Boston High School: Nick Lawrence

Jacques delivers NH 11th straight Maple Sugar win

August, 7, 2011
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WINDSOR, Vt. –- Some years the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl is won with size. This year it was won with speed.

The Vermont defense spent much of Saturday's game chasing New Hampshire running back Max Jacques, and didn't have much luck catching him. Jacques, who can run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, set a Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl record by rushing for 265 yards on 26 carries in New Hampshire's 45-21 triumph.

Jacques, who scored three TDs, broke the record set by former Plymouth High School standout Mike Boyle, who ran for 206 yards in the 2004 game. Boyle went on to play at the University of New Hampshire.

“I can just say without my line I couldn't have done that,” Jacques said. “I saw yesterday in the Shrine book that the record was 206 (yards) and I told the line, 'Guys, let's go break a record. It's your record too.

“I just tried to keep my feet moving. Keep the legs pumping and when I saw daylight I took off.”

Jacques, who led Salem High School to the Division I championship as a junior, will play at Marist College in the fall. He gained 178 yards on 16 carries in the first half.

“He's just outstanding,” Vermont coach Jim Provost said. “Every time he touched the ball my heart was in my throat – for good reason. We just couldn't get our hands around him. He knows how to follow his blocks and when you have a line like that to run behind, that's what happens.”

It was the 11th consecutive victory for New Hampshire, which now holds a 43-13-2 edge in the series.

Vermont was within seven, 21-14, at halftime, but New Hampshire took control by scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter.

The first second-half TD came on a 66-yard pass from Winnacunnet quarterback Steve Cronan to Bishop Guertin running back Mike Kelly on New Hampshire's opening drive in the quarter. Kelly will play at UNH this season.

Following a Micah Morton interception, Timberlane's Nick Lawrence capped a 12-play, 87-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run. Laconia's Kyle Behan made the the fifth of his six point-after kicks to make it 35-14 with 4:07 left in the quarter.

Jacques followed with a 43-yard touchdown run –- his third of the game –- on New Hampshire's next possession.

“Can't say enough good things about Max,” New Hampshire coach Chris Childs said. “At halftime the kids said, 'Let's pound the rock, coach.' That's what our attitude was in the second half. You could see late in the third quarter that their defensive linemen were starting to hang their heads. They were starting to get worn down.”

Vermont quarterback Christian McCormick (Rice Memorial) completed 22 of 48 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted four times. Vermont, which took a 7-0 lead on the game's opening possession, ran the ball six times for 18 yards.

Vermont wide receiver Troy Davine caught seven passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Kareem Hines (South Burlington) scored Vermont's other TD on a 64-yard catch.

Lawrence scored New Hampshire's other TD on a 3-yard run with 30 seconds left in the first quarter. New Hampshire led 21-7 at that point.

Cronan rushed for 69 yards on five carries, and completed three of six pass attempts for 92 yards.

Jacques set the rushing record with just under five minutes left in the third quarter. His three touchdowns tied a Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl record held by seven other players.

Jacques also holds the Salem High School record for career rushing yardage (4,559).

New Hampshire also set the record for team rushing yardage (441).

“At halftime I thought we were in the game,” Provost said. “Then we didn't do the one thing we said we needed to do, and that's stop them on their first drive (in the second half).”

“I hoped that we could have controlled the ball by having a little bit more of a possession-type of game, so we could get more first downs, tire the defense out and keep 22 (Jacques) on the sideline.”

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

August, 2, 2011
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Among golfers his age, who's better than Keene's Chelso Barrett?

New HampshireNobody in New Hampshire, that's for sure.

Nearing the start of his junior year at Keene High, Barrett finished runner-up at the 64th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship from July 18-23. The 16-year-old's sensational run in Bremerton, Wash., ended with a 6-and-5 setback in the tournament's 36-hole final at Gold Mountain Golf Club.

Barrett's dream finish on the 7,111-yard, par-72 Olympic Course was denied by Dallas 17-year-old Jordan Spieth, also the 2009 champion.

“It was disappointing coming in second. But at the same time, it was really big because I got (three) exemptions for USGA events in the future,” Barrett said from Fort Wayne, Ind., on the eve of the Junior PGA Championship Aug. 2-5. “I lost the tournament, but it wasn't really a loss.”

Spieth last year eliminated Barrett in the Round of 64. This summer, the Texas teenager became just the second golfer in the championship's history to win multiple titles. He joined Tiger Woods, a three-peat junior amateur champ from 1991-93.

Securing a spot in the final required Barrett bump considerable competition from the bracket. Taking lessons last February from Craig Shankland at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., paid off.

In just his second Junior Amateur, Barrett started strong. He carded a 36-hole, 1-under-par 143 (69-74) during stroke play. It lifted him to the Round of 64, where the tourney's format turned to match play.

Andrew Bonner of Ripon, Calif., was the first foe Barrett sent packing. The final score was 1-up.

The next win really fueled the teen's momentum.

Barrett defeated defending champion Jim Liu, 2-up. The Smithtown, N.Y., native was attempting to join Woods as the only other repeat king.

“After he beat the defending champion, I was shocked,” said Chelso's father, Hugh, New Hampshire's 1980 state amateur champ. “It's done so much for him. He was basically unknown (in major college golf) before that.”

But the upset was an attention-grabber. Barrett, whose surname is well known at Keene's Bretwood Golf Course, ousted Liu with birdies on the 17th and 18th holes.

The first of those back-to-back birdies applied the pressure. Barrett sank a 6-foot putt after striking a wonderful approach from 165 yards.

The second birdie cemented Barrett's victory. Liu needed a final-hole win to extend the bout. His tee shot proved troublesome, however, forcing him to concede No. 18.

“Basically, my bad shots weren't that bad,” Barrett said of the key to his near-No. 1 finish. “I didn't hit it great in the finals, but up until that point, I hit it solid. I kept the ball in play.”

He beat William Zalatoris of Plano, Texas, 2-and-1, in the Round of 16. Thus, he met his goal to reach the Round of 8.

Then, he exceeded personal expectation. He beat William Starke of Chapin, S.C., 1-up, in the quarterfinals.

He also beat Colombia's Nicholas Echavarria in 19 holes to survive the semifinals.

In the final, Barrett built a 2-up lead through two holes. But a double-bogey on No. 3 combined with Spieth's birdie on No. 6 squared the match.

Spieth took his second lead by winning the 13th hole. He didn't trail again.

Losing to Spieth, competing in his last junior event, wasn't a complete downer for Barrett. Advancing to the final match earned him exemptions to the 111th U.S. Amateur Championship Aug. 22-28 in Erin, Wisc., and next year's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship July 9-14 in Midway, Utah.

But he's most excited about the third exemption – earned by achieving his goal to make the quarterfinals cut.

He's assured a spot in next year's Junior Amateur, which takes place July 16-21 at the Golf Club of New England.

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

January, 1, 2011
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You can't ring in the New Year without a countdown.

New HampshireIn the spirit of the time-honored Dec. 31 tradition – counting down the final 10 ticks of the calendar year – here are the top items this reporter contributed to ESPNBoston.com High Schools since its launch in August 2010:

10. The 6-0-3 sets record. New Hampshire extended its win streak in the annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl to a series-record 10 games.

The Granite State's recent high school graduates topped Vermont in the 57th all-star football game, played at Windsor (Vt.) High's MacLeay-Royce Field, in early August, 34-20. The previous record for longest win streak was a nine-gamer set by New Hampshire from 1989-97.

New Hampshire's 14-point win makes it sound like the game was somewhat competitive. Guess again.

Despite committing seven turnovers, including four in the first quarter, and amassing 165 yards on 18 penalties, New Hampshire never trailed. The 2010 team did, however, twice lead by 20 points and ultimately improved the state's all-time record in the series to 42-13-2.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

December, 16, 2010
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Concord High caught a few teams by surprise during its postseason run to the Division I boys' hockey championship a year ago.

New Hampshire"We certainly got hot in the tournament," said Concord coach Duncan Walsh, recalling his team's run to the title as the No. 4 seed. "I don't think anyone thought Concord was going to win it."

The Crimson Tide's rink rivals won't be fooled this time around. The Tide is the preseason team to beat.

"You've got to start with Concord. They've got a lot of guys back," said Pinkerton Academy of Derry coach Casey Kesselring, whose Astros, as defending champs last season, were ousted in a wide open semifinal round that also featured Nashua's Bishop Guertin and Exeter. "They lost a key piece in (Division I Player of the Year) Kevin Marceau. But they have the Lacasse brothers back."

Pat Lacasse is Concord's top returning playmaker. Nick Lacasse leads a veteran defensive group. The twin brothers are among 16 of 20 returning players from the program's first title team since 1999.

"Goals are going to come harder than last year," Walsh said. "Last year, we had a dominant first line. There weren’t many games they didn’t get two or three goals. I don’t think we’ll get four or five goals (per game), but we might get two or three."

Concord's first line projects to be Pat Lacasse, the lone returning first-liner from last season, and Chris Acres and Pat Cannon. It's on the other end of the ice where the Tide has fewer question marks.

Nick Lacasse, Taylor Lebell and Dustin Walsh earned the bulk of ice time along the blue line during the 2009-10 campaign. Goaltender Brendan Garrett is also back from the surprise squad that ousted top-seeded BG, 4-3, in the semifinals and blanked No. 3 seed Exeter, 1-0, in the final.

"In my opinion, it's Concord, Hanover, Pinkerton and Bishop Guertin. Those are the usual suspects," Exeter coach Jim Tufts said. "But Concord is the defending champ. Their starting goalie is back, and those twins are really good."

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

October, 27, 2010
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The Granite State's governing body for high school sports, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, is conducting a postseason experiment.

It's currently taking place on the soccer pitch.

New HampshireEvery boys' and girls' soccer team in Division III, regardless of regular-season record, received the chance to compete for the state championship. During the 2009-10 academic year, athletics directors from the league's schools requested a one-year trial run with a “quasi-open” tournament format.

“It came about because, for a number of years, there's been a few ADs who have been pushing for an open tournament,” NHIAA executive director Pat Corbin said. “It's a quasi-open tournament so as not to lengthen the season. We took the last regular-season game and considered it a 'play-in' game.

“It wasn't without controversy,” Corbin added. “But it did finally pass (executive) council this year.”



Whether you consider the play-in round part of the tournament – and the NHIAA does not – is splitting hairs. All 24 boys' teams and 19 girls' teams were playoff-eligible.

Similar to Division III soccer, the open format will be used this winter in Division III boys' and girls' basketball, and this spring in Division III baseball and softball.

“There's been a real push to look at alternatives to what's always been done,” Corbin said.

Cutting down on travel time and costs are key reasons Division III schools opted to go this route. The NHIAA is encouraging more cross-divisional play. But, smaller schools playing teams from large-school leagues may incur additional losses on the regular-season resume.

The open format prevents a Division III team from being penalized – read: missing the playoffs – come tourney time.

But, does the format devalue regular-season results? Why play the games if, ultimately, they don't count toward tournament qualification?

“Well, if you want to play a weak regular-season (schedule) because you like having a good win-loss record, you'll play the mettle of the league in the tournament and not last long,” said Corbin, playing the role of devil's advocate.

Under this experimental format, the top eight boys' soccer teams and top four girls' squads bypassed the play-in round. Given the number of teams in the girls' league, the top four teams also earned a bye in the tournament's first official round – a concern for some coaches, Corbin said, due to the long layoff.

Fifteen play-in matches – eight for the boys, seven for the girls – took place at homes of the higher seeds on Oct. 22.

Twelve of the play-in matches played out as expected. The better teams, based on a two-month body of work, extended their seasons. In three cases, however, the lower-seeded squads sprung upsets.

Two of those stunners took place in the girls' tournament.

Sixteenth-seeded Raymond (3-10-2 regular season) defeated White Mountains of Whitefield (8-6-1), the No. 9 seed, 2-0. Thirteenth-seeded Kingswood of Wolfeboro (6-8-1) beat Stevens of Claremont (7-7-1), the No. 12 seed, 3-0.

The lone upset on the boys' side belonged to No. 19 seed Stevens (2-12-1). It won, 2-1, over No. 14 seed Hillsboro-Deering (6-9-0).

“The intent is to collect data and look at it at the end of the year,” Corbin said. “We'll do an analysis of how things would've likely shaken out if under the old format … and the council will make a decision.”

POINT SYSTEM STIFF-ARMED
The NHIAA was recently at the center of another big decision. This one affected football.

On Oct. 21, the 21-member executive council voted to discontinue use of the first-year New Hampshire Index Plan. The controversial point-rating system, in place this year for use in all sports, decides playoff teams.

The system best serves sports whose teams cannot all play one another during the regular season, creating the need for an equalizer.

Football, however, is the one sport where every team – across all six divisions – faces all league foes. The need for this equalizer was unnecessary.

Furthermore, the system's way of awarding points seemed certain to penalize a playoff-caliber team from punching one of four postseason tickets per division. A win for the designated “road” team earned five points. A win for the designated “home” team earned four points.

Yet caliber of competition is a non-factor. A powerhouse team that beats its winless host earns more points than the struggling squad that springs an upset at home.

Earlier this season, Division I contenders Nashua North and Nashua South met in their annual regular-season rivalry game. Stellos Stadium is home for both teams.

Based on the NHIAA's designation for road and home teams, South was considered the visitor. South won the Week 6 contest, 38-21. It also collected an extra point – for winning on its turf.

“It’s a crazy thing,” South head coach Scott Knight, referring to the NHIP, said after the win. “I guess it stinks if it doesn’t work (to your advantage). But it worked to our benefit this time.”

Displeasure with the system mounted throughout the state's football community. The NHIAA's football committee, led by first-year chair Carol Dozibrin, made the issue an agenda topic for its Oct. 7 meeting.

Two weeks later, Dozibrin made a presentation to the NHIAA Council, which voted to re-instate the old tournament selection system. League records and head-to-head results are, again, top priority.

“When you deal with high school athletics … you just try to do the best thing for the kids,” Dozibrin told the New Hampshire Sunday News. “I think the best thing for the kids is to allow them to determine the outcome on the field.”

EXPECTED OUTCOMES
Soccer tournaments for the Divisions I and IV boys, and Division II girls are under way.

A combined 20 first-round matches were played in those tournaments. The higher-seed squad won 19 times.

The lone exception came in the Division IV boys' bracket. No. 10 seed Colebrook defeated No. 7 seed Nashua Christian, 5-1.

Tournaments for the Division I girls and Division II boys begin Wednesday. Playoffs for the Division IV girls start Thursday.

FINAL FOUR
Title contenders have been significantly whittled down in Divisions I, II and III field hockey.

The Division I semifinals take place Thursday at Exeter's Bill Ball Stadium. Second-seeded Pinkerton Academy of Derry (13-1-1) faces No. 3 seed Salem (13-2) at 5 p.m. Top-seeded Winnacunnet of Hampton (14-0-1) draws No. 5 seed and defending champion Timberlane of Plaistow (11-5).

Winners advance to Sunday's 2:30 p.m. final at Bedford.

The Division II semifinals take place Wednesday at Exeter. Second-seeded Kennett of Conway (15-1) meets upset specialist and No. 14 seed Plymouth (8-8) at 5 p.m. Top-seeded Bow (16-0) and No. 4 seed Oyster River of Durham (12-4) compete in the 7 p.m. matchup.

Winners advance to Sunday's noon championship at Bedford.

Division III has its finalists. Top-seeded Derryfield of Manchester (16-0) meets No. 2 seed Berlin (15-1) in Sunday's 5 p.m. clash at Bedford.

STRETCH RUN
Cross country's most important races are fast approaching.

Derryfield Park in Manchester is the site for the divisional meets on Saturday. Six races on the 3.1-mile course will determine team and individual champions.

The race day schedule is: Division I girls (10 a.m.) and boys (10:40 a.m.); Division II girls (11:30 a.m.) and boys (12:10 p.m.); and Division III girls (1 p.m.) and boys (1:40 p.m.).

Top runners in each division advance to the Meet of Champions, at Nashua's Mines Falls, on Nov. 6. Nashua South hosts the event, which is a qualifying race for the New England Championships.

The girls' race starts at 2:30 p.m. The boys' race begins at 3:20 p.m.

BIG GAME, GIANT WIN
Sixteen yards separated Nick Lawrence from Timberlane's single-game rushing record.

The senior running back carried the football 29 times for 324 yards and four touchdowns on Oct. 15. He surpassed 1,200 yards for the season as the suddenly surging Owls scored a 26-14 Week 7 win over Winnacunnet, at the time undefeated and New Hampshire's No. 1-ranked team.

Lawrence ran with power and patience. He ran tough between the tackles. He turned the corner when reaching the edges.

The ability to maintain his balance – a big reason he is a three-time Division I wrestling champion in the 130-, 140- and 160-pound weight classes – made him tough to tackle.

"It definitely doesn’t hurt him," Timberlane head coach Kevin Fitzgerald said of Lawrence's wrestling experience. "I'm not a big wrestling guy, but I’m sure there’s a correlation between (having) balance on the mat and on the football field."

The 5-foot 11-inch, 174-pound punisher looked a lot like former Timberlane star Derek Furey, owner of the single-game rushing record. As a junior in 2008, Furey turned 40 carries into a 340-yard, five-TD performance.

But Lawrence's most impressive contribution was arguably on the other side of scrimmage.

As an inside linebacker, Lawrence recovered two fumbles, one coming on his strip-sack of standout Winnacunnet quarterback Steve Cronan.

"It was one of his better defensive games of the season," Fitzgerald said. "He moved from the secondary to inside linebacker this season. It took time to transition, but with reps and looking at film, he’s gotten better."

Marc Thaler is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News and UnionLeader.com. He has been the high schools reporter for football and lacrosse since joining the statewide newspaper in 2006. A graduate of Syracuse University (2000), he wrote about the state's football history for an exhibit at The Hall at Patriot Place. The Bedford, N.H., native has covered the Little League World Series, NCAA men's lacrosse championships, UNH athletics and New Hampshire Fisher Cats baseball. He can be reached at marc.thaler@gmail.com.

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