, but the team is quickly coming together.

"You've got to go out there every day and give it your all because everyone is really good," said Cipollone on Wednesday. "It's been kind of a blood battle in practices but we're all starting to gel as a team now."

By Thursday, Collazo took that a step further.

"The fact is, I feel like our team has been bonding more as a brotherhood," he said. "We all go everywhere together. You see New Hampshire and they're all in their separate groups."

Collazo will be playing inside linebacker on defense, but hopes to also get some touches at tight end when Vermont has the ball. He is slated to attend Castleton in the fall, and one of his goals is to get noticed by recruiters in the stands as well as the new coaching staff at the college where he plans to try to make the team as a walk on.

"I've been practicing for this ever since I saw my first Shrine game in eighth grade," said Collazo. "I wanted to be that kid out there and have the opportunity to show what I have. I want to try to stick out, not to be cocky, but to show the other team and to show other colleges that hey, I'm a force to be reckoned with."

Asked about his own personal goals heading into the contest, the tall wideout Cipollone said nothing of hauling in a highlight-reel touchdown.

"I know blocking is going to be a big deal for me," said Cipollone. "My biggest goal is to hold all my blocks and do well at picking up corners."

"Personally, I want to do anything to help this team win," said Ball. "With the defensive linemen, we are all strong, talented people. Our main goal is to shed the double-team and fight through. I've been double-teamed all year and my personal objective this game will be to take the attention of two people and let the linebackers make the tackle."

"There's nothing really to lose, so we can go as hard as we need to," Cipollone added. "Our biggest goal is to win and to shock everyone."

Vermont Roster:

BFA-St. Albans: Isaac Ryea; Burlington: Montell Kirkland; Burr & Burton: Trevor Wilson; Champlain Valley: Jason Cora; Essex: Peter Henry; Fair Haven: Tyler Rice; Hartford: Patrick McGrath, Greg Shinn; Lyndon Institute: Dakota Ball, Miguel Collazo, Kyle Cipollone, James Shufelt, III; Middlebury: Samuel Messenger, Sam Smith, Joshua Stearns, Jakob Trautwein, Sam Usilton; Mill River: Dan Blanchard, Jr., Jimmy Collins, Mark Goyette; Otter Valley: Tyler Jones, Mike Winslow; Poultney: Sean Shepardson; Rice: Tommy Fitzgerald, Jr., Jonas Hastings, Matthew Maynard, Michael Morrissey, Allen Vincent; Rutland: Joseph Couture; South Burlington: Tanner Contois, Malik Hines, Paul Valgoi; Winooski: Andrews Decarreau; Woodstock: Tom Baumann, Sam Cole, Oliver Kaija

Head coach: Mike Williams, BFA-Fairfax

New Hampshire Roster:

Bedford: Trent Fortune, Jr.; Bow: Dwight Alford; Campbell: Cody Alward, Christian McKenna; Concord: Marc Gaudet, Seimou Smith; Dover: Eric Waddington; Epping: Joseph LeClerc, Jacob Valinski; Exeter: Peter Lalime; Gilford: Drake Parker; Hanover: Shawn Cavallaro; Keene: Alex Parenteau; Merrimack: Colin Healy; Merrimack Valley: Ryan Head, Cole Martin; Milford: Jack Athanas; Nashua North: Joe Chimelski; Nashua South: Trevor Knight; Pelham: Chris Mederios; Pembroke: Dean Dustin; Pinkerton: Manny Latimore, Matt Madden; Plymouth: Jared Kuehl, Kyle Reisert; Portsmouth: Patrick Glynn, Donovan Phonor; St. Thomas Aquinas: Jake Geppert, Hayden Middleton; Souhegan: Drew Prescott; Stevens: Kai Kleyenstuber, Donald Pellerin; Trinity: Tristen Theroux; Windham: David Crichton; Winnacunnet: Alec Boucher; Winnisquam: Dakota Van Tassell

Head Coach: David Jackson, Merrimack Valley

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