Hanover – How many New Hampshire boys soccer programs could graduate 17 seniors and still be considered a state title threat later that year?

Perhaps only one and it’s Hanover High, where 97 players tried out for its four teams and the defending Division I champions are once again loaded.

“This team is already very tight,” said 15th-year coach Rob Grabill, whose players competed throughout the summer as a Vermont club squad. “We have incredible leadership from our 11 seniors, one of whom is a returning starter. Eight who have varsity experience.”

Hanover High boys soccer coach Rob Grabill takes the temperature of a Marauders player prior to Wednesday’s practice.

That returning starter is defender Dylan Kotlowitz. The only other returning starter? Junior midfielder Eric Ringer, who scored four goals and eight assists last autumn. The Marauder open Saturday against visiting Lebanon.

“I’m starting a sophomore goalie,” exclaimed Grabill, adding in the next breath that Ty Nolan is an NCAA Division I prospect who’s already attracted attention from Georgetown. “I’ve got three freshmen on the varsity and they’re not there for decoration, because I may only have them for a year.”

Senior forward Henry Aspinwall should be a factor, along with junior defender Evan Nichols, an accomplished ski jumper. Classmate Palmer Okai will join Nichols in the center of the back line.

Junior Evan Nichols is expected to help anchor Hanover High’s defense this season.

“We’ve got players who know how to score big goals in big games,” Grabill said, noting that three juniors who could be on varsity are instead playing club soccer in southeast New Hampshire. He also predicts that six members of his freshmen class will play in college.

While Hanover would prefer to tackle Division I foes such as Bedford, Exeter and Manchester Central, Covid-19 concerns will limit it to facing the likes of Lebanon, Hartford and Keene. Matchups with Newport and Mascoma have been handed off to the Marauders JVs.

“If there’s a playoff tournament, if we’re playing in October, great,” said Grabill, whose program owns a state-best 19 state titles. “We’re taking every day as a blessing because we don’t know when things could shut down.”

Grabill, 69, said he wants to coach at least one more year and hopefully conclude after the current freshmen exhaust their eligibility. He said JV coach Sam Farnham, a Dartmouth College graduate and former Hanover player is his handpicked successor.

“We’ve got it all mapped out,” said Grabill, whose birthday is in June. “I’m way too old to be coaching, but I’ll stay on as the kindly freshman coach and do all the program’s logistics for 95 kids.”

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