In one of the tightest contests in event history, Team East won a thrilling tilt against Team West to take the 2019 CHaD NH East-West High School All-Star Football Game on June 29 at UNH’s Wildcat Stadium in Durham. The annual intrastate all-star contest raised $250,000 for the kids and programs at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD), pushing the event’s overall total beyond $2 million.
The funds were generated in myriad ways, including sponsorships; ticket, merchandise, and raffle sales; and player fundraising. While not a requirement for participation for the players, this year’s group of All-Stars put forth an outstanding fundraising effort. They collectively generated just shy of $80,000, a total surpassed only by the 2018 All-Stars at $93,000. Team East returned to the top of the fundraising heap with more than $41,500 raised. West tallied over $38,000 as a team. The game’s lead fundraiser was Bedford’s Thomas Morgan with a record $10,073. Team East boasted four of the top five overall fundraisers, led by Ryan Marotta of Windham with more than $5,800 collect. A total of 21 players raised at least $1,000 for the cause.
Corporate generosity played a critical role in the overall fundraising, led by the game’s presenting partner, Bedford and Nashua Ambulatory Surgical Centers. New Hampshire Steel Fabricators, AutoFair (Team West partner), Northeast Credit Union (Team East partner), and Oliver Mechanical, Inc. (All-Star Golf lead sponsor) are just a few of the more than 70 companies who pledged their support to the game.
Proceeds from the game will provide support for programs that normally wouldn’t exist without philanthropy. This includes Kristen’s Gift Endowment Fund, which supports kids and families fighting pediatric cancer at CHaD. Additional programs include:
- Molly’s Place and CHaD Family Center—a playroom, resource center, and resting place for families before, between, and after appointments at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.
- Child Advocacy and Protection Program—advocates for abused and neglected children, teaming with social workers, law enforcement, and other agencies to protect the most vulnerable population.
- Child Life Program—provides a wide array of services for kids at CHaD, helping them prepare and relax for treatments and offering toys, games, and other activities while they are in the hospital.
On the field, West was looking to extend its winning streak to three games, and it looked good in the first quarter when New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year, Bedford running back Ryan Toscano, plunged in for a short touchdown run. An extra-point from his high school teammate, kicker Maddy Lucontoni, made history as Lucontoni became the first young lady to dress and score in the game.
East nabbed a field goal in the first frame before going ahead on a second-quarter touchdown reception hauled in by Winnacunnet tight end Joe MacDougall. West pulled the lead back after half-time with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Concord’s Zach Miles to Merrimack’s Ben Eichman.
This set up the drama for the fourth quarter with West holding a 13-10 advantage. A back-and-forth frame tilted in East’s favor when they marched down the field in 11 plays, eating up nearly five minutes of clock midway through the frame. The drive was ended when Genarro Marra of Pinkerton took the ball around the left end for a four-yard score to put East on top, 17-13. They secured the victory a few minutes later when Marra’s teammate, defensive back Nick Lombard, scooped up a fumble and returned it deep into West territory to ice the game.
Lombard was one of several players on both teams who shined in the defensive battle. He finished with seven tackles while his team gave up just 179 total yards. West’s defense was led by Merrimack’s Tristan Wood, who recorded a game-record 12 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and a fumble recovery.
The game’s Bo Dickson MVP award was presented to Gannon Fast, a running back from Pinkerton. Fast rushed for 139 yards on just 23 carries. While he didn’t score in the game, he consistently picked up key yards to keep East’s offense moving. He also added a 17-yard sack on defense to lock up the award and a $500 scholarship from the Joe Yukica New Hampshire Chapter of the National Football Foundation.