By Tris Wykes

Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021

HANOVER – Hanover High football appears back on solid ground. But can the Marauders use that perch as a stepping stone to reach another level?

A trip to the 2018 NHIAA semifinals was followed by a winless season during which Hanover was not only beaten, but beaten up. The Marauders rebounded to go 4-2 last season, their setbacks both blowout losses to arch-rival Lebanon, which might have been the division’s best team.

Quarterback Colin Pierce, center, runs through an Aug. 14 backfield drill. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Can Hanover return to the state’s upper echelon? Or was last year’s record fool’s gold because of a Covid-influenced schedule against lower-division teams such as Stevens, Mascoma and Fall Mountain?

“We don’t have a lot of depth,” said seventh-year Hanover coach Sam Cavallaro, whose team lost half a dozen impact players to graduation, plus talented running back and defensive back Ben Williams, now at prep school. “We have a lot of good players across the board, but is there someone who’s elite?”

The leading candidate is likely running back and linebacker Seamus Murphy, a lanky but wiry-strong senior who accelerates into collisions. Cavallaro said No. 8 runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds.

Murphy, whose father aids in the football team’s strength and conditioning, said he’s been received recruiting interest from Plymouth State, Springfield College, Worcester State, the University of New England, Endicott College and Union College. 

Ninth-grader Faith “Shade” Timmons participates in a line drill. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

The quarterback is expected to be senior Colin Pierce, who spent the summer working on his craft. Also the baseball team’s shortstop, his throwing motion might feature a bit too much hardball, but Hanover is predominantly a running team under Cavallaro. Pierce’s backup is sophomore Roger Lucas, upon whom the coach heaps praise.

Josh Bucci, a senior tight end, linebacker and punter, has bulked up and is one of the best in the region at his offensive position. Junior receiver Brendan Logan, a lacrosse star, turned some heads at summer football camps with his athleticism and the line features a proven quartet in 6-foot-5, 320-pound junior Montana Hanchett, alongside seniors Patrick Elder, Jack Crandell and Connor Chambers.

Cavallaro estimates Hanover returns eight starters, most of them going both ways. The coach is most excited, however, about his team’s overall gains in the weight room, where he said more than 20 players toiled regularly during the off-season.

“We’ve never had such a big jump in strength,” Cavallaro said, adding that he hopes improved fitness will result in fewer injuries. “This group also has another gear when it comes to adversity, but will those things translate into games?”

Colin Pierce throws in front of Roger Lucas. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Hanover is scheduled to play five of its nine regular-season contests at home and hosts still-powerful Lebanon for a second consecutive year. The Marauders appear to have the talent and experience to keep games close, but whether they can prevail is another question. Cavallaro, his outlook drenched in optimism as always, has few doubts.

“I love this team,” he said, a broad smile breaking out under his mustache. “I believer that to have good things happen, you have to work hard and this group couldn’t have done more.”

Notes: The Marauders have seven assistant coaches. The one coaching the receivers, Jon Gentine, was a walk-on football player at Notre Dame and teaches history at Hanover High… Cavallaro, who’s supported Hanover’s middle school football program through thick and thin, said its registration had to be closed at 30 players recently because there were no longer helmets available. Nineteen of those players are eighth-graders, he added… Among those who helped coach the middle school team last fall were former Dartmouth football and rugby player Ethan Frechette, now a Hanover attorney, and current Big Green offensive line coach Keith Clark, both of whom have sons in the program… Hanover’s losses to Lebanon last season, the latter in the playoffs, were by a combined 78-0 score.

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Head coach Sam Cavallaro is in his seventh season on the job and was a Marauders assistant before being promoted. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.