Rice Memorial quarterback Christian McCormick knows all about Vermont's drought in the annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl.
He knows Vermont hasn't posted a victory since 2000, and that only one of New Hampshire's 10 victories since then has come by fewer than 14 points (New Hampshire won 23-20 in 2007).
He also knows that just about everybody is picking New Hampshire to win again when the teams meet Saturday (2:30 p.m. kickoff) at Windsor High School. Vermont trails in the series 42-13-2.
“We're the underdog obviously,” McCormick said. “We haven't won in 10 years, but we're a new team and they're a new team. It's not like it's the same teams playing every year, so as a team we think we're in a good enough position to try and win. The confidence is there.”
Vermont will rely heavily on McCormick, Vermont's Gatorade Player of the Year. He completed 262 passes for 2,619 yards and 37 touchdowns last fall, when he guided Rice to the Division II championship. He was intercepted three times.
Vermont is expected to use primarily an air attack on Saturday. That's the offensive strategy that produced a 47-40 triumph in 2000. Since then, however, Vermont has failed to score more than seven points in the game six times and has been shut out twice. The average score of New Hampshire's last 10 victories has been 32-10.
“They're a little bigger obviously, but we're gonna use what we have,”McCormick said.
What Vermont has is a bunch of good receivers for McCormick to throw to, and a big back in Hartford's Trevor Wood.
“We're expecting them to throw the ball all over the place,” New Hampshire coach Chris Childs (Lebanon) said.
It seems likely that Vermont will have to score a lot to win, but the key to a Vermont victory may be how well the Vermont defense performs. New Hampshire has scored at least 34 points in six of the last 10 games.
“The key for us defensively against what we anticipate seeing from New Hampshire is to be disciplined in our assignments,” Vermont coach Jim Provost (Champlain Valley Union) said. “We really need to play team defense and try to force some turnovers. Make them uncomfortable as early as possible.”
BACK, BACK, BACK
This may be the first time New Hampshire has entered the game with three Division I-bound players in its offensive backfield.
Salem's Max Jacques (Marist), Lebanon's Cody Patch (Dartmouth) and Bishop Guertin's Mike Kelly (New Hampshire) will all join FCS programs this fall.
Kelly and Patch were both injured in New Hampshire's intra-squad scrimmage Saturday and didn't participate in several practices this week at Kimball Union Academy.
Kelly, who is also an exceptional kick-returner, missed all but two games of his senior season because of a foot injury.
Jacques won New Hampshire's Mr. Football Award last season, when he ran for 1,904 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Jacques owns Salem's career records for touchdowns (57) rushing TDs (55), points scored (348) and all-purpose yardage (5,737).
THE ORIGINAL SIX
Colchester offensive lineman Ryan Crowley is one of six players selected to Vermont's original 36-player roster who won't be playing in Saturday's game.
Crowley, a catcher, intended to participate until he helped the Colchester Cannons win the American Legion Baseball state tournament. The Cannons earned a spot in the Northeast Regional, which begins Thursday at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Crowley was named the state tournament's Most Valuable Player.
Mill River's Tyler Wood replaced Crowley on the Vermont roster.
HAPPY TO BE HERE
It looked like Champlain Valley Union quarterback/defensive back Konnor Flemming wouldn't be able to play in the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl when he suffered an ACL injury to his right knee on the second play of scrimmage in last year's Division II semifinals, but Flemming returned to athletics soon than many expected.
He helped CVU win the Division I lacrosse championship in June, and is expected to play primarily defensive back in Saturday game.
Roger Brown has covered high school sports in New England since 1992. He currently covers high school and college football in the Northeast for ESPN/Scouts Inc.