Team East edges Team West, 17-13, in annual CHaD All-Star Football Game 

  • ABOVE: Concord High’s Zach Miles (4) rolls out to look for passing room during Saturday’s CHaD NH East-West High School All-Star Football Game at the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Stadium in Durham. Miles piloted Team West to two scores, but Team East won, 17-13. BELOW: Bedford’s Ryan Toscano (39) scores a touchdown to give Team West an early lead. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

  • Pinkerton’s Gannon Fast (9) breaks a long run for Team East during Saturday’s CHaD NH East-West High School All-Star Football Game in Durham. Gannon was named the game’s MVP and Team East won, 17-13. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

  • Bedford’s Ryan Toscano (39) scores a touchdown to give Team West an early lead during Saturday’s CHaD NH East-West High School All-Star Football Game at the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Stadium in Durham. Team East eventually won, 17-13. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

Monitor staff
Published: 6/29/2019 10:26:14 PM

DURHAM – The top graduating players from New Hampshire met on the gridiron one final time Saturday night, raising money for a worthy cause and giving the fans something to cheer about along the way at UNH’s Wildcat Stadium during the annual CHaD NH East-West High School All-Star Football Game.

Pinkerton Academy’s Gannon Fast churned out 139 yards on 23 carries to take home MVP honors and Fast’s high school teammate Nick Lombard (team-high seven tackles) recovered a key fumble late in the fourth quarter as Team East defeated Team West, 17-13, in Durham.

Players and coaches across both sides helped raise $218,463.80 for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward CHaD kids and their families.

“This was a great week of football. Coming back and getting to play with some of these guys that you’ve played against for the last four years of high school. It’s a really cool experience,” said recent Concord graduate and Team West starting quarterback Zach Miles.

“Being a part of CHaD and everything they do. Yeah, we are the ones out here playing for the fans, but it’s all for those kids at the end of the day.”

While Miles and the rest of Team West didn’t get to celebrate a victory at the conclusion of the near three-hour contest, he did play a major role in keeping it close.

Team West was the first to strike as Miles (5-for-11, 60 passing yards; 46 yards rushing) led West down the field for an 11-play, 56-yard scoring drive capped by a 2-yard touchdown run from Bedford’s Ryan Toscano on the team’s opening possession. Bedford’s Madison Lucontoni split the uprights on the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

“It’s really a process of Zach knowing the offense and that’s why we started him,” Team West and Concord varsity football coach Eric Brown said. “Everybody is nervous in the beginning of a game like this, but he did what he does best: Just make things happen. I’m really proud of him.”

Team East, though, responded in impressive fashion. 

It dominated both yardage totals (156-91) and time of possession (19:44-10:16) in the first half and for the game, cutting into the lead on a 25-yard field goal from Salem’s Zach Gibbons late in the first quarter. East then took the 10-7 lead it carried into halftime at the 9:39 mark of the second when Londonderry’s Evan Cormier found a wide open Joseph MacDougall (Winnacunnet) in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard TD pass.

The two sides traded interceptions toward the end of the second quarter with East’s Jakob Steele (Laconia) picking off a pass for a 33-yard return just before Merrimack’s Tristan Wood (team-high 12 tackles, two fumble recoveries) collected an interception of his own for West with a little over 20 seconds to go.

“To me that meant a lot because I got to show some of these bigger division kids that we can play in Division III, too,” Steele said. “It was amazing for me.”

The second half had much of the same back and forth nature for the 2,595 fans in attendance.

Miles engineered his second scoring drive of the game late in the third quarter. 

Using his legs to buy some time, Miles rolled out to the left and heaved a 31-yard touchdown pass to Merrimack’s Ben Eichman, who was waiting in the end zone and high pointed the ball to come down with the contested catch.

The 11-play, 78-yard drive put West up, 13-10, heading into the final quarter.

“It was fun playing with these guys throughout the week,” Miles said. “It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

But a relentless Team East wouldn’t allow that lead to last much longer than a few minutes. Marching right back down the field, St. Thomas quarterback Shawk DeKorne connected with Dover’s Aaron Oroh for a 32-yard gain, eventually setting up a 3-yard rushing score for Pinkerton’s Genarro Marra.

Trailing 17-13, Team West’s best chance to score came at the 7:47 mark of the fourth. With Toscano picking up chunks of yardage, West drove all the way to the East 16 before Toscano had the ball ripped loose. 

That’s when Lombard scooped up the fumble and nearly took it to the house, returning it 54 yards before being stopped about 20 yards short.

“We talked about it before the game. The big difference is protecting the ball and turnovers,” Brown said. “(Toscano) is a Gatorade Player of the Year, probably one of the best players on the team. It’s just one of those things.”

Other locals making contributions throughout the contest included Concord’s Adrian Kennedy (one catch, 8 yards), Hopkinton’s Caleb Yianakopolos (seven tackles) and John Stark’s Jacob Cole (six tackles, one pass breakup).

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)

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