HANOVER, N.H. -- Starting the third quarter with some positive momentum, Vermont had a good chance to break its 11-year losing streak against New Hampshire in the 59th Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl on Saturday. When recent Burr and Burton Academy graduate Jake Oliver kicked a 24-yard field goal to pull within 10, 34-24, the Green Mountain Boys were riding high.
But there’s a reason New Hampshire hasn’t lost the annual all-star clash since 2000.
The Granite Staters scored 28 unanswered points, including three fourth-quarter touchdowns, to win their 12th straight Shrine Bowl, 62-24, at Dartmouth College’s Memorial Field.
"The game wasn’t indicative of the final score," said recent Mount Anthony Union High School graduate Alex Cross.
The big stars on the day, however, wore red, as New Hampshire’s Thaddeus Brown caught seven passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns, quarterback Evan Bidgood completed 15-of-21 passes for 186 yards, and Jerickson Fedrick rushed for a game-high 140 yards.
The offensive output was a record, breaking the mark of 47 set by Vermont in 2000 and combined, the 86 were one shy of that day, when Vermont won 47-40.
From the opening kickoff it was obvious there would be a lot of offense on a hot, muggy day.
New Hampshire scored 14 points in the first 70 seconds without sending its offense on the field. After Vermont received the opening kickoff and went three-and-out, Oliver punted to Souhegan’s Chris Chininis who took back the kick 61 yards for a score.
Vermont got the ball back with Fair Haven’s Rob Coloutti under center, but his second pass attempt of the day was tipped and fumbled. Mike Leonard grabbed it and ran it back 28 yards for New Hampshire’s second score.
Coloutti played the entire game, completing 18-for-41 passing for 289 yards and three touchdowns and an interception.
"The team never got down and the coaches were always trying to lift us up," Cross said. "After the first two touchdowns, Coach Norman said it’s 0-0 at this point and I think we pushed it out of our minds."
A Conor Donovan 38-yard field goal made it 17-0 but Vermont came back on the ensuing possession for their first points as Coloutti found his Fair Haven teammate Levi Ellis for a 79-yard touchdown strike.
The pass was the longest for a touchdown in the game’s history. MAU alum Dennis Mailhot caught the longest pass on record, an 80-yarder in 1987.
New Hampshire wasn’t fazed by the long touchdown throw and threatened to put the game away early, scoring twice in the second quarter to take a 31-7 lead.
Vermont then scored twice in 1:40, first a 32-yard touchdown pass from Coloutti to Middlebury’s Marshall Hastings and then a 4-yarder to Rutland’s Kyle Kelly to make it 31-21.
The game was delayed 90 minutes, the first time in its history, by lightning, turning a 30-minute halftime into a two-hour one.
"We sat inside and there was air conditioning in the hallway next to our locker room," Cross said. "We just tried to stay cool and hydrated."
In the third quarter, Vermont’s defense, including Mount Anthony Union High School graduate Matt Keir and Cross, forced two fumbles on consecutive possessions to give themselves a chance to finish the comeback, but only managed Oliver’s field goal during the sequence.
"When we went into halftime, we were excited, talking about what we needed to do on defense," Cross said. "But when we had the delay it kind of killed the momentum."
New Hampshire made Vermont pay for not taking advantage of the fumbles, as Fedrick ran for a 37-yard touchdown midway through the third to make it 41-24.
Things snowballed for Vermont in the fourth as Brown caught his second touchdown on a fourth-down play and Codey Dalton returned an interception for a touchdown.
"We didn’t play to our ability," Cross said. "We couldn’t catch a break. The pick-six was just the cherry on the sundae."
Oliver scored six points, with the field goal and three extra points. Cross made one tackle and Keir added three tackles and a sack.
"We expected a big crowd and we were pumped up," Cross said. "I’m glad I got to play one last game with these guys and my teammate."