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West is best in unforgettable CHaD football game

  • East Head Coach Craig Kozens of Laconia watches the field during the CHaD East-West All-Star football game at Manchester Memorial High School on Sunday, July 2, 2017. West won the game, 25-14, and improved to 4-2 all time. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton’s Henry Yianakopolos (in red) tackles Peter Navarro (in white) of Londonderry during the CHaD East-West All-Star football game at Manchester Memorial High School on Sunday, July 2, 2017. West won the game, 25-14, and improved to 4-2 all time. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton’s Henry Yianakopolos watches his kick during the CHaD East-West All-Star football game at Manchester Memorial High School on Sunday, July 2, 2017. West won the game, 25-14, and improved to 4-2 all time. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Jacob Filgate of Laconia stumbles with the ball after being tackled during the CHaD East-West All-Star football game at Manchester Memorial High School on Sunday. West won the game, 25-14. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton’s Henry Yianakopolos runs with the ball after pulling down an interception in the third quarter of the CHaD East-West All-Star football game at Manchester Memorial High School on Sunday, July 2, 2017. West won the game, 25-14, and improved to 4-2 all time. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Peter Navarro (15) of Londonderry tries to step around Shahrukh Hussain (2) of Bedford during the CHaD East-West All-Star football game at Manchester Memorial High School on Sunday, July 2, 2017. West won the game, 25-14, and improved to 4-2 all time. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Londonderry’s Peter Navarro stumbles across the goal line to score for the East team during the CHaD East-West All-Star football game at Manchester Memorial High School on Sunday. West won the game, 25-14, and improved to 4-2 all time. Players from the West team gather after defeating East in the sixth annual CHaD All-Star game. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Laconia’s James McDonald (left) engages in a block with Concord’s Reid Ljungholm during the CHaD East-West All-Star football game at Manchester Memorial High School on Sunday, July 2, 2017. West won the game, 25-14, and improved to 4-2 all time. NICK STOICO / Monitor staff

  • Players from the West team gather after defeating East in the sixth annual NICK STOICO / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Sunday, July 02, 2017

MANCHESTER – The 2017 edition of the CHaD East-West All-Star Game won’t soon be forgotten, but it may need an asterisk in the record books.

Nothing should be taken away from the players and coaches of the West team, which defeated East, 25-14, in the sixth annual game that benefits Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth. Coach Jim Schubert led a prepared and fit group of players to victory.

Every bit of the win was earned, from the double-headed rushing attack of Lebanon’s Ryan Milliken and Bedford’s Nick Leahy – they combined for 165 yards on the ground and two touchdowns – to the pick-six by Souhegan’s Tucker Aiello in the third quarter. The 25-yard field goal by Hopkinton’s Henry Yianakopolos – his first ever – was a special moment revealing the unique opportunities this game presents to players. Yianakopolos also had an interception that he returned for 26 yards in the third quarter.

But this game will first be remembered for starting on a Friday evening at Saint Anselm College and ending on a Sunday afternoon at Manchester Memorial High School. Thunderstorms led to multiple delays in Friday’s game before it was officially suspended around 9 p.m.

The game resumed in the second quarter under sunny skies across town on Sunday.

“The momentum was on our side Friday and we had a great first drive and our defense was holding to it,” Yianakopolos said after the game. “It was weird to start the game with a first- and-10 on the 40-yard line, but we did it and finished out on top.”

The postponement led to some scheduling conflicts for a couple players on the East team. A knee injury to Laconia tight end Carter Doherty in the rain-soaked first quarter on Friday kept him on the sidelines. Salem’s Ben Emerson, another tight end, was also absent.

East Coach Craig Kozens also lost his most dynamic offensive tool in Christian Peete of Portsmouth, who simply couldn’t make it Sunday. Peete was all over the field Friday as a quarterback, running back and slot receiver. On Sunday, the East offense struggled in each of those areas.

“We had to scrap half of our playbook,” Kozens said, now 2-1 all time in the CHaD game. “Considering what we had I thought we did a good job. ... We showed up to the locker room down a few more guys but they kept fighting. They’re a good group of kids and they made it a game, which is good for the game.”

There were no absences for the West squad due to rescheduling. Running back and safety Tyler DeNeill of Merrimack hurt his shoulder while making a tackle Friday and sat out Sunday. Concord’s Kody Hardy, a burly 6-foot-2, 270-pound offensive and defensive lineman, went down early in the second quarter with a knee injury and didn’t return.

“(East) didn’t have all their guys,” Schubert said. “I tip my hat to them. They did a hell of a job with the kids they had. They stuck it to us.”

West’s 7-0 lead from Friday carried over to Sunday as the game continued in the second quarter. Milliken quickly punched in another touchdown for West to end their first drive of the day. Yianakopolos kicked the extra point, technically his second of the game, to make it 14-0. East answered with 50 seconds left in the first half as Navarro pulled in a pass from Jake Stevens for a 22-yard touchdown. Stevens hit Shon Parham (Portsmouth) with a short pass for two points, cutting the deficit to 14-8.

That was as close as East would come to catching up.

Aiello jumped a screen pass, picked off Stevens and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown with 3:40 left in the third. Yianakopolos stood ready to kick another extra point, but the play was a fake and placeholder Ryan Fournier (Merrimack) flicked a pass to Ryan Camirand (Milford) in the end zone for two points and a 22-8 lead.

East got one back before the end of the third quarter with Stevens and Navarro hooking up again for an 11-yard touchdown pass. East tried to match West’s two-point try but it ended with an incomplete pass.

East found another chance to score with less than a minute left in the third and 18 yards separating them from the end zone. Stevens had locked onto receiver in particular throughout the game, 6-foot-4 Pat Cullen from Kennet, who finished with 117 yards on six catches. This time, though, Yianakopolos recognized that Stevens’ pass was short and he jumped in to pick it off at the two-yard line.

East didn’t reach the red zone again.

Yianakopolos kicked a 25-yard field goal for the only score of the fourth quarter, pulling West’s lead up to 25-14. Yianakopolos kicked extra points and kickoffs for Hopkinton last season, but never a field goal. This one barely stayed inside the right post, but it was enough for three points.

“It was like an inch away from hitting the post, but no wind so it felt good,” he said.

Yianakopolos was one of seven capital area players selected to CHaD rosters, along with Hardy and Reid Ljungholm of Concord. Nate Alford of Bow was also selected to the West team, but sat out with an injury. Laconia had three players on the East team under Kozens with Doherty, James McDonald and Jacob Filgate.

Filgate caught six passes for 39 yards and rushed twice for six yards.

Yianakopolos, who will play football at Division I University of Rhode Island, was selected by his teammates as a West captain.

“It means a lot,” he said. “It’s not really something you’re trying to do ... it’s a thing that your peers just do after they see you working hard and I’m glad they saw that I was working hard and I was able to represent this team as a captain. It means a lot. It shows your peers care about you and recognize your hard work and the coaches, too.”

If you ask Schubert, who coached Manchester Central to six Division I titles over 18 years, it doesn’t matter if a player comes from a small or large school.

“Athletes are athletes,” Schubert said. “A lot of small schools that just started football up and stuff like that, they’re looking for people to play and he stepped up. He’s a good player and he’s going to go on to do some good things. He played safety for us, he kicked some extra points and a field goal for us and he also was my third quarterback. Great kid.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)