CASTLETON >> A lot of talk this week leading up to the 63rd annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl between Vermont and New Hampshire, which takes place on Saturday at Castleton University, has been about the dynamic play of the Green Mountain State's skill players.
But without the boys up front, two of which come from this year's Division II state champs at Burr and Burton Academy, the skill guys would have a lot more trouble.
Seniors Will Baker and Jimmy LoMuscio will anchor the offensive line for Vermont, who are looking to snap a 16-game losing skid in the annual all-star matchup.
"It's a huge honor to represent BBA and Vermont, but it's really all about the kids at the Shriners," Baker said. The game raises money for the Shrine hospitals in New England. "Five of the kids at the Shrine hospitals came to our media day on Tuesday and told their stories, it was very powerful."
Baker will stay in the Northeast to attend Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., but he is not playing football in college, so the Shrine game marks his last time to strap up the pads. For the past week, the Vermont team has been practicing at Castleton to prepare for the game.
"It's been awesome," said Baker, who will play left tackle on Saturday. "You see the other guys in different helmets, guys that you've played against and you get to know them and you realize they are all similar to myself."
LoMuscio will head to South Carolina for college, attending Coastal Carolina, where he will try to walk on to the FCS (Division I-AA) football team.
"Being selected to play for the 2016 Vermont Shrine Maple sugar Bowl Game is a huge honor for me. Playing football for almost 13 years, I realized how much talent and love I have for the game," said LoMuscio in his Shrine Game bio. "Reading the [acceptance] letter I began to feel pride for my dedication to strengthening my body and talents as a football player. I now know high school will not be the end of my football career. I feel an extreme sense of accomplishment and honored to have the opportunity to play for such an amazing organization and to play along side such an amazing group of young men. I want to thank everyone who helped make this selection to the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl Game a reality."
The team will be led by Fair Haven coach Brian Grady, along with the Slater assistants. Justin Leonard, the Epping-Newmarket coach, will lead the New Hampshire side, who hasn't lost in the Shrine Game since 2000.
"BBA and Fair Haven have had a pretty intense rivalry in the past couple years and it was always the goal to shut those guys down," Baker said. "The coaches and the Fair Haven guys have been great, I'll do whatever I can to keep them on their feet now."
BBA coach Jason Thomas said he is extremely proud of Baker and LoMuscio's accomplishment.
"I coached the Shrine game, I love the game and what it stands for," said Thomas, who led the Vermont team in 2012. "The guys up front (on the line) don't get a lot of recognition, but without them, we don't do as well as we did last season. It's great they get the privilege of putting on the pads one more time."
The game starts on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Castleton University. The annual Shriner parade begins at 3 p.m. For mor information on the teams, the game or the parade, visit www.shrinemaplesugarbowl.com