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UNH football team beefs up on local talent

The Wildcats will have plenty of granite in their future football foundation. The University of New Hampshire yesterday announced the signing of 11 players, including three in-state linemen: Bedford’s Will McInerny, Portsmouth’s Ricky Holt and Souhegan’s Jake Kennedy.

“I think we’ve got a whole lot of talent coming out of New Hampshire this year,” said McInerny, a 6-foot-7, 290-pound offensive tackle prospect. “I’ve met both Jake and Rick before and they seem like great kids and they’re certainly at the talent level to play for UNH. They’re getting some great kids.”

“We’re extremely excited about the athletic ability and physical size of this recruiting class, and we’re particularly pleased that three local kids decided to stay home and play football in the Granite State,” New Hampshire Coach Sean McDonnell said.

The Wildcats have had success with in-state linemen, and last year was a great example of that. Manchester’s Seamus O’Neill was named a First Team All-Colonial Athletic Conference offensive lineman, Franklin’s Matt Kaplan started at defensive tackle as a sophomore last fall, and offensive lineman Sean Ryan from Londonderry and defensive lineman Jimmy Vailas from Bedford both saw time in reserve/platoon roles.

McInerny verbally committed to UNH in the fall, a few weeks after Kennedy made his verbal agreement to become a Wildcat. Still, yesterday was special.

“It’s all been kind of surreal, but now it’s getting real,” McInerny said. “I’m signing papers and it’s actually happening. I’m very excited.”

It all seemed extra surreal to McInerny because he didn’t even play football last year after undergoing surgery on his right knee in August. He also had his left knee operated on this winter. While that raises some health concerns, UNH had seen enough of McInerny to make him an offer.

“It was unfortunate that he missed his senior year, but he was very impressive in our camps and clinics last spring, so we knew he was the right fit for us,” McDonnell said.

Like McInerny, Souhegan’s Kennedy projects as an offensive lineman for the ’Cats. He had 111 pancake blocks in the last two seasons for the Sabers and was on the Division III All-State First Team in both 2011 and 2012.

McDonnell sees Portsmouth’s Holt (6-3, 275) as more of a defensive lineman for college, though Holt played on both lines for the Clippers, leading them to back-to-back D-III titles the last two years. He also helped Portsmouth to D-II baseball championships the in 2010 and ’11 and is expected to be the team’s ace this spring.

“(Holt) is really athletic, possess quick hands and feet, and he has the ability to change directions and run to the ball,” McDonnell said.

The ’Cats also signed a fourth player with in-state connections, 6-2, 230-pound linebacker Odaine Franklyn from Proctor Academy. Franklyn had a successful career at White Plains (N.Y.) High before his post-grad year at Proctor, where he earned First Team All-Evergreen honors after recording 48 tackles and leading the team to an 8-1 record.

“Odaine is an outstanding young man and we know that the University of New Hampshire is getting a gem of a football player who will make an immediate impact on the program there and has endless potential,” Proctor Coach Ben Rulli said on the school’s website.

In addition to Franklyn, the class includes two other linebacker-type athletes – Michael Boryeskne from Sparta, N.J., and Riley Pritchett of Berwyn, Pa. Boryeskne (6-1, 215) is listed as a fullback/outside linebacker and last season he totaled 87 tackles, 14 sacks and two interceptions for 9-2 Sparta High. Pritchett (6-2, 215) is labeled as a linebacker/tight end and had 57 tackles (32 solo), seven sacks and three fumble recoveries last fall for Conestoga High.

Antonio Natale from Immaculata High in Bridgewater, N.J., is the only quarterback in UNH’s class. Last season he threw for 1,746 yards and 15 touchdowns, ran for 695 yards and 15 touchdowns, and led Immaculata to a 10-2 record. The 6-1, 200-pound Natale was also a productive linebacker and had 49 tackles and two interceptions and was named All-Area First Team linebacker.

The Wildcats plucked Aaron Lewis-Canales, an electrifying wide receiver, from a familiar place, Arundel High in Odenton, Md., alma mater of UNH sophomore R.J. Harris, who led the CAA with 983 receiving yards last year. Lewis-Canales probably has the most impressive highlight clips of any of the recruits, showing off the elusive open field running and soft hands that allowed him to grab 59 passes for 789 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.

The other skill position recruits are cornerback/running back Geno Miller from Alexandria, Va., cornerback/wide receiver Patrick Mensah from Montvale, N.J., and wide receiver/defensive back Max Avin from Coral Springs, Fla.

Miller (5-11, 190) had 48 tackles, 15 pass breakups and four interceptions last for Bishop Ireton. In the last two years, Avin (5-11, 180) accounted for 57 catches, 1,072 yards and 17 touchdowns for Coral Springs High. And Mensah (6-1, 185) had 73 tackles for St. Joseph’s Regional School, the top-ranked team in New Jersey. It was just the first season of football for Mensah, who is currently averaging more than 20 points per game for the St. Joseph’s basketball team and competes as a sprinter for the track team.

“Patrick is a very raw, explosive, athletic football player,” McDonnell said. “Although he’s only played for one year, he demonstrates terrific football instincts, he tackles very well and he has a nose for the ball.”

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