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Former Warner resident Cavallaro part of 13-man UNH football recruiting class

Shawn Cavallaro didn’t pick New Hampshire over Maine until Tuesday, the day before he signed his national letter of intent as part of the 13-man recruiting class UNH inked yesterday. The final choice may have been last minute, but Cavallaro always knew he wanted to play college football, going all the way back to his days in the Kearsarge Wildcats Youth Football program.

“We had a really good team and that was a great foundation for me,” said Cavallaro, who grew up in Warner but moved to Hanover in eighth grade. “I loved being there for four years; it was a really good place to start.”

Cavallaro’s older brother Sam played at Kearsarge High and his father, also Sam, was a coach in the youth program. Shawn played in the Kearsarge program from fourth to eighth grade and was then a four-year varsity player for Hanover High. He started as a receiver and defensive back as a freshman and moved to quarterback for his last three years. Cavallaro (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) totaled 4,410 yards and 48 touchdowns in his career for the Marauders and was a three-time first team all-state selection.

“We watched him on tape last spring and then he came to our prospect camp in the summer – unfortunately he had a hamstring injury then – but he’s been on our radar for that whole time,” UNH Coach Sean McDonnell said. “He can play either side of the ball … and Shawn is a very fast kid, his numbers speak for themselves, and the other thing that I’m impressed with about him is he’s a very smart, very physical football player.”

Cavallaro, likewise, was impressed with McDonnell during the recruiting process that ultimately led him to Durham.

“It all started with Coach McDonnell, he’s a class act. He’s been real with me all along the whole process and that was real important because recruiting has kind of been crazy,” Cavallaro said. “But he’s been up front with me the whole time, so it’s been an awesome experience being recruited by him and I can’t wait to play for him.”

Those feelings may have started with McDonnell, but they extended to the entire UNH program.

“It seems like a brotherhood at UNH, like a family, kind of like you feel with your high school team,” Cavallaro said. “And I love having the opportunity to play for my home state, it’s a great level of football, and a great education, so I didn’t think I could go wrong.”

While McDonnell wasn’t sure about position, Cavallaro is hoping he ends up on the Wildcats high-powered offense.

“They run the spread offense and I think playing as an all-purpose back in that, out in the slot catching balls and going in motion for some carries and stuff like that, would be a great fit for me,” said Cavallaro, who is also a captain for the Hanover hockey team. “I love having the ball in my hands and making plays, and hopefully I can do that for UNH.”

Cavallaro isn’t the only New Hampshire player who is staying in state. Plymouth linebacker Jared Kuehl and Nashua South quarterback Trevor Knight also signed with the Wildcats yesterday.

Kuehl (6-1, 210) was a first team all-state selection as a junior and senior, leading the Bobcats to state titles in both those years, and he’s a captain for the basketball, lacrosse and football teams. Kuehl will follow the footsteps of several Plymouth players who have made their way to Durham, including receiver Mike Boyle, who was a 2008 captain for the Wildcats and finished his career with 146 receptions for 2,320 yards and 20 touchdowns, and more recent players like Bryan Mayhew, Shawn Sweeney and Tim Farina.

“I think the culture and the tradition of that Plymouth program is important and you can see it in the kids who have come from there and played for us,” McDonnell said. “And I think there’s huge upside for Jared. … I watched him play basketball a couple weeks ago and I really like his instincts, his competitiveness and everyone up there speaks highly about him.”

Knight (6-0, 180) committed to UNH in the summer and then went on to win the New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year as he guided the Purple Panthers to a 9-2 record with more than 1,800 yards passing, 1,533 yards rushing and 38 total touchdowns.

“I think athletically he’s on par with (Sean) Goldrich and (Andy) Vailas (UNH’s top two current quarterbacks) in his ability to run and do all that, and he’s got a very live arm, which was saw in person at our camps and clinics this summer,” McDonnell said. “You watch his highlight tape and wow, and he’s a coach’s son, so everything is a big plus about that kid, and I’m excited about him having the opportunity to run our offense.”

The other 10 recruits who signed with UNH yesterday are lineman Cyrus Boone (6-2, 260) from California, running back Trevor Bryant (5-8, 175) from Florida, wide receiver Rory Donovan (6-5, 200) from Canton, Mass., safety D’Andre Drummond (6-0, 205) from Lawrence, Mass., offensive lineman Dayne Herron (6-4, 285) from Washington, defensive end/linebacker Jae’Wuan Horton (6-2, 215) from Virginia, wide receiver/defensive back Neil O’Connor from Leominster, Mass., wide receiver Kieran Presley (6-0, 175) from Amherst, Mass., offensive lineman Ryan Sosnak (6-2, 300) from Pennsylvania and tight end Matt Torrey (6-2, 230) from Cheshire, Conn.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at tosullivan@cmonitor.com or 369-3341 or on Twittter @timosullivan20.)

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