Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fumble

TRENTON -- I didn't take a photograph until late August 1995. It was at a men's soccer game at Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vermont. I used a 35mm camera with film. It might have been a Canon or a Nikon. Maybe a Ricoh, I really don't remember. But I do remember that the first photo from the first click of that camera made it into the Bennington Banner sports section the next day. I've been hooked on photography ever since. It feels like I've taken a million-plus photos since that sunny day in Old Bennington, maybe two million. In my case, a picture comes with an unlimited amount of words. I have TONS of photos on rolls undeveloped and thousands and thousands of other shots on discs that I have not seen since moving from Vermont to Trenton. One day I'll get to them. For now, enjoy these. Soon I'll start posting my Trenton shots, among my favorite.



Three players in this picture who have three distinct stories.We'll start with the kid on the far left, Adam Boghosian. He was the quarterback-safety for Hanover High, not particularly fast or tall or strong, but a warrior who stopped at nothing to succeed or conquer. In other words, my kind of player. The best story about "Bogo" is that days before the 2004 New Hampshire Division IV championship, he was told he was going to be the starting quarterback because the starter went down with mono. Most high school kids who had never taken a varsity snap at QB might have soiled their jocks. Bogo thrived under that pressure. He didn't so much rack up big numbers, but he led the offense -- not so different from Trent Dilfer with the 2003 Baltimore Ravens, who were so good that Dilfer just needed to manage the games, including the Super Bowl, which he did. Who cares if Dilfer wasn 't "great"? He did a great job not making mistakes. Bogo did the same thing at QB in the title game, not to mention he played defense the whole time, too, in a 12-0 win over St. Thomas.

Bogo was a year older in 2005. Savvy and polished, and he led the Marauders to a repeat. But on the play in the photo above, Bogo was background material. I just wanted to give you a little background on him. Super kid. The main players in this picture are another Hanover safety Tyler Dodds (2) and Jeff Spratt, the running back from Lebanon High via Iowa.

Jeff Spratt came to the Upper Valley -- which is the unofficial name of the Greater Dartmouth region spanning both sides of the Connecticut River -- from Iowa in the fall of 2005. No one knew much about him other than he could run faster than just about anyone. His dad took a job in the area, and the family followed in tow. Leb was two seasons removed from making the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. That's a whole other story I could wax about. The '03 team was loaded with seniors and a dictatorial new coach named John Gonsalves, and that team probably should have won the state title; don't let the 32-0 semifinal loss at Milford fool you. Leb should have won that game. If two or three things go differently in the first quarter, things that had gone Leb's way all season, the Raiders win that game on a very cold and sunny afternoon, on a waterlogged, chewed-up field that was choppy and chunky like peanut butter, in South New Hampshire. But anyway. Leb lost its firepower to graduation, so 2004 was a down season. There was optimism in 2005, though. The young kids from '04 were a year older and wiser and stronger and had been in Gonsalves' system for three years. And, here came this blazing fast kid from Iowa named Jeff Spratt. No one knew a thing about him, but all of a sudden the Raiders had a feature back. Or so it seemed. It would be unfair to say Spratt didn't live up to the hype. He had some nice moments and a nice game or three, but he fumbled at times, while at other times he was prone to injury. The preseason math wasn't adding up, and the Raiders were just middling along. But it wasn't Jeff Spratt's fault.

Tyler Dodds is one of the 10 best athletes I've ever covered, from one of the coolest families I've ever covered. One week I wrote an extensive feature on the Dodds clan of Hanover. I wish I had a link to it. There are three Dodds families in Hanover and a lot of Dodds athletes -- fathers and sons and daughters. What they've achieved in sports is Upper Valley lore.

Now, throw sports out the window, and Tyler Dodds is a great guy, quiet and courteous, respectful, and a guy all the girls swooned over. Like all of the Dodds student-athletes, Tyler excelled in the classroom. And then you add in his athleticism: a football star who ran for a 20-yard touchdown and made an interception in the 2004 title game; elite ski jumper; and, a roadrunner with wings in track and field. He played other sports, but those were his best three. He turned in his ski bird gear in the 11th grade for indoor track spikes and won several titles; his little brother Cooper won the New Hampshire ski jumping crown that winter, which is to say he won the national championship, as only the Granite State offers ski jumping as a sanctioned sport. Anyway, in his final two years as an outdoor sprinter and long jumper, Tyler Dodds won 8 Class I titles -- in other words, he swept all four events he was entered in both years: 100, 200, 400 and long jump. The guy in the photo on the top of this blog with an "H" on his chest? That's Tyler Dodds in one of the most thrilling races I ever covered, the Class I 200 final. That's another story because the guy two lanes over is a Leb kid, and that rivalry is worth another couple thousand words, not to mention the rivalry they had with the kid in the middle. So let's get back this photo, where Tyler attacks Spratt and lowers his left shoulder and plows the running back's right arm in which the ball is tucked. Was, anyway.

Leb v. Hanover (in anything) is like Hamilton West v. Steinert. Granted, Hamilton and Steinert are in the same town, but Leb and Hanover are less than 5 miles from each other, so it's a wash in that respect. Hanover has the whole "Dartmouth thing" -- in other words a stuffy, upper-crust, elite mentality, although it's not really fair. Only a few folks exude that mentality; I didn't run into too many during my 4-year tour in the Upper Valley. And while you can't separate "Hanover" from "Dartmouth," Hanover is a cool little Ivy League town with a ton of cool families and people who feed into the Dartmouth mystique. Yet the general consensus in the Upper Valley is that Hanover looks down on Leb, which is a fun little town full of blue-collar families. Leb has its share of money, sure, but the socio-economics are fully understood when you say Hanover and Lebanon.

So, Hanover went 5-4 in 2003 and missed the playoffs after winning the state title in 2002. Hanover won the state title in 2004 -- the Bogo Game! -- and was dominant again in '05. This Hanover-Leb game at Hanover was mid-season. The game they play is called the Principals' Cup. To the winner goes a silver pale full of potting soil and flowers. While Hanover was again a title contender and Leb was again middling, it's Hanover-Leb, Leb-Hanover. Harvard-Yale, USC-UCLA, Eagles-Giants, Yankees-Sox, etc-etc. A hearty, beefy rivalry. Still, Hanover should have won this game by 2 or 3 touchdowns. To its credit, Leb played one of its better games of 2005 to keep it close.

Why was the moment I captured in this photo so important? Because Dodds smashed Spratt so hard that the ball popped loose. The hit took place at the goal line, and Hanover recovered the ball. The play in the second quarter maintained Hanover's 7-0 lead.

The final score was Hanover 7, Lebanon 0.