The Powder Keg tradition between New Hampton and Tilton School dates back to 1985.

Powder Keg 2017; Memories, History, and Tradition

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In anticipation of the annual Powder Keg tournament against Tilton School, New Hampton students are celebrating Spirit Week. Campus visitors this week will see students dressed in pajamas, dressed as twins, and sporting their best Husky gear. In general, visitors will be met with smiles, a little extra enthusiasm, and a vibrant campus decorated with posters and Husky green. Behind the clothing, face paint, and signage lives a rich tradition of school spirit, competition, and camaraderie, unforgettable to alumni and former faculty.

Powder Keg History and Tradition

The Powder Keg tradition unofficially dates back to 1895 when it took almost a half-day of travel to get from New Hampton to Tilton School in central New Hampshire. We asked former faculty and alumni to share some of their Powder Keg memories to better understand the spirit of the tradition.

New Hampton Football team prepares for the Powder Keg game against Tilton School, circa 1900.
New Hampton Football team prepares for a game against Tilton School, circa 1900.

Powder Keg Memories

Lou Gnerre, Headmaster from 1972-1988, recalls the Powder Keg trophy tradition starting in the 1950s. Pop Bottomly, the night fire watcher, was a popular faculty member. Lou Gnerre shares that the trophy began when Bottomly passed away in the 1950s.

Harrison Golden, former faculty and football coach, remembers his first Powder Keg during his first year of teaching in 1968. After a 7-0 lead, Tilton soon took over the game, and their fans started to continuously count the points. Tilton ended up winning 59-7 and the Tilton fans chanted, “We want more! We want more!” Although it was a tough game for New Hampton, the fans were nothing but motivation. There had already been a rivalry between the two teams, but this game in particular, according to Golden, left the football team hungry. His team was inspired to win back the keg in 1969 and keep it for the next several years. Golden remembers the spirit and engagement from both schools, even when Tilton defeated the New Hampton Huskies.

Mark Tilton, former faculty and football coach, also remembers a strong rivalry between Tilton School and New Hampton School. A winning season, according to Mr. Tilton, did not depend on the overall record but came down to the game with Tilton School. If New Hampton School won, then the season was considered a success.

Powder Keg Today

For a brief period in the 1970s, the rivalry became so strong that both administrations decided to take a breathing period, and the game was put on hold. It wasn’t until 2007 when senior Victor Gennaro reinvigorated the tradition and made it even more special than in years past.

Victor was waiting to be picked up outside the gym, admiring trophies from prior years. He was impressed by the sense of pride radiating from the trophies and photographs. Victor did a little research. He found out that the rivalry between New Hampton School and Tilton School was the third longest rivalry in New England Prep School, to be exact!

New Hampton School students cheer on their classmates at the Powder Keg games.
New Hampton School students cheer on their classmates at the Powder Keg games.

With the help of Director of Athletics Jamie Arsenault and Former Assistant Headmaster Alan Crocker, Victor reorganized the Powder Keg. Rather than an emphasis solely on football, Victor wanted to recognize all teams with a focus on school spirit and healthy competition. With the help of Tilton’s student body president, Victor, and his classmates brought the Powder Keg back, this time including all fall sports. He is thrilled to see the tradition still alive today and reflects that he loves the healthy and friendly competition, but his real goal is that it forms a lasting brotherhood between the two schools.

This year’s Powder Keg tournament will be hosted by Tilton School on Saturday, November 11. The opening ceremony will begin at 11:45 with games throughout the afternoon.

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  1. Image for Rob Bean
    Rob Bean

    New Hampton has a cLear advantage this year and should win easily. Other than cross country NHS has wins in soccer & field hockey.Coach Kiley is back and should defeat the new Tilton coach & his 3 elite PG'S. As a 60s prep star I played in these matches. The intensity and competition was fierce! We were told to tone it down! I loved the elevation of play that translated into ecstatic wins or hard loses. Tilton is far different today.Bud Moore was a great supporter& friend.I loved every minute of it.To Huskies do not let moment pass you by!! Savor the day! Go Huskies! !

  2. Image for Charles Allen
    Charles Allen

    Curious to learn of so many recollections of when this "tradition" started. This member of the Class of 1967 clearly remembers when "T.H." Moore presented the actual powder keg to the pep rally crowd assembled in front of Lane Hall. I believe the headmaster of Tilton was also present. "T.H." called for the keg to pass to the victor of that year's game and be exchanged per the outcome of pending contests. Not having ready access to my old Belfries (yearbooks), I am nonetheless confident the keg made it's first appearance in the Fall of 1963 or 1964.

  3. Image for Charlie Burch (III) , Class of 1973
    Charlie Burch (III) , Class of 1973

    The powder Keg rivalry has morphed into a competition between all the schools fall sports teams (in the politically correct world we live in today)It was originally a rivalry that either the Boston Globe or the Boston Herald called in an early 1970's article,"the 3rd oldest prep football rivalry in the country behind only Exeter-Andover and Groton-St. Mark's. The 1969 game was actually a 32-0 win for NHS and was part of a team that went 7-0 and was received a #2 ranking of all New England prep school football teams. That team was coached by Charlie Burch in his first season @ NHS. Both teams entered that game with 4-0 records. The following year saw NHS fall behind early 14-0 but came roaring back behind a three touchdown game by Ron Norwood (scorring on an interception return and two long runs...alll five of the Huskies' scores that day came on plays that covered over 50 yards each time. That team finished with a 6-1 record In '71 Tilton held on for a 28-20 win which ended with NHS having the ball inside the Tilton 10 yard line but unable to punch in the tying score. In '72 Tilton scored a 59-7 win @ NHS. In that year the Huskies struggled to a 1-6 record. 1972 saw NHS win big again @ Tilton and finish with another 6-1 record,the only loss being to a strong Dartmouth JV team. The Powder Keg remained in the huskies trophy case for four of those five years. Other members of the football coaching staff in those years included Harrison golden and Lou Gnerre as well as Mike McShane. Many of those NHS players went on to stellar collegiate carers either on the gridiron or in other sports. Coach Burch was selected as New Hampshire Coach of the Year for the 1973 season. It is interesting to see how the powder Keg game ,played as the third oldest prep football rivalry in the country has eveolved. An example where 'political correctmness' has not taken over is the Bryce Musket rivalry football....between UNH and UMaine is still played annually and the winner keeps the musket in their trophy case for a year. The NHS -Tilton game wasn't 'discontinued' until later on in the 1970's(although a bench clearing fight broke out in the 1970 game as NHS made their comeback over the Rams. I was the captain of the 1972 team and my brother Dan captained the 1973 team so mymemories of those years of NHS football are clear despite the passing of a lot of time.

    1. Image for Christine

      Does anyone from the 70's remember New Hampton students sneaking down to Tilton and painting the Husky Logo on the field? I might have heard a story like this recently... but need confirmation!

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