Granite State of Mind, #116: Hugo Bolin Field, Spaulding High School, Rochester
Rochester has always been just far enough away from Exeter to feel like the frontier. The Winnacunnet Warriors were our rivals, we clashed with the Portsmouth Clippers, and had some memorable tilts with the Dover Green Wave. Yet these all felt vaguely like family affairs. The Spaulding Red Raiders were something else again, rougher, less privileged, more alien. One of the most indelible sporting memories I have is from the varsity game between Spaulding and Exeter from 1989 that ended in controversy and chaotic fisticuffs.
That game was on the home sod of Eustis Field. The real pilgrim-in-an-unholy-land experiences were the Friday night sojourns up to Hugo Bolin Field in Rochester. Man, I hate that place. It seemed they were always late in the season, with a Halloween nip in the air under the lights. And we always got shellacked, 42-8 or something like that. I think I blocked an extra point attempt with my helmet one year, and that might have been the team highlight. It was particularly miserable as a sophomore with limited playing time, shivering in the cold and trying desperately not to smell the seductive fragrance of french fries wafting over from the Ronnie Mac's Steakhouse across the street. (Somehow, never as distractingly painful during track meets there...)
We did have a junior varisty game there my sophomore year, in 1990, that we nearly pulled off. Our quarterbacks were all hurt, from Brendan Levesque to Eugene Pikul Jr., and Tim MacAulay did yeoman's service in the breach - though he may not remember much if any of it, given how brutally knocked around he was that night. We finished the game with senior reserve end Mike Pevear under center, if I recall. And yet we still very nearly pulled it off. After a late score to draw close I was tapped by Coach Callahan to try the kamikaze kickoff - a trick play I'd been working on all year that involved me lining up as the kicker and pooching the ball barely ten yards deep and sprinting to cover it myself. That was the only time we ever tried it in a game - and it worked. I can still remember Erik Anderson covering me up and pounding my helmet in disbelief. It was an odd highlight to my football life, but remains one of my favorites. Even if I do hate that place.