By Tris Wykes

HANOVER – If enthusiasm and voice volume are indications, the Hanover High football team should be improved this autumn. The Marauders are fired up despite being outscored 320-86 during a winless 2019.

“Did you go 0-9 last season?!” screamed sixth-year coach Sam Cavallaro at the end of Friday’s practice. “Did you like it? Do you have a chip on your shoulders?” His players answered each question with an affirmative roar.

Hanover High football coach Sam Cavallaro shouts to his team at the end of Friday’s practice on Merriman-Branch Field.

“We not only lost every game, but we took a physical beating because we were so young,” Cavallaro recalled with a rueful chuckle. “I told them I didn’t want them to forget and to get up every day remembering the pounding they took.”

Hanover saw a vast increase in the number of players who showed up regularly for summer workouts. It will also be aided by a reconfigured schedule that limits its schedule to the region. The Marauders are expected to face only one other Division II team, that being Lebanon. Stevens, a Division III school, and Division IV squads Fall Mountain, Mascoma and Newport are also tentatively on the docket, as is a scrimmage next week against visiting Keene.

“We don’t really care who we play because every day you wake up and anything can happen,” said Cavallaro, noting that only three expected competitors, all freshmen, chose to sit out the season because of Covid-19. “We didn’t know what our numbers were going to be like this season.”

The coach said that only five freshmen started for Hanover during the 25 years before last season, when that total suddenly doubled. Throw in eight players who started last year as sophomores and the Marauders are still young, but with rapidly accumulating experience. During the three seasons before 2019, Hanover made the division semifinals twice and the quarterfinals once.

This year’s strong point might be the line, which features sophomore and returning starter Montana Hanchett, 6-foot-5 and 295 pounds and carrying barely any blubber. Junior Connor Chambers and senior Ben Wagner are also back, the latter minus the cast he wore on one forearm and over a broken hand bone for most of last fall. Junior tight end and linebacker Josh Bucci gained 30 pounds and is now 195.

“We’ve put in so much time on our endurance and physicality,” Wagner said. “We had guys here on the field working out seven days a week for unofficial practices this summer and we worked out officially three times a week.”

Junior Colin Pierce is slated to be the quarterback. He took over midway through last season for the now-graduated Caleb Morse, who shifted to running back. Sophomore Ben Williams returns in the backfield and Cavallaro touts he and senior receiver and cornerback Moe Kado as both running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds.

Williams is better known for his baseball prowess, but Cavallaro said he has a chance to graduate as the program’s best player in decades and that his production should take pressure off Pierce.

“Colin took a beating last year but he’s got his head in the playbook, like a lot of our kids,” Cavallaro said. “We probably did 50 Zoom meetings this spring and summer and that’s the type of motivation we have on this team. We’d do stuff on the white board and with PowerPoint and video.

“We hit the ground running this (preseason) because everyone knows the formations and plays.”

Other impact players include junior running back and linebacker Seamus Murphy and senior linebacker Hank Trimble. Sophomore lineman Patrick Elder returns and is the son of Glenn Elder, a onetime bulldozer in the same slot who played for Hanover during the 1980s.

Hanover High linebacker Hank Trimble is shown at Friday’s practice wearing the visor and “spit shield” combination Marauders players will don this season to aid in Covid-19 prevention.

A potential concern locally is blowouts when teams are matched by proximity rather than division. How ugly might the outcome be when a Division II school meets a Division IV foe? Cavallaro said he’s confident sportsmanship and common sense will prevail.

“I think every coach across the state has been humbled by this situation because we’re all day to day,” he said.

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