Time to Shrine: Fagan set for annual Maple Sugar Bowl
College can be an intimidating experience for incoming freshmen, especially incoming freshmen football players.
But having your best buddy with you can make it a lot easier.
That will be the case for Milford native and former Bishop Guertin receiever Dylan Fagan at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. The same goes for Nashua High School North alumni Jeff Baldassari and Tylor Chase at Norwich University
But first, there’s a game to be won for all three – Saturday’s 64th annual New Hampshire-Vermont Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl contest at Vermont’s Castleton University.
Fagan is heading to Assumption on Sunday, right after Saturday’s game, where he’ll be reunited with former BG teammate Sarveen Shafian-Raad. The two receivers were double trouble for Cardinal opposition all last season.
“That’s what Sarveen and I have talked about,” said Fagan, who will likely play defensive back as well as receiver in Saturday’s game. “Another four years together. We’ve played together and been best friends all our lives.”
For all-star games, though, they were separated; Shafian-Raad played in the CHaD Game back in late June.
Fagan’s turn comes Saturday, but he certainly arrived in great shape as he’s been doing daily conditioning drills all summer. Plus, he’s been busy in the weight room, putting on 20 pounds.
Will the additional weight take away from his speed? Not as far as he’s concerned.
“The first day of Shrine camp was good, I felt fine,” he said. “I actually feel faster. I suppose we’ll see, of course, but it shouldn’t make a difference.”
But Fagan, if he plays Saturday like he did all year at Guertin, could make a difference.
The same could be said for the ex-Titans and future Norwich teammates making the trip.
“It’s definitely going to be good,” said Baldassari, the former Titans quarterback, about being accompanied to school by former Titans running back Tylor Chase. “It’ll help make it easier.”
Chase and Baldassari won’t be rooming together, however. Baldassari will be enrolled in the military side of Norwich, majoring in criminal justice with the goal of a military police career that could lead to him becoming a state trooper. Chase, who was a dynamic back and special teams player for North, has a sports asthmatic condition that precluded him from becoming a marine; his longtime goal is to someday own his own gym.
“I miss high school football,” Chase said. “So I’m looking forward to the Shrine game; there’s a lot of competition here. At North, it was pretty much certain going into camp I was going to be starting and playing a lot. Here, you have to earn it. It makes me push myself.”
Chase had to wait for that regular role at North thanks to the emergence during his junior year of Devin Leonard. After Leonard graduated, he took over, but then the Titans equally distributed the ball among a bevy of fast backs.
“Tylor made some great offensive plays for us,” North coach Dante Laurendi said. “He can run the ball, catch the ball, return kicks.
“The tough thing was we had maybe four guys, five guys who rushed for over 600 yards, including him. But his versatility was huge.
“I think he’s versatile enough that if he puts on some weight he’s someone you can use in the backfield. And he can be a really good special teams guy.”
Norwich, Chase said, is looking at him as both a running back and possibly a slot receiver. He’d rather stay in the backfield if possible, where he’s been since he started playing football in the seventh grade.
Meanwhile, Baldassari’s rise to stardom at North has been well documented, as he thought he might have to play receiver but instead was a standout quarterback, leading the Titans to the playoffs.
Baldassari has gotten some snaps in practice, and is hoping it’s not a completely done deal that former Nashua South QB Joe Bernard, who transferred to and enjoyed a good career at Bishop Brady, will automatically be the starter.
It’s just another challenge for Baldassari, who has met a lot of them head on with success. “He’s such a great kid,” Laurendi said. “He’s easy to root for. Last year he worked so hard in the off-season. To see him find his confidence was great.”
That confidence could help him at Norwich.
“It’s always difficult when you’re first going in,” Laurendi said. “But if he continues to have confidence and works just as hard, he’ll do well.”