BENNINGTON -- Saturday's Southern Vermont Storm game against the Monadnock Marauders will be important as the Storm (3-2) goes forward this season.
But for many guys on the New England Football League squad, the game will be important for a couple of other reasons as well.
The bulk of the Storm roster played their high school ball at Mount Anthony Union High School and Spinelli Field, the site of Saturday's game. The game will also be dedicated to former player Ed Bushee, who died in 2009 after suffering a heart attack at a practice.
"The Marauders were the last team Ed played against," said Storm head coach Tighe Stratton, a teammate of Bushee's on the Storm and at Mount Anthony. "His family is coming and we'll have a handout and a moment of silence before the game."
The Storm's main home field is Applejack Field in Manchester, but play one game in Bennington each year. It has to be before the high school season begins and with more than three-quarters of the roster Mount Anthony graduates, it becomes a big deal. The crowd is usually the biggest of the season.
"Everyone loves playing football, but playing at Spinelli takes it up a notch," said Stratton, a 1996 MAU graduate. "It's special to play at MAU. It's pretty unbelievable."
Another MAU grad, Dennis Mailhot, will start at quarterback after leading the Storm to a 21-point fourth quarter comeback last Sunday against the Vermont Ravens. He takes over for Mike Stephens, who stepped in for the past two weeks after original starter J.C. LeBarron was injured with a concussion.
"Mike did a good job but he had some turnovers and missed opportunities," Stratton said. "We're going with the hot hand in Dennis."
Mailhot's main target will be wide receiver Marcus Anderson, who leads the team in touchdown catches. But Danny Main, Mike Dunham and Mike Waters will be among the receivers to get a good number of touches. Waters will also be a threat on special teams.
The Storm also have one of the leading rushers in the NEFL with rookie Mike Woodson at tailback. Woodson, who played for the Berkshire Kings before coming to the Storm, scored three touchdowns against the New England Hawks on Aug. 11.
"He's a rookie to us, but a veteran of the NEFL," Stratton said. "We're excited to have him. He was always someone we paid attention to when he was against us. He runs the ball with a lot of efficiency."
With a win, the Storm would solidify their spot in the playoff picture. Right now, they are third behind the Southern New Hampshire (5-0) and Middlesex Warlords (4-1).
"A couple of breaks go against us and we're 1-4," Stratton said. "We can compete with the Beavers and Warlords. We have a lot of home games left and hopefully we can win those and compete for the No. 1 seed."