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Tim O

Kearsarge’s Barthol set to fulfill dream of playing in Shrine football game

Kearsarge's Jordan Barthol cheers on a teammate during a relay race at the close of New Hampshire Shrine Bowl team practice at Castleton State College in Castleton, Vt., on July 31, 2013. (Valley News — James M. Patterson)

Kearsarge's Jordan Barthol cheers on a teammate during a relay race at the close of New Hampshire Shrine Bowl team practice at Castleton State College in Castleton, Vt., on July 31, 2013. (Valley News — James M. Patterson)

Practice for tomorrow’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl began a week ago. But Kearsarge’s Jordan Barthol has been thinking about this game for four years.

Barthol went to the 2009 Shrine game as a fan and came home with a few souvenirs – a towel and some raffle tickets. Even though he was just an incoming freshman at that point, and hadn’t played one snap of high school football, Barthol knew he wanted to get back to the game, but not as a fan. So he pinned the souvenirs on his wall and went to work.

“That was my inspiration. It gave me a visual goal,” Barthol said. “Going into my freshman year, it kind of set the tone. And this year it got in the front of my mind more and more to really push toward it.”

The goal will become a reality when Barthol returns to Dartmouth’s Memorial Field tomorrow.

He’s part of the New Hampshire team of graduated seniors that will take on its Vermont counterpart in the 60th annual Maple Sugar Bowl, an all-star game to raise money for the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children.

Barthol went to that 2009 Shrine game to watch Cody Anderson, who played linebacker and fullback for Kearsarge, which also happen to be the two primary positions Barthol played for the Cougars over the last four years. Injuries forced Barthol into the starting lineup on both sides of the ball as a freshman, and even though he was, in his own words, “120 pounds soaking wet,” he survived the trial by fire.

“From a coach’s standpoint it’s never really a good thing to have to start a freshman, but when we looked at it he was clearly our best option,” Kearsarge Coach Zach Matthews said. “We felt like he was mature enough to handle it and he did a great job.”

Barthol kept his starting jobs the next year and helped the Cougars to a perfect 11-0 record and the Division V championship, the first football state title in school history. The following year he was named a captain as a junior.

“I don’t know if it’s always best to name kids who are juniors captains,” Matthews said, “but he had played so much football for us to that point, and he was clearly one of the leaders on the team, so I just felt like it was the right move for us.”

Not only did Barthol play “so much football” during his time at Kearsarge, he did so much of everything. He was on the lacrosse and swim teams for four years, and he was a lacrosse captain this spring. He also helped start the school’s archery club and was involved in theater for three years, although he didn’t carry his stage presence onto the football field.

According to Matthews, Barthol “wasn’t a flashy kid, and he didn’t say much, he really led by example.” He did that with his work ethic in practice and his production during games; last season, for instance, he had 106 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception (returned for a touchdown), 249 rushing yards and three touchdowns rushing. He also showed leadership through his willingness to play anywhere the team needed him. Offensively, he played both fullback and halfback. On the other side of the ball, Barthol loved life as a middle linebacker, but he moved to the outside for some games, down to the line for others, and one plan even had him at safety.

“We used him in a lot of different places and, to be honest, I put him in difficult situations,” Matthews said. “He was our human Band-Aid, if you will. If we were having problems somewhere, then I moved him there. And that just speaks to his character. He’ll do whatever it takes.”

That character and versatility will likely serve him well this fall as makes the transition to college football at Division III Norwich University. And those traits have already served him well during his Shrine experience. Barthol thought he was going to play linebacker for New Hampshire, but that changed after Windham’s Kevin Cooney, who was penciled in as the starting fullback, pulled out of the game at the last minute.

“I had to switch Jordan to the offensive side, so he’s rotating in at fullback and doing a great job for us over there,” said New Hampshire Coach Ray Kershaw, who led Mascoma to the Division VI title game last fall.

“If I could choose, I kind of like the controlled chaos of defense, but this is totally about raising money for the kids, so I’ll play anywhere,” Barthol said. “This experience has been so amazing that I could be on the sidelines as a water boy and it wouldn’t matter to me.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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