Gillis found an opening while waiting his turn
MANCHESTER – When the West team began practice for the CHaD East-West NH High School All-Star Football Game two weeks ago, several players were intrigued to watch teammate Trevor Knight.
For Merrimack’s Devin Gillis, watching Knight in the game Saturday turned out to be more important.
Knight (Nashua South) played for the first two-plus quarters of the game, leading the West on three touchdown drives in what would be a 24-7 win over the East at Saint Anselm College. When Gillis finally got his opportunity late in the third quarter, he knew exactly what he was going to do.
“I was watching the whole game,” Gillis said. “It kind of helped that I got to watch Trevor and watch the matchups with all the receivers.”
That attention led to one of the biggest pass plays of the day for the West, when Gillis found receiver Deon Ball (Manchester Memorial) deep along the sideline for a 32-yard reception.
“I saw that Deon (Ball) was going to burn that kid if he went deep,” Gillis said. “I’ve been working on that with him and all the other receivers all week so I knew I was going to have him there.”
Knight got to enjoy the play from the sidelines and he liked what he saw.
“It was a great ball and a great catch by Deon,” he said. “I love Devin, he works so hard. He may not be as big as the other guys, but he can play and he really showed it. He opened a lot of eyes because he can play.”
West head coach Paul Lavigne saw Gillis play a couple of times last fall with Merrimack and plays like that were one reason why he was chosen as a replacement player.
“For Gillis to come in and do a job like he did,” Lavigne said, “it just shows that when you pick 40 kids and someone gets off (the team), those 41 to 50 are good. Gillis is good. He’s not as talented as Trevor or some of the guys on the East, but he did a good job.”
Despite the success the West had defensively in the first half of Saturday’s game, the one thing missing was a turnover. That changed in the second, when the West came up with four interceptions, picking off two passes from Donovan Phanor (Portsmouth) and one each from Derek Stegman (Dover) and Jack Anathas (Gilford).
The first of the picks was recorded by Milford’s Harrison Urda, who intercepted a pass from Phanor early in the second half.
“The inside receiver went to do a wheel (route) to the inside and the outside receiver went straight up the field, so I was kind of drifting back to see who he’d throw it to,” Urda said. “At the last second, it was the outside receiver, so I broke on it and was able to make the play.
“As soon as I caught the ball, I looked up. There was no one but blockers in front of me, and actually someone fell down in front of me, and everyone was converging on that side, so I tried to cut back.”
Also recording interceptions were Brad Rhoades (Trinity), Ian Landry (Trinity) and Marc Gaudet (Concord), who got his on fourth down and changed field position in favor of the East.
“I had to kid Marc Gaudet about it,” Lavigne said. “If he was smart, he would have just thrown it on the ground, but when you get a chance for an interception, you take it. The secondary, coached by my son (Andy), did a fabulous job. The key was up front. We didn’t give them a lot of room up front.”
The West players attributed some of their success on the field to the fact they were able to bond quickly as teammates during their two weeks of practice.
“This experience has been phenomenal,” Urda said. “Getting to know all the guys, to play with such great players, it’s a great feeling.”
“These last two weeks felt like six months,” Milford’s Mitch Banuskevich said. “We felt like family. It was a great feeling. It was awesome, especially meeting the kids and seeing what it’s all about. It’s not about the game, it’s about the money we raised for it, especially the turnout.”
• Gaudet received the Bo Dickson Award as the game’s most outstanding player, as he finished with a team-high six tackles and the interception. It’s the second year in a row the award went to a defense player, as the East’s Ricky Holt (Portsmouth) won last year in a losing cause. Junior Brown (Manchester Central) won the award in the first game in a West win.
• The crowd at Saint Anselm’s Grappone Stadium was announced at 1,654.
• More defensive stats for the West: the all-stars recorded eight tackles for loss, including four sacks. Kyle Reisert (Plymouth) had 21?2 sacks while Kelmy Anziani (South), Tristen Theroux (Trinity) and Drew Bolewski (Monadnock) were credited with a half sack. John Thomas (Plymouth) also had 11?2 tackles for loss.
• The East got most of its offensive from Stegman, who was 7 of 16 for 86 yards and an interception, while Jake Geppert (St. Thomas) caught four passes for 42 yards, Defensively, Max Medley (Exeter), Ryan Kelly (Exeter) and Matt Madden (Pinkerton) each recorded 10 tackles.
• The 2015 CHaD game will move back to the University of New Hampshire, whose Cowell Stadium was unavailable for use due to renovations.