HANOVER, N.H. - It's seven months before strong legs run so that weak legs may someday walk, but plans for the 60th Annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl are well underway with the announcement of the head coaches for the two shrine teams.
Jason Thomas of Burr and Burton Academy will serve as head coach for Vermont while Ray Kershaw from Mascoma Valley High School will lead the New Hampshire Shrine team.
The summer classic, slated for Aug. 3, 2013 at Dartmouth College's Memorial Field, brings together the finest high school football players in New Hampshire and Vermont.
Over 200 players from Vermont and New Hampshire, all graduating high school seniors, have been nominated by their respective head coaches.
Screening committees, chaired by the two head coaches, will select the two 36-man teams. The two teams will be announced in February.
"We welcome both coach Thomas and coach Kershaw to our ‘team' for 2013," said Wayne Shepard, the game's general chairman. "The Board of Governors appreciates the selfless time and commitment that this position requires as they prepare their teams for another challenging game."
Coach Thomas is a graduate of Poultney High School and the University of Massachusetts and played football at both schools. Following graduation from UMass he was an assistant coach at Middlebury, University of Buffalo, UNH and Randolph-Macon College.
Thomas has served as head coach at BBA for five seasons.
Thomas will be looking to lead the Green Mountain Staters to their first win in the annual Twin State showdown since 1999. New Hampshire pushed its all-time record to 44-13-2 after last year's 62-24 win.
Coach Kershaw graduated from Coventry High School in Rhode Island where he played football and was all-division his senior year. He and his wife Carolyn relocated to New Hampshire to raise their family. He started his coaching career with the Pop Warner Wildcats and served as a coach from 1992 to 2008.
Kershaw also served as an assistant coach at Proctor Academy in Andover, NH from 2005 to 2009. As head of the JV program at Proctor he led the JVs to their first undefeated season in 2009.
Kershaw was named Head Coach at Mascoma Valley in 2010 and he took what was a new and struggling program from 0-9 in 2009 to 7-2 in 2012 and the No. 1 seed in the Division 6 playoffs.
Reflecting on the Mascoma program and the Shrine Game, Kershaw said, "I feel the Mascoma football team had to push through adversity and challenges to stand as one, to compete to the best of their ability, and I would like to bring this experience to the Shrine game where it is all for the benefit of the shrine kids [in the hospital] who face a form of challenges and adversity in everyday life."
Formal practice for the summer classic will begin Saturday, July 27.
The Shrine Game has raised over 5 million for the Shrine Hospitals in 59 years. The hospitals which benefit from the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl are the Shrine Children's Hospitals in Springfield, Mass. and Montreal, Que. and the Shrine Burns Institute in Boston.
The game is sponsored by Bektash Shrine Center of Concord, Cairo Shrine Center of Rutland and Mt. Sinai Center of Montpelier.