Boston High School: New Hampshire

With move up, Pembroke (N.H.) coming under fire

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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In what some are calling an attempt to have Matt Alosa removed as Pembroke Academy’s boys basketball coach, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Division I athletic directors and principals are not including Pembroke on next season’s Division I schedule.

Alosa has guided Pembroke to the last two Division II championships, but Pembroke successfully petitioned to move from Division II to Division I starting with the 2014-15 season. A group of Division I athletic directors met with Pembroke officials last month, and explained that the decision to not include Pembroke on the schedule stemmed from concerns about players transferring to Pembroke and recruiting allegations that have been directed at Alosa and the Pembroke program.

Last December the NHIAA ruled that two Pembroke players were ineligible because of “residency issues.” Both players transferred to Pembroke after the 2012-13 school year, and both played for the Granite State Raiders, a Concord-based AAU program run by Frank Alosa (Matt’s father).

“In my opinion it comes down to our coach, the coach’s father, the Granite State Raiders and the people who think they’re funneling players to our program,” Pembroke headmaster Mike Reardon said. “In the meeting (last month) I said, ‘Let me ask you. Given our situation what would you do?’ I had an AD tell me: ‘You need to fire Matt Alosa.’

“Matt is not only an outstanding basketball coach, Matt has conducted himself in exemplary fashion. Could something be going on that I’m not aware of? Absolutely. But we don’t have that information. We never have. If I had anything to act on I would act on it instantaneously.”

Alosa was a standout player at Pembroke who later played at Providence College and the University of New Hampshire. He became Pembroke’s coach in 2006, and has guided the Spartans to a 49-1 record during the past two seasons.

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Matt Alosa said. “I haven’t recruited anybody. I’ve done nothing but my best to help the kids of Pembroke.

“We had two players suspended and they paid their penalty. We were allowed to petition to Division I. I don’t understand how we can have an elite program and not be allowed to play (in Division I)? Because of a few false allegations? It’s unjust stuff.

“This is unprecedented, but I can tell you Pembroke isn’t going to cancel the basketball season.”

According to Pinkerton Academy athletic director Tim Powers, Pembroke was told it would be allowed to compete in Division I next season if it presented a plan that would prevent players from transferring to Pembroke for primarily basketball reasons. Pembroke came up with a plan, but the Division I athletic directors and principals deemed it unsatisfactory.

“They submitted a plan, but we still had concerns and told them we were going to move forward with the schedule without them,” Powers said. “I don’t know what their next step will be. We just want to make sure we all abide by the same rules.”

Both Powers and Reardon said a return to Division II is not an option for Pembroke. The Spartans could play out-of-state opponents, but to be eligible to compete for an NHIAA championship a team must play at least 50 percent of its games against New Hampshire opponents.

“I think the concerns are that Matt Alosa is the coach,” Reardon said. “If he’s gone we’ll probably get a (Division I) schedule. If he stays, no schedule.

“I’m not going to terminate someone’s employment based on innuendo and rumor.”

Londonderry sets eyes on return to N.H. State Final

April, 4, 2014
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Ask any New Hampshire high school baseball coach to identify the team to beat in Division I this season and you’ll likely hear the same answer: Londonderry.

The Lancers have two of the best pitchers in the state, and returned six starting position players from a team that earned the No. 1 seed for last year’s Division I tournament.

“The bullseye is on Londonderry,” Alvirne coach Mike Lee said. “They’re definitely the team to chase. Head and shoulders above the rest.”

Of course coaches were saying the same thing about Londonderry at this time last year, and the Lancers failed to win the state championship. Exeter, the No. 11 seed, upset Londonderry 3-2 in the Division I title game.

The Lancers are scheduled to begin their 2014 season April 17 at Manchester Memorial.

“In terms of how people look at us...We were the No. 1 team last year and look what happened,” Londonderry coach Brent Demas said. “I think the returning players on this team are drawing a lot of motivation from last year. The sour experience of last year is sticking with these guys and it’s driving them.”

There’s no denying the talent on Londonderry’s roster. Despite losing staff ace Ryan Moloney, who’s now making significant contributions for the University of Massachusetts baseball team, the Lancers have two senior pitchers who will give them an advantage on the mound for most games: lefthander Rob Del Signore and righty Tom Corey.

Del Signore, who will play for Southern New Hampshire University next season, was 6-0 with two saves and a 0.81 ERA last season. Corey, who is headed to Franklin Pierce, was 6-3 with one save and a 1.07 ERA.

“We lost a big arm in Ryan Moloney, but we do have two pitchers who will give you a chance to be competitive every week,” Demas said. “We’re probably a little more concerned with the offense.”

Del Signore plays first base when he’s not on the mound, and hit .384 with a team-high 21 RBI last season. The other returning starters are catcher Colby Joncas (.367), second baseman Mike Ryan (.343), third baseman Jeff Kayo (.293), center fielder Zach Tavano (.286) and right fielder Brett Evangelista (.300). Evangelista led the team with 21 stolen bases last spring.

Each of those six players is entering his third season on the varsity roster.

“We do have a lot coming back, and we played well last year,” Demas said. “Experience is the strength of the team. We also have some young kids who are showing a lot of potential and they’re learning from a great group of guys. We’re going to be really competitive.”

It should be a focused team as well. The loss to Exeter in last year’s title game -- Londonderry beat Exeter 16-0 during the regular season -- likely means the Lancers won’t look past any opponent this season.

“If anything, while it hurt at that point, it was a very teachable moment,” Demas said. “We didn’t show up to play and look what happened.

“I think these guys expect to have a lot of success, but they should know they can’t just show up and win. They have to outwork everybody.”

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.

Timberlane (N.H.) snaps 81-game losing skid

February, 22, 2014
Feb 22
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Like a golfer whose only birdie comes on 18th hole, the highlight of the Timberlane Regional (Plaistow, N.H.) boys basketball team’s season came in its final game.

Timberlane carried an 81-game losing streak against Division I competition into Friday night’s matchup with Keene, but ended that drought by punctuating the regular season with a 71-56 victory at Keene’s Purbeck Gymnasium.

It was Timberlane’s first victory in league play since it defeated Concord 71-61 on Jan. 29, 2010.

“We didn’t talk much after the game, but there was a lot of emotion let out,” said second-year Timberlane coach Jeff Baumann. “It was a good bus ride home.

“I’m very proud of how we’ve competed all season. The team was getting better all year, that’s just a relative term.”

Senior guard Erik Nelson led Timberlane with 24 points. The Owls received 14 points from sophomore point guard Jason Hughes and 12 from junior forward Cam Donnelly. The loss left Keene (0-15) as the only winless team in Division I.

Timberlane did beat Traip Academy of Kittery, Maine, in 2011, but that victory came during a holiday tournament and did not count in the regular-season standings.

Timberlane and Keene were tied at halftime, but Timberlane took control by outscoring Keene 18-9 in third quarter. The Owls opened the quarter with a 14-2 run.

Timberlane’s streak was seven shy of the national all-time record. Mifflinburg (Penn.) Area High School ended an 88-game losing streak in 1976.

Friday night’s contest was the final Division I game for the Owls, who will drop to Division II next season.

“This is a nice way to go into the offseason,” Baumann said. “We were confident coming in that we could win this one. Getting this off our back will be beneficial moving forward.”

Berkshire's Harrison named Gatorade Soccer POTY

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
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In its 29th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Jack Harrison of Berkshire School as its 2013-14 Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Harrison is the first Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Soccer Player of the Year to be chosen from Berkshire School.

The 5-foot-10, 155-pound junior midfielder led the Bears to a 19-1-1 record and the New England Prep School Athletic Council Class A tournament championship this past season. Harrison scored nine goals and passed for 17 assists. An All-New England selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, Harrison is a two-time Western New England Prep All-Star. He concluded his junior year with career totals of 26 goals and 41 assists.

Harrison has maintained a B average in the classroom. A school tour guide and ambassador, the native of England has volunteered locally as a youth soccer coach and as part of multiple community-service initiatives in association with Berkshire’s Helping Hands organization.

“Jack Harrison might not have been the most exciting player we faced this season but he was probably the most effective,” said Ozzie Parente, head coach of Taft School. “He is ridiculously talented and he stands out even on that loaded Berkshire squad. He just controls the game and distributes the ball really well. He is really the man that makes the whole operation run.”

Harrison has verbally committed to play soccer on an athletic scholarship at Wake Forest University beginning in the fall of 2015.

Connecticut - Matheus Souza, Conrad
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound senior forward scored 24 goals and passed for 10 assists this past season, leading the Chieftains (13-5-2) to the Class LL state tournament quarterfinals. The Connecticut Junior Soccer Association Male High School Player of the Year, Souza was a three-time Hartford Courant First Team All-Area honoree and an All-American selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. He concluded his prep soccer career with 59 goals and 26 assists.

Souza has maintained a B average in the classroom. A native of Brazil who did not speak English when he came to Conard as a freshman, he has volunteered locally with Lead By Example, a teen-led campaign to promote healthy decision-making. He has also donated his time as a lifeguard and as a child-care provider at his church.

“Matheus Souza is always a marked man and still manages to take over games,” said Matt Denecour, head coach of New Britain High. “He scores at will and moves on and off the ball well. He combines speed, strength and especially skill and essentially carried his team offensively.”

Souza has signed a National Letter of Intent to play soccer on an athletic scholarship at the University of Connecticut this fall.

Rhode Island - Komla Dogbey, Hope
The 6-foot-2 senior forward scored 21 goals and passed for 12 assists this past season, leading the Blue Wave (6-9-1) to the Division I state tournament. An All-New England selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, Dogbey was a Providence Journal First Team All-State honoree and a member of the Rhode Island Soccer Coaches Association’s Mike Dynon Academic All-State Team. He concluded his two-year prep soccer career with 36 goals and 23 assists.

Dogbey has maintained an A average in the classroom. A native of Togo, he has worked as a tutor for refugees in Providence and volunteered locally as part of multiple community-service initiatives in association with his church youth group.

“Komla is a very fast and strong player,” said Joao Santos, head coach of Central High. “His physical strength and speed are his best weapons. Although he doesn’t possess a lot of technical skill, he was able to score many goals because of his superior speed and size.”

Dogbey remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.

Maine - Wyatt Omsberg, Scarborough
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound senior midfielder scored 19 goals and passed for 12 assists this past season, leading the Red Storm (17-1) to the Class A state championship. An All-American selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, Omsberg was also chosen as the Class A Player of the Year and the Portland Press Herald Player of the Year.

Omsberg has maintained an A average in the classroom. He has volunteered locally on behalf of a homeless shelter, Meals on Wheels and youth soccer programs.

“Omsberg is the real thing,” said Rocco Frenzilli, head coach at Portland High. “He’s long, quick, knowledgeable. He’s very technically sound and he really sees the field. He makes everyone else better.”

Omsberg will attend Dartmouth College this fall, where he will play soccer.

New Hampshire - Daniel Hazlett, Hanover
The 5-foot-7, 155-pound senior forward scored 16 goals and passed for seven assists this past season, leading the Marauders (19-0-1) to the Division 1 state championship. An All-American selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, Hazlett was also named First Team All-State.

Hazlett has maintained a 3.41 GPA in the classroom. He has volunteered locally on behalf of the CROP Hunger Walk and youth soccer programs.

“Hazlett is very difficult to defend,” said Scott Dunlop, head coach at Concord High. “He has great speed on the ball and his first touch is outstanding. It takes a collective team effort to contain him.”

Hazlett will attend Dartmouth College this fall, where he will play soccer.

Vermont - Zack Evans, Champlain Valley Union
The 5-foot-11 senior defender led the Redhawks (16-2) to the Division 1 state final this past year. An All-New England selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, Evans anchored a defense that allowed just seven goals and notched 13 shutouts. He scored three goals and passed for three assists, and was a two-time Burlington Free Press First Team All-State selection. Evans has maintained a 3.68 GPA in the classroom. A member of the National Honor Society and his school’s Athletic Leadership Council, he has served as a peer mentor and has volunteered locally on behalf of youth sports camps.

“Evans reads the game very, very well from the back,” said Scott Mosher, head coach at Essex High. “He’s strong defensively, but he can also be productive in transition. As soon as he wins the ball, your team is under pressure.”

Evans has signed a National Letter of Intent to play soccer on scholarship at the University of Vermont this fall.

Recap: No. 3 AC 2, Bishop Guertin (N.H.) 1

January, 20, 2014
Jan 20
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ARLINGTON, Mass. -- Arlington Catholic may have skated away from Monday afternoon's non-conference hockey tilt with a feeling it deserved better.

For the record, the Cougars held off Bishop Guertin, 2-1, inside Ed Burns Arena, but for their effort, the belief here was this one should not have been that close.

But in the game of hockey, even if you are dominating your opponent, a win is still a win no matter how you attain it. The No. 3 Cougars will take it and move on.

"Hey, a win is still a win right?" said Cougars longtime coach Dan Shine, who picked up career victory No. 499 with a chance for 500 when AC hosts Austin Prep Saturday night. "We'll take the win."

The Cougars controlled the offensive end for much of the 45 minutes, putting up 38 shots, including 19 in the second period. Had it not been for the brilliant performance by Cardinals goaltender Griffin Scanlon, it's anyone's guess what the finally tally could have been.

"I thought their goalie played real well and I thought they did a good job closing up gaps in the middle of the rink," Shine said. "We did have a lot of nice clean shots that were blocked by their defensemen. That's just good defensive play by our opponent because I felt we did a lot of things right. We've been harping on our kids to move the puck, get in space and create opportunities. At times today we were doing that but again, it goes back to their goalie playing very well for them."

The Cougars, which suffered their first loss of the season last Saturday against St. Mary's of Lynn, improve to 8-1-1. BG, whose roster is made up primarily of underclassmen, drop to 2-8-1.

Throughout the season, the Cardinals have found life difficult once they have the puck inside an opponent's defensive zone. Scoring goals has been a premium. However, against AC, the offense was able to strike first.

Just 1:39 in, and with his team already on the power play, sophomore winger Mike Barrett pushed back a rebound from the right point to give BG the early 1-0 lead.

It lasted for approximately three minutes. The Cougars defensemen had been doing an admirable job moving the puck around the perimeter just inside the blue line and hardly receiving any pressure from the Cardinals. While all this was going on, the AC forwards and center were switching in an out in front of the crease in an attempt to screen Scanlon on a long shot or re-direct anything coming from outside. The latter of two came into play after junior Ivan Mikhaylov deflected a shot in front that sailed over Scanlon and into the net, knotting things at 1-1.

Following the first intermission, AC took its game up a notch. Perhaps not happy with their play over the opening 15 minutes, the Cougars picked up their speed and skill strengths. Passes had become much tighter and more direct, and their ability in handling the puck across the neutral zone and along the half walls was more precise. Throughout the period, the Cardinals found themselves often chasing any Cougar with the puck on his stick or getting caught out of position.

It took AC all but 1:10 into the frame to take the lead. After two hard shots were stopped by Scanlon in succession, the goalie was unable the corral the second attempt. The puck slid out to the front of the net where sophomore Andrew Somerville was standing all alone. The forward flipped it into the net.

"We're just looking to capitalize on any chances that we can get," Somerville said. "We try to work the puck deep and play our game. Ugly wins like this do happen but we still got the win. We do need to start coming out better to begin games. It seems in the first period we come out a little slow and then we tend to catch up later on. It's been working for us so far but that's not always going to be the case so we need to focus on coming out to start games on a better edge."

AC was resourceful throughout the second period, attacking Scanlon virtually on every shift down ice. Scanlon, however, proved his worth. After giving up Somerville's marker, he never flinched and stoned the Cougars the rest of the way in keeping his team in this contest.

"Griffin played really well for us," said Gary Bishop, now in his 22nd year with the Nashua, N.H. based school. "He's been a very good goaltender for us in all of his four years here. He doesn't panic and made some great stops today. This could've been a 4-1 game at the end of the second period. We're happy with our goaltending. We just need to find ways of getting the puck into the back of the net. We've been struggling all year long to convert. We don't get plenty of chances but we do get some chances. We just haven't been able to finish. We're not bearing down around the net."

The Cardinals put up a much-better effort in the third period. At both ends of the ice, they were matching the Cougars stride-for-stride. On two occasions, they had solid opportunities to notch the equalizer.

However, AC senior netminder John Richard (17 saves) came up a pair of big stops when he needed to help keep the Cougars in front for good.

Trinity, Central ready for Sunday matinee clash

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
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For New Hampshire sports fans, it’ll serve as an appetizer before Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

Manchester Central and Trinity of Manchester, widely considered to be the two best high school boys basketball teams the Granite State has to offer, will clash Sunday (1 p.m.) at Trinity’s McHugh Gym. Each team is 5-0, and the winner will have sole possession of first place in the Division I standings.

“It’s nice to be 5-0, but we have a lot of work to do,” said Trinity coach Dave Keefe, who guided the Pioneers to last year’s Division I championship. “We’re still a work in progress.

“I know a lot of people are saying it’s going to be a Central-Trinity final, but I don’t prepare my kids like that. Our goal is to finish in the top four. Central has five kids who can hurt you, not one, two or three like most teams.”

The regular-season matchup between Trinity and Central was originally scheduled for Dec. 17, but the contest was postponed by bad weather. The game began the following night, but was suspended because moisture on the floor at Trinity made playing conditions unsafe.

The game will resume today with the score tied, 13-13, and 2:13 remaining in the first quarter.

Trinity has a clear size advantage. Central will have to contend with Wenyin Gabriel, a 6-foot-7 center; and Carmen Giampetruzzi, a 6-foot-4 forward. Giampetruzzi is headed to Boston College to play baseball.

“Their size is absolutely a concern,” Central coach Doc Wheeler said. “We’re physically smaller than our opponents in most of our games. Slowing down Carmen will be a big deal.

“We share the ball real well and we work real hard, but to be honest we have a lot of things to clean up. That (tournament) game showed both teams what we have to work on. We both have an idea how to do it better.”

The teams also met in the semifinals of the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament in December. Central received a career-high 38 points from junior guard Brett Hanson and posted a 66-55 victory that night, but the non-league game does not count in the Division I standings.

Keefe called today’s matchup between city rivals the kind of game the players will be talking about when they grow old.

“These are special games,” he said. “It should be fun for the kids.”

COURT CONTROVERSY: Pembroke Academy is appealing the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s ruling that made two of the school’s boys basketball players ineligible for the 2013-14 season.

Rob Wilson, a 6-foot-7 junior, and Adam Presutti, a 6-foot-8 senior, both transferred to Pembroke before the start of the current school year and were practicing with the team until the NHIAA announced its decision in December. The ruling came before Pembroke’s first game.

Wilson played at Londonderry High School last season, and Presutti spent last season at Merrimack Valley in Penacook.

Pat Corbin, the NHIAA’s executive director, said each player violated the NHIAA by-laws regarding transfers.

The NHIAA handbook states that students are not allowed to transfer schools for primarily athletic purposes. If it is deemed that a player does transfer for athletic purposes, the player will be ineligible for 365 days.

“In my judgement there were other issues that did not make either of these an appropriate move,” Corbin said. “I can’t get into specifics because there are now attorneys representing both young men.”

Corbin’s ruling was upheld by an NHIAA eligibility committee, a group that includes principals, athletic directors and coaches from high schools throughout New Hampshire.

“The final level of due process is our appeals board,” Corbin explained. “We’re trying to put something together for next week.”

The controversy stems from the fact that Wilson and Presutti both played for the Granite State Raiders, a Concord-based AAU program run by Frank Alosa. Former Providence College and University of New Hampshire guard Matt Alosa, Frank’s son, is Pembroke’s head coach, and an assistant coach with the Granite State Raiders. Both have heard accusations that they steer their AAU players to Pembroke, but have denied the accusations.

“My dad does coach the older kids in the (AAU) program and I’m in the gym when I can get there to help out,” Matt Alosa said. “It’s not our practice to get kids to move. Whether it’s high school or AAU, I’m here to help the kids get better.”

According to Pembroke Academy headmaster Mike Reardon, both Wilson and Presutti live in the Pembroke Academy school district.

“We’re a school, not an investigative unit, but our process convinced us that both boys are here legitimately,” Reardon said. “They’re not here (just) to play basketball, although basketball is part of their identity.

“Obviously we’re hoping both boys can play this year. That’s why we’re doing this.”

BREAKING BAD: The Timberlane of Plaistow boys basketball program had its losing streak reach 70 games with Friday night’s 58-39 loss to Manchester West.

The West program had lost 22 of its previous 23 Division I games. Its only victory during that span came against Timberlane.

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Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.

NMH's Hussein named Gatorde XC Runner of Year

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
11:39
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In its 29th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Mohamed Hussein of Northfield Mount Hermon School as its 2013-14 Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. Hussein is the first Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year to be chosen from Northfield Mount Hermon School.

The 5-foot-6, 130-pound senior raced the New England Preparatory School Track Association Division I individual championship this past season with a time of 16:06. A First Team All-NEPSTA selection, Hussein earned 14th place at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional championships, crossing the line in 16:01.1.

Hussein has maintained a 3.67 GPA in the classroom. A member of his school’s Debate Team, Business Club and Model Senate, he has volunteered locally on behalf of a food bank and as a peer tutor.

“Mohamed Hussein has quickly become a leader in our school as well as a top runner,” said Northfield Mount Hermon head coach Grant Gonzalez. “He is sincerely beloved by his peers and is one of the kindest, most caring students I have had the privilege of knowing in my career.”

Hussein will attend Amherst College this fall, where he will compete in cross country and track and field.

Hussein joins Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Cross Country Runners of the Year Jonathan Green (2012-13, St. John's High School), Wesley Gallagher (2011-12, Pembroke High School), John Murray (2010-11, Shrewsbury High School), Patrick McGowan (2009-10, Mansfield), Mike Moverman (2008-09, Oliver Ames), and Robert Gibson (2007-08, Brookline) as athletes who have won the cross country award since its inception in 2007.

Here are the winners for the five other New England states:

CONNECTICUT: ALEX OSTBERG, DARIEN

The 5-foot-6, 115-pound junior raced to the Class L state championship this past season with a time of 15:34, leading the Blue Wave to the state title as a team. Ostberg finished third at the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional championships and took 11th nationally at the NXN Final, in 15:31. He also won the Bethel Invitational, finished second at the New England Cross Country Championships and was third at the State Open championships.

Ostberg has maintained a 4.01 GPA in the classroom. He has volunteered locally as an emergency medical technician.

“This was the first year that Alex was actually healthy for championship season,” said Darien coach Tyson Kaczmarek. “He’s one of the most dedicated and hard-working athletes I have ever coached. He does all the extra things a runner can do to be their best.”

Ostberg will begin his senior year of high school this fall.

RHODE ISLAND: COLIN TIERNEY, BISHOP HENDRICKEN

The 6-foot senior distance runner raced to the state’s open individual championship with a time of 15:49.01 this past season, leading the Hawks to a sixth consecutive state title as a team. A two-time First Team All-State selection as named by the Providence Journal and Rhode Island Track Coaches Association, Tierney also won the Class A championships in 15:32.24. He captured fifth place at the New England Cross Country Championships in 15:17.10, and then took 11th at the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional championships in 16:01.8.

Tierney has maintained a 3.15 GPA in the classroom. A member of his school’s peer ministry and mentoring initiatives, he volunteered on behalf of his church’s youth group, The One Fund, the Special Olympics and the Making a Difference Foundation. He has also traveled on six service-mission trips along the Eastern seaboard.

“Colin continues to impress me every day with his intense work ethic and never-quit attitude in every race,” said Bishop Hendricken head coach Jim Doyle. “I have never seen an athlete with his incredible determination and ability to accomplish his goals. He is a standout athlete who also is a student, a gentlemen and a friend to his teammates and competitors. He has amazing potential for greatness and he has the talent, attitude, will and work ethic to make good things happen in his college running career.”

Tierney remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: JEREMY BRASSARD, COE-BROWN NORTHWOOD

The 5-foot-11 senior distance runner raced to a second consecutive Meet of Champions individual title with a time of 15:50 this past season, leading the Bears to third place as a team. The state’s returning Gatorade Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, Brassard also won a second straight Division II individual championship in 15:51. The two-time Runner of the Year as named by the Union Leader, Concord Monitor, Foster’s Daily Democrat and New Hampshire Cross Country Coaches Association, Brassard captured 10th place at the New England Cross Country Championships in 15:48.10. He took 22nd at the Nike Cross Nationals Northeast Regional championships in 16:18.7.

Brassard has maintained a B average in the classroom. In addition to donating his time as part of food drives for the needy and community cleanup efforts, he has volunteered locally on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America, the Special Olympics, Court Appointed Special Advocates and The Way Home, an affordable housing non-profit.

“Beyond the obvious data that shows him being New Hampshire’s top boys’ runner, he’s an example of sportsmanship and positive character,” said Dave Irving, head coach of rival Merrimack Valley High. “Jeremy has shown nothing but the utmost respect for all athletes I’ve seen him interact with. Any desire to win is immediately set aside upon crossing the finish line, and he’s often congratulating finishers from second to 100th place. He is absolutely the kind of runner I would love to coach on my own team.”

Brassard has verbally committed to an athletic scholarship at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois beginning this fall.

MAINE: JOSEF HOLT-ANDREWS, TELSTAR REGIONAL

The 6-foot-1 senior distance runner raced to the Class C individual state championship with a time of 17:00.87 this past season. Also the Runner of the Year as named by the Portland Press Herald, Holt-Andrews took third place at the New England Cross Country Championships in 15:12.90. He placed fifth at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional championships in 15:36.8, and then captured All-American honors with a 10th-place finish at the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in 15:30.

Holt-Andrews has maintained an A-minus average in the classroom. He has donated his time as a peer tutor and youth running instructor.

“I’ve watched his confidence and personal growth really take off over the past four years,” said Nick Scott, head coach of rival Boothbay Region High. “He has always been a very talented runner, but even amid his success appeared hungry for more. Each of his four years, he has steadily increased his athletic abilities and capped off his senior cross-country season in an absolutely tremendous way. As an opposing coach, I have the highest respect for Josef.”

Holt-Andrews remain undecided upon a collegiate destination.

VERMONT: SAM NISHI, HARWOOD UNION

The 5-foot-7, 125-pound junior raced to the Division 2 individual state championship this past season with a time of 16:34.8, leading the Highlanders to the state title as a team. Nishi also won the NVAC Championships, the Burlington Invitational and the Jim Smith Invitational. He was the top Vermont finisher at the New England Cross Country Championships, 19th overall, and at the Foot Locker Northeast Regional championships, 31st overall.

Nishi has maintained a 4.13 GPA in the classroom. Also a standout Nordic skier, Nishi has volunteered locally on behalf of a food pantry and youth running programs.

“Sam has a unique ability to peak at the most opportune time,” said Harwood coach John Kerrigan. “His best races occur during the most important events.”

Nishi will begin his senior year of high school this fall.

Londonderry (N.H.) boys hoop off to surprise start

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
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Take a look at New Hampshire’s Division I boys basketball standings, and you’ll see all the expected names at the top.

Trinity of Manchester, last year’s Division I champion, is alone in first place with a 4-0 record. Bishop Guertin of Nashua, last year’s runner-up, and Nashua South, a semifinalist a year ago, are both 3-0. Manchester Central, which beat Trinity in the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament, is 2-0; so is Merrimack, which has the reigning Division I Player of the Year in senior guard Eric Gendron.

The only other unbeaten team? Londonderry, a school known more for football, baseball and its marching band than its boys basketball program. The Lancers have never won a state title in boys basketball or even reached a championship game, but they have a chance to improve their record to 4-0 when they play at Spaulding of Rochester tonight.

Londonderry has a first-year head coach in Nate Stanton, who was an assistant at Salem each of the last two seasons. The Lancers also have a handful of above-average marksmen.

The Lancers have made 26 3-pointers in their three victories, which has Stanton a bit concerned.

“That’s our problem,” Stanton said. “I want to attack the basket. We rely way too much on the 3 and it gets us in trouble.

“Our biggest thing is defense and full-court pressure, and the kids are buying in.”

In addition to its three Division I victories, Londonderry went 2-1 in the Greater Lowell Holiday Basketball Tournament. The team’s loss came against Chelmsford, which went on to win the tournament.

There’s no one go-to guy on Londonderry’s roster. Instead, the Lancers have a bunch of guard-forward types who can all score when called upon.

Freshman guard Jake Coleman scored a team-high 16 points (four 3-pointers) when Londonderry opened its season with a 74-52 victory over Manchester Memorial; junior Marc Corey tossed in a game-high 23 (four 3-pointers) during Londonderry’s 64-63 victory over Winnacunnet of Hampton; and senior Drew Coveney scored a game-high 18 (four 3-pointers) when Londonderry beat West 66-34.

Coveney, who didn’t play last season because of a knee injury, made 27 three-pointers as a sophomore.

“They’re all interchangeable,” Winnacunnet coach Jay McKenna said. “All shoot. All handle. All do a lot of really nice things.”

“We do have some good shooters,” Stanton added. “Every night anybody can step up. We need to play unselfish because we have multiple guys who can put in 20. We’re good, but we still have more to work on.”

Here’s another encouraging sign if you’re a Londonderry fan: Each of the team’s three victories have come on the road. Tougher tests await, however. Stanton will likely find out much more about his team when the Lancers play back-to-back games against Bishop Guertin and Central later this month.

“They shot the ball very well against us,” Memorial coach Jack Quirk said. “If they continue to shoot the ball like that they’re going to win a ton of games.”

Roger Brown covers New Hampshire High School Sports for ESPN Boston. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.

Snapshot: Simpson nets her 1,000th point

January, 11, 2014
Jan 11
1:10
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Last night, Londonderry (N.H.) point guard Aliza Simpson notched her 1,000th point in an 80-34 win over Merrimack (N.H.). The UNH commit needed 26 going in, and finished with 27, getting the mark on a jumper in the fourth quarter.

Courtesy of her AAU coach with the New England Crusaders, Maureen LaRoche, here are some photos of Simpson's shot, and the ensuing ceremony:

Pleasant return for Nashua South's Tavarez

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
11:27
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Before the 2013-14 season began, a handful of New Hampshire boys basketball coaches were asked to name the best players in Division I. None of them mentioned Nashua South point guard Yordy Tavarez.

Perhaps it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. How else to explain the oversight?

Tavarez, a 6-foot senior, was on South’s varsity roster during his freshman and sophomore seasons, but he was academically ineligible last season, when South finished 19-5 overall (16-5 in Division I) and reached the Division I semifinals.

[+] EnlargeYordy Tavarez
NH-Highschool SportsYordy Tavarez is averaging 27 points per game so far this season for Nashua South.
Tavarez has been a scoring machine so far this season. He opened the season with a 25-point performance during a victory over Spaulding (Rochester), and then tossed in 28 when South beat Pinkerton Academy (Derry).

Tavarez scored a career-high 32 points when South beat Alvirne (Hudson) 61-59 in the Chick-fil-A Holiday Tournament’s championship game last weekend. That victory raised the team’s record to 5-0. Tavarez is averaging 27 points in those five contests.

“We have other kids who are capable (scorers), but he’s so quick and so athletic,” Nashua South coach Nate Mazzerole said. “He’s doing it from inside and outside. He’s gets to the rim very well and he’s increased his range. He’s a very good 3-point shooter. He’s also a very good on-ball defender.

“He’s tough-nosed, talented and the hardest worker on the court -- everything you’d want as a coach,” Mazzerole continued. “He’s lacked some guidance in his life, so getting back into basketball is so good for him. He told me, ‘After one game everyone in the state is going to know who I am again.’ He’s a man of his word.”

South needed someone like Tavarez this season, since the Panthers lost four starters from their 2012-13 team. Point guard Tim Preston is among those who is no longer with the team. Preston transferred from South to Lawrence Academy following his junior year.

“Tim Preston would have arguably been one of the top five players in the state, but Yordy worked with us in the summer and we knew what he was capable of,” Mazzerole said. “We’re undersized, but I thought because of our athleticism we would be competitive every night.”

Trevor Knight, New Hampshire’s Gatorade Player of the Year for football, is among those who compliment Tavarez. Knight made a buzzer-beating layup in South’s victory over Alvirne.

“Trevor is an athlete,” Mazzerole said. “He’s a winner.”

The rest of the starting lineup features Vinny Ortolano, Cam Joyal and 6-foot-5 center Mike Osgood.

“He’s really more of a small forward who can shoot it,” Mazzerole said. “We’re really 12 guards and one 6-5 kid.”

Although several coaches wrote off Nashua South when Preston transferred, the Panthers have been one of the state’s bigger surprises thus far. Of course tougher tests await.

“We’re playing solid,” Mazzerole said. “We’re progressing the way we had hoped.

“Having Yordy back helps. He’s worked hard, so hopefully some college coaches will see what he’s capable of. He’s definitely someone who could use basketball to get a college education.”

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and covers New Hampshire high school sports for ESPN Boston. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.

New Hampshire basketball preview

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
11:54
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A preview of New Hampshire high school boys’ basketball by division:

DIVISION I

2012-13 champion: Trinity

2013-14 teams to beat: Trinity, Central.

Top players: Rich Ruffin G (Winnacunnet); Carmen Giampetruzzi F (Trinity); Eric Gendron G (Merrimack); Kobongo Ngalakulondi G/F (Memorial); Brett Hanson G (Central).

No intensive search is needed to find New Hampshire’s two best high school boys basketball teams this season, since both call Manchester home.

Manchester Central and Trinity look like the class of Division I, and will face each other in their season opener Tuesday night.

Trinity, last season’s Division I champion, has two of the division’s best players in senior forward Carmen Giampetruzzi and junior forward Wenyen Gabriel. There’s also plenty of talent and depth in the backcourt where Patrick Keefe, Ryan Otis and Brad Rhoades all return. The Pioneers also added junior guard Luke Testa, a transfer from Pinkerton Academy.

“We have a nice corps coming back,” Trinity coach Dave Keefe (Patrick’s father) said. “They can all get up and down the floor, but Central is the most talented and deepest team in the state.”

Keefe might be right. Central returns four starters from a team that went 16-4 last season, when it was upset by Bishop Guertin in the Division I quarterfinals. Dawson Dickson, a three-year starter at point guard, and junior guard Brett Hanson are among the returnees. Hanson figures to be one of the top scorers in the division.

Central also added transfer Jon Martin, a 6-foot-4 senior forward who played in Florida last season.

“He has a chance to be one of the better players in the league,” Central coach Doc Wheeler said when asked about Martin. “We expect to be better than we were last year.”

DIVISION II

2012-13 champion: Pembroke Academy

2013-14 teams to beat: Pembroke, Pelham.

Top players: Jourdain Bell G (Bishop Brady); Nick Lazar G (Oyster River); Jake Vaiknoras G (Pelham); Pat Welch G (Pembroke); Andrew Lowman F (Windham).

Former Providence College and University of New Hampshire guard Matt Alosa guided Pembroke to an unbeaten season in 2012-13, and Alosa’s Spartans are the clear favorite in Division II again this season.

Everything starts with senior guard Pat Welch, who averaged 22.8 points per game as a junior. Alosa called Welch a Division I scholarship player. Senior forward Kafani Williams and 6-foot-5 forward Dominic Timbas will compliment Welch. Pembroke also added three transfers who are each 6-foot-7 or taller.

“Any of his starting five would be the best player on my team,” said Portsmouth coach Jim Mulvey, who runs one of the top programs in Division II. “It’ll be Pembroke and then Pelham.”

Pelham will build around senior guard Jake Vaiknoras. The Pythons have a talented sophomore in Keith Brown, and will be better when point guard Joe Slattery returns from an injury suffered during the football playoffs.

DIVISION III

2012-13 champion: Conant

2013-14 teams to watch: Conant, Berlin, Newport.

Top players: Robert O’Brien G (Conant); Eli Hodgson F (Conant); Andrew Houde G (Newport); Zach Bergeron F (Campbell); Jared Stauffeneker G (Mascenic).

Conant is the Division III team with a target on its back. The Orioles return three starters from a team that won the program’s sixth state championship in eight years last season.

Guards Kyle Carland and Robert O’Brien, and 6-foot-5 center/forward Eli Hodgson are the returning starters. Nick Panagiotes, Conant’s sixth man last season, is also back.

“If we want to reach our goals this year we are going to have to commit to defense and rebounding,” Conant coach Eric Saucier said. “We are quick and fast, but after Eli are not big.”

Newport won 21 games last season and returns junior guard Andrew Houde, who averaged 22.2 points per game as a sophomore; and Berlin welcomed back four starters from a team that reached the 2012-13 Division III semifinals.

“I think the top four teams in Division III this season will be Berlin, Conant, Newport and Hopkinton,” Saucier said.

DIVISION IV

2012-13 champion: Lisbon

2013-14 teams to watch: Derryfield, Epping

Top players: Jimmy Stanley G (Epping); Roger Larrivee C (Derryfield); Max Anderson F (Derryfield)/ Jordan Litts G (Wilton-Lyndeborough); James Fitzgerald F (Sunapee).

You’d have a hard time finding a Division IV coach who wouldn’t call Derryfield the favorite this season. In a league hit hard by graduation, Derryfield returns four starters from a team that reached the Division IV championship game in 2012-13.

The Cougars have a dominant post player in 6-foot-7 center Roger Larrivee (9.5 ppg last season). The other returning starters are guard/forward Bennett Doherty (8.1 ppg), shooting guard Tyler Zorn (9.6 ppg) and 6-foot-4 forward Max Anderson (9.7 ppg). Each of the four returning starters is a senior.

“I think we have the potential to be pretty good,” Derryfield coach Rob Bradley said. “But you still have to play the games, get it done.”

Epping and Sunapee are among the teams in the tier below Derryfield.

“Derryfield is clearly the favorite,” Newmarket coach Jamie Hayes said. “They return a ton of size and experience.”

(Read full post)

Previewing the Mt. St. Charles Holiday Face-off

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
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With snow hampering some of the early schedule across the region’s ponds, let’s take a look at one of the premier holiday tournaments coming soon.

Per tournament director Larry O’Donnell, here’s a look at another loaded 8-team field at this year’s Mount St. Charles (R.I.) Holiday Face-off Tournament. Some of the best programs in the Ocean State, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania will be on hand for what should be a highlight to the New England high school hockey calendar.

This year’s entrants:
Mount St. Charles
Franklin (Mass.) High School
Bishop Hendricken (R.I.)
La Salle Academy (R.I.)
Bishop Guertin (N.H.)
Fairfield Prep (Conn.)
St. Joseph’s (N.Y.)
La Salle College (Penn.)

First-round schedule:
(Games scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 26)
Fairfield Prep vs Bishop Hendricken High School, 2 p.m.
Bishop Guertin vs LaSalle College, 4 p.m.
LaSalle Academy vs Franklin, 6 p.m.
Mount St. Charles Academy vs St. Joseph's, 8 p.m.

Second round games (Friday, Dec. 27):
Matchups and face-off times, TBA

Championship and consolation games (Saturday, Dec. 27):
Matchups and face-off times, TBA

Tournament notes: Mounties head coach Bill Belisle enters the RIIL season with more than 900 career wins and 31 state championships. … Fairfield Prep head coach Matt Sather has accumulated more than 230 career wins in 14 seasons at the helm. … Matt Barnaby, son of the former Buffalo Sabre of the same name, plays for St. Joe’s of Buffalo. Also, there’s another Sabres connection, as St. Joe’s head coach Richard Crozier is the son of former Sabres coach Joe Crozier. … La Salle Academy (R.I.) coach Mike Gaffney served under New Jersey Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello while at Providence College. … Guertin head coach Gary Bishop was on the staff of former UMass-Lowell coach Billy Reilly.

New England Gatorade Football Players of the Year

December, 5, 2013
12/05/13
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Connecticut - Dario Highsmith, Jr. QB, Middletown
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior quarterback and defensive back has led the Blue Dragons to an 11-1 record and a berth in the Class L state semifinals against Darien High, scheduled for Dec. 7. At the time of his selection, Highsmith had rushed for 2,565 yards and 27 touchdowns on 219 carries and thrown for 895 yards and nine TDs on 31-of-52 passing. On defense, the 2012 Central Connecticut Conference Division II West First Team honoree had recorded 39 tackles, four interceptions and one fumble recovery.

Highsmith has maintained a B average in the classroom. He has volunteered locally as a youth football coach and mentor.

“Dario Highsmith is extremely fast, has great vision and is very durable,” said John Campanello, head coach of Wethersfield High. “He has had big games all year no matter who they played. To have a chance at beating Middletown you have to stop Dario.”

Maine - Ben Lucas, Sr. QB, Cony
Lucas is the first Gatorade Maine Football Player of the Year to be chosen from Cony High School. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior quarterback led the Rams to a 9-2 record and the Class B state championship this past season. Lucas passed for 3,357 yards and a state-record 41 touchdowns, completing 225-of-373 attempts, including 347 yards and three TDs in a 30-23 win over Kennebunk High in the state final. The Class B East Player of the Year, he concluded his prep football career with 7,575 passing yards and a state-record 89 touchdowns.

Lucas has maintained a B-plus average in the classroom. A member of the Cony High Spanish Club, he has volunteered locally as a youth football coach and with the Augusta Little League.

“Ben Lucas is as fine a quarterback as I’ve seen in the state’s history,” said Dan Cooper, head coach of Brunswick High. “His ability to stand tall in the pocket and throw the ball is simply amazing, almost indefensible. The confidence that he brings to that team makes them go.”

Lucas remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.

New Hampshire - Trevor Knight, Sr. QB, Nashua South
The 6-foot-1, 182-pound senior quarterback and defensive back passed for 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns this past season, completing 116-of-202 attempts against just two interceptions while leading the Panthers (9-2) to the Division I state quarterfinals. Knight also rushed for 1,553 yards and 19 scores on 166 carries. On defense, the 2012 First Team All-State selection recorded 36 tackles and four interceptions.

Knight has maintained a weighted 3.74 GPA in the classroom. He has volunteered locally as an altar boy at his church and as a youth quarterback mentor. He’s also donated his time to the Front Door Agency, which provides housing and assistance to families in need.

“South was a threat to score on every play as Trevor could beat you through the air or running,” said Kevin Fitzgerald, head coach of Timberlane High. “He is especially good at making something out of nothing. He was the best player on the field week in and week out.”

Knight has verbally committed to play football on an athletic scholarship at the University of New Hampshire beginning in the fall of 2014.

Rhode Island - Matt Sewall, Sr. QB, Portsmouth
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound senior quarterback and safety rushed for 1,859 yards and 23 touchdowns on 227 carries this past season, leading the Patriots (9-3) to the Division I state semifinals. Sewall also threw for 735 yards and three scores on 53-of-101 passing. A 2012 Providence Journal Second Team All-State selection, he recorded 69 tackles, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries on defense.

Sewall has maintained a 3.35 GPA in the classroom. He has volunteered on behalf of multiple area-beautification projects in addition to donating his time as a youth basketball coach and as part of multiple community service initiatives in association with his church youth group.

“Matt Sewall this year has been a human highlight film,” said Geoff Marcone, head coach of La Salle Academy. “He has great speed and once he is in the open field, no one is catching him. Every time he touches the ball something big could happen.”

Sewall remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.

Vermont - Tanner Contois, Sr. RB, South Burlington
The 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior running back rushed for 2,361 yards and 22 touchdowns on 199 carries this past season, leading the Rebels (10-3) to the Division I state championship game. A 2012 First Team All-State selection, Contois also caught 21 passes for 563 yards and five touchdowns.

Contois has maintained a 3.81 GPA in the classroom. He has volunteered locally on behalf of multiple fundraiser walks to benefit ALS and breast cancer research and has served as a student-athlete representative on the Concussion Task Force in association with the Vermont Department of Education.

“Tanner Contois was by far the best running back that we played against all year,” said Marty Richards, head coach at Mount Mansfield High. “There were numerous times when we had him bottled up and he would somehow scamper free for 50-plus yards. He has great balance and strong legs which constantly move.”

Contois remains undecided upon a collegiate destination.

Concord rolls in N.H. state football championships

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
10:42
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Saturday’s NHIAA Division I championship game provided something no one expected to see: running time.

NHIAA rules require running time on the game clock once a team builds a lead of 35 points or more, and that’s what happened during top-seeded Concord’s 42-14 triumph over third-seeded Pinkerton Academy.

Concord led 42-7 after Robbie Law connected with Nicholas Comeau for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 6:28 left in the third quarter. Law completed 8 of 11 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the victory, which improved Concord’s record to 12-0.

“Our goal has always been to be the best team in New Hampshire and we achieved that today,” Concord running back/linebacker Marc Gaudet said. “We definitely had the confidence coming in that we would be able to handle them, but not like this. Four or five touchdowns? We couldn’t have pictured that. We were playing on a different level today.”

Law also threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Gaudet, and a 27-yard score to Seimou Smith. Top-seeded Concord received two rushing touchdowns from tailback Walters Ndi and a 27-yard touchdown run from Leo Sudeih.

Third-seeded Pinkerton (9-3) committed three turnovers (two fumbles) and had a punt blocked, and Concord turned each miscue into a touchdown.

T.J. Urbanik (5-yard run) and Manny Latimore (11-yard run) scored for Pinkerton, which has lost each of the last three Division I title games. Latimore finished the game with 91 yards on 16 carries.

“They earned it today, obviously,” Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly said. “Having the clock run on us in the second half? I’m not sure that’s happened to us before. That’s a credit to them. They did whatever they wanted to today. They’re undefeated for a reason.”

DIVISION II
Plymouth 21, Portsmouth 14 (OT)
Chuck Lenahan won his final game as Plymouth’s head coach when his Bobcats scored in overtime and then kept Portsmouth out of the end zone on its overtime possession.

Plymouth (11-1) took the lead for good when quarterback Collin Sullivan scored on a 13-yard run in overtime. Sullivan also had a 1-yard touchdown run earlier in the game.

Top-seeded Plymouth’s other touchdown came on a 29-yard run by John Thomas.

Second-seeded Portsmouth received a 10-yard touchdown pass from Donovan Phanor to Loden Formachelli, and 19-yard touchdown run from Phanor. Portsmouth (10-2) beat Plymouth, 27-22, during the regular season.

It was Plymouth’s 20th state championship in Lenahan’s 43 years as the program’s head coach. Lenahan, who announced his plans to retire earlier this year, improved his coaching record to 356-70-1.

DIVISION III
Bow 20, Stevens 6

Top-seeded Bow turned in another dominating defensive performance and won its first state championship since 2004.

Bow allowed 12 points in its three playoff games, and held eight opponents to seven points or less this season. The Falcons posted four shutouts.

Chris Robbins ran for 87 yards and two touchdowns for Bow, which raised its record to 10-1 and ended the season on a 10-game winning streak. Robbins scored on runs of 1 and 10 yards. The Falcons also received 123 yards rushing on 20 carries from Matt Ehrenberg, who set a school record with 1,503 yards rushing this season.

Bow’s other touchdown came on a 1-yard run from Gavin Lacourciere.

Second-seeded Stevens (8-3) scored on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Tanguay to Brandon Bell. Donald Pellerin led the Cardinals with 127 yards rushing on 23 carries.

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia.

N.H. football championships preview

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
5:16
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New Hampshire will crown its three state champions in football Saturday, when the championship game in each division will be held at the home of the higher-seeded team. Here are the matchups and the top storyline in each game:

Division I: Pinkerton Academy (9-2) at Concord (11-0), 1 p.m.
Pinkerton is playing in the Division I championship game for the ninth time in the last 10 years and will be trying to knock off the only unbeaten team in the state.

Division II: Portsmouth (10-1) at Plymouth (10-1), 1 p.m.
This will be Chuck Lenahan’s final game as Plymouth’s head coach. Lenahan has a 355-70-1 record in 43 seasons on the Plymouth sideline. No New England high school football coach has won more games. A victory in this contest would hand Lenahan his 20th state championship.

Division III: Stevens (8-2) at Bow (9-1), 1 p.m.
Stevens will be trying to win its first state championship in football since 1962, and the school’s first state title in any sport since 1989 (boys' soccer).

Here’s a closer look at each game:


Pinkerton at Concord
No one has come closer to beating Concord this season than Pinkerton, which had an eight-point lead with less than a minute to play in the regular-season game between these teams. Concord scored with 51 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, added the two-point conversion and prevailed 21-14 in overtime.

Each team has scored 467 points (42.5 ppg.), which is a single-season school record for both programs. Concord runs a spread offense and is as dangerous through air as it is running the ball. Pinkerton runs a wing-T that has helped Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly post a 270-103 record in 36 seasons with the Astros.

“That’s a crowd-pleasing offense,” O’Reilly said when asked about Concord. “That’s not what we do. We run the ball until you stop us from running the ball."

Pinkerton will be looking for a big game from senior running back Manny Latimore, who has rushed for 1,496 yards and 16 touchdowns on 165 carries this season.

“Manny is a talented kid,” Concord coach Eric Brown said. “Giving up big plays is my No. 1 concern. We’ll have to minimize those.”

Concord also has a 1,000-yard rusher in Walters Ndi, who has run for 1,095 yards on 21 carries. He’s complimented by running back/slot receiver Marc Gaudet, who has scored 19 touchdowns (16 rushing).

Concord’s other offensive weapons include quarterback Rob Law, who has completed 92 of 138 passes for 1,404 yards and 15 touchdowns; and wide receiver Seimou Smith, who has a team-high 32 receptions for 620 yards and seven touchdowns.

“It’s hard to stop a team when they have so many facets they can go to,” O’Reilly said. “They’re the real deal.”

Portsmouth at Plymouth
Plymouth hasn’t lost a championship game at home since 1995, but Portsmouth beat the Bobcats 27-22 in Plymouth earlier this season. Plymouth built a 22-7 lead in that game, but the Clippers scored three touchdowns in the final quarter.

Like the Division I championship game, this contest will offer a contrast in offensive styles. Plymouth runs the wing-T and rarely throws the ball. Portsmouth uses a four-wide, no-huddle offense and prefers to attack through the air.

Plymouth has two 1,000-yard rushers in its backfield in Jared Kuehl (1,021) and John Thomas (1,011). Plymouth quarterback Collin Sullivan has completed 47 of 73 passes for 842 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s also run for seven touchdowns.

Portsmouth quarterback Donovan Phanor has completed 89 of 166 passes for 1,478 yards and 17 touchdowns, and has run for 719 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Clippers have four receivers who are averaging at least 10 yards per catch.

“There’s no rocket science in this one,” Portsmouth coach Brian Pafford said. “You can’t go toe-to-toe with them. You have to spread them out and make things happen. If it’s OK weather I think we can move the ball and put points up.

“Defensively you have to play tough up front. When we watched film on them before our first game we never saw them punt. If we can get one stop a quarter, that’s pretty good.”

This is the fourth meeting between these programs. Plymouth has a 3-1 record in those games, which includes a 35-20 triumph in the 2006 Division III championship game.

Stevens at Bow
Defense has been the story for each of these teams. Seven of Bow’s opponents failed to score more than seven points, and Stevens hasn’t surrendered more than six points in any of its last five games.

Each team has a go-to player on offense. Bow’s Matt Ehrenberg has rushed for a school-record 1,380 yards this year. Donald Pellerin leads Stevens with 1,377 yards and 22 touchdowns on 255 carries.

Bow scored in each quarter when it posted a 28-14 victory over Stevens during the regular season, but the Cardinals have won seven in a row since that loss.

Alex Reitze may be a wildcard for Bow, which is seeking the program’s first state championship since 2004. Reitze missed the first five games this season with appendicitis, but gained a team-high 98 yards on 14 carries in last Saturday’s semifinal victory over Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough.

The regular-season loss to Bow was the only game in which Pellerin didn’t score at least one touchdown this season.

“Bow does a real good job against the run,” Stevens coach Paul Silva said. “We’ll need to be on top of our game in all phases.”

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia.

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