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Thursday, April 21, 2011
New England Roundup: Vermont

By Roger Brown

Athletically, the 2010-11 school year has been an exceptional one at Rice Memorial High School.

The Green Knights won the Division II championship in football last fall, and the boys and girls basketball teams each won the Division I title during the winter.

“It’s an exceptional senior class, both athletically and academically,” Rice athletic director Lloyd Hulburd said. “They’ve been a joy to watch. It’s quite an accomplishment because we have 365 kids and we’re competing against some schools with more than 1,000 students.”

Rice will be shopping for another state championship this spring. The school’s baseball team returned seven starters – all seniors  from a team that finished 16-3 last season, when the Green Knights lost to Essex in the Division I semifinals.

“Talent-wise this is our year,” Rice coach Lloyd Bachand said. “We’re pretty optimistic.”

Rice also returns its top six hitters from a year ago. That group includes center fielder Christian McCormick, who hit .500 with four home runs and 22 RBIs last season; and pitcher/infielder Nicky Elderton, who hit .478 with four home runs last spring.

McCormick and Elderton are two of the four players on the baseball team who also played varsity football and varsity basketball during the current school year.

“McCormick has tremendous power, but he also hits for average,” Bachand said.

Elderton, who posted a 4-1 record with a 1.81 ERA last season, is the team’s No. 1 starter. He pitched a complete game and struck out nine when Rice defeated Burlington 6-1 in the opener for each team last week.

Pitcher/first baseman Zac Poland was 4-0 on the mound and hit .586 last spring despite missing some of the season with an injury.

“McCormick, Nicky and Zac – those are our three studs,” Bachand said.

The pitching staff has been bolstered by 6-foot-7 junior Tim Rensch, who missed last season with a broken thumb. Bachand said he also expects a significant contribution from sophomore pitcher Will Conroy.

“Rensch throws really hard and he’ll be our No. 1 reliever,” Bachand said. “He’s a battler. We’re expecting big things from him.”

Rice won five games in 2008 and 10 in 2009 before posting 16 victories last spring.

“We can play defense, but pitching and offense is definitely our strength,” Bachand said. “We look good on paper, but we have a lot of work to do.

“This is our best opportunity [to win a championship] in the four years I’ve been here. The senior class is special.”

MOUNT ST. JOSEPH, U-32 HIRE FOOTBALL COACHES

Castleton State College assistant coach Jeff Cassarino has been hired as the head football coach at Mount St. Joseph Academy, and Williamstown athletic director Brian Divelbliss has been hired to replace Mike Law as the head football coach at U-32.

Cassarino, who coached defensive linemen at Castleton State, was an assistant coach at MSJ in 2008. He served as the head coach at Mill River for five reasons.

Cassarino replaces Torrey Allard, who spent one season as MSJ’s head coach. It was the Mounties’ first season in Division III.

Divelbliss said he plans to resign from his AD position at the end of the current school year and will accept a teaching position at U-32. Law served as U-32’s head coach for 17 seasons.

DUNHAM MAKES COLLEGE CHOICE

Lamoille Union’s Chelsea Dunham, a 6-foot-1 senior, will continue her basketball career at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, N.H., next season.

Southern New Hampshire is a Division II program that competes in the Northeast-10.

Dunham averaged 17.3 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks per game as a senior, when she helped Lamoille win its second consecutive Division II championship.

PAYSON WILL GUIDE MILTON SOCCER

Cory Payson was recently hired to coach the Milton girls soccer team.

Payson, who teaches at Milton Elementary School, spent 14 seasons as the boys soccer coach at Winooski, but resigned from that position to accept the Milton job. Payson guided Winooski to the Division III championship game in 2009.

Payson replaces Stephanie Hurley, who steered Milton to the last three Division II championship games The Yellowjackets have won 10 Division II state championships, most recently in 2009.

TWIN-STATE CLASSIC FOLDS

The Twin-State Basketball Classic, an annual all-star game between seniors from Vermont and New Hampshire, has been discontinued after 30 years. The decision was made primarily for financial reasons.

The New Hampshire boys and girls each won 18 of the 30 games played between the two states. New Hampshire’s interest in the game dwindled in recent years, when the game was held at the University of Vermont.

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.