We're more than a month into the Division 1 boys basketball season, and you'd have to dig deep into the league standings before you found a team not capable of winning this year's state championship.
Entering Friday night's schedule eight teams are above .500, and all of them seem to have legitimate title hopes.
“Obviously some teams are better than others right now, but there are quite a few teams that could put things together by the end of the year and they could be real dangerous,” Salem coach Rob McLaughlin said. “I see a lot of teams that could cause problems.”
Even Manchester Central (7-0) and Trinity (6-0) – the only unbeaten teams in league play – have a non-league loss against a Division I opponent. Trinity lost to Central in the Queen City Invitational, and Central lost to Manchester Memorial in the same tournament.
Memorial (5-1) is one of four teams with one loss. That group includes Bishop Guertin (6-1), Nashua South (6-1) and Spaulding (6-1). Merrimack (4-2) and injury-plagued Winnacunnet (4-3) round out the top eight.
“Right now I'd have to say Trinity and Central are the two best teams,” said McLaughlin, who has faced five of the top eight teams in the standings. “At least they're the best teams we've played. Then there are a bunch of teams that aren't that far behind.”
GIVING DEVILS THEIR DUE
No NHIAA hockey team is playing better than Salem, which is 6-0-1 since opening the season with a 1-0 loss to Bishop Guertin. The Blue Devils stretched their winning streak to five games when they beat Exeter 6-1 Saturday.
Salem has been winning with defense. Goaltender Nick Phair has a 1.16 goals-against average – the lowest among Division I goalies – and a .949 save percentage in 233 minutes. Cody Soucy (nine points) and Jake Pappalardo (seven points) lead the offense.
The Blue Devils have outscored their opponents, 29-11.
Rosters for the second CHaD New Hampshire East-West All-Star Football Game were released earlier this month. This year's game will be played June 29 at the University of New Hampshire's Cowell Stadium, and will benefit Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (ChaD).
Former Manchester Central coach Jim Schubert will coach the West, and former Concord coach Bob Camirand will serve as the East's head coach. The East roster includes five players from Division I champion Exeter and five from Division I runner-up Pinkerton Academy of Derry.
“As is the case with any all-star game there are some people who are worthy who won't be selected,” Camirand said. “We looked at people who were familiar with the 4-4 defense and running the football from under center out of the Wing-T or the Double-Wing, which is what I hang my hat on.
“The Pinkerton kids and the Exeter kids are familiar with the offense we'll be running so it makes for an easy transition.”
The West won the inaugural game, 44-12, last summer.
“This is an all-star game,” Schubert said. “These are the best senior players in New Hampshire in the eyes of the coaches.”
EAST-WEST ALL-STAR ROSTERS
David Cannone (RB/LB) Bedford; James Capparell (QB) Bedford; Brian Collins (WR/OLB) Bedford; Dylan York (RB/DB) Bedford; Blake Boudreau (FB/LB) Bishop Guertin; Nick Marino (RB/DB) Bishop Guertin; Seth Gosse (OL/DL) Concord; Tolbert Nemo (RB) Concord; Kody Benwell (FB/TE/LB) Franklin; Nathan Grevior (OT/DT) Franklin; Connor Benjamin (QB/RB/WR) Goffstown; Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris (WR/S) Hanover; Mitch Frick (WR/CB) Hollis/Brookline; Lucas Luopa (QB/DB) Keene; Dylan Drew (RB/LB/DE) Lebanon; Zach Hileman (C/DL) Manchester Central; Troy Pelletier (WR/DB) Manchester Central; Pierre Noel (WR/S) Manchester Memorial; Jared Ombati (RB/DB) Manchester Memorial; Zach Ziemba (QB/DB) Manchester West; Chris Sanborn (TE/DE/MLB) Mascoma; Joe Albina (RB/LB) Milford; Nick Patterson (G/LB) Monadnock; Mike Lynch (OT/DT) Nashua North; Deric Wagner (TE/RB/LB/DE) Nashua North; Stephen Choate (WR) Nashua South; Christian Stack (OL) Nashua South; Matt Tremblay (RB/OL/LB) Newport; Brandon Goodale (FB/HB) Plymouth; Chase Wyman (OG/DT) Plymouth; Tyler Ford (QB/WR/DB) Souhegan; Jake Kennedy (OT) Souhegan; CJ Gosselin (OT/LB) Stevens; Colin Bouchard (OL/DL) Trinity; Ryan Carrier (FB/DL/LB) Trinity; Romeo Masuku (RB/WR/LB/DB) Trinity; Russ Pallas (OL/DL) Trinity.
Jim Schubert (head coach), Mike Bombardier, Eric Brown, Dante Laurendi, Jimmy Lauzon, Paul Lavigne, Bob Leclair, Gerry Tautkus.
Matt Dow (OL/DL) Dover; Kyle Seawards (RB/WR/DB) Dover; Eric Wilson (TE/LB) Dover; Zach Bosen (TE/DT) Exeter; Tyler Grant (HB/TB/SS) Exeter; Logan Laurent (P/K) Exeter; Jamie Vogt (HB/LB) Exeter; Jameson Whiteley (TE/OLB) Exeter; Conor McDonald (LB) Kennett; David Mahoney (RB/LB) Laconia; Graham Nyhan (TE) Laconia; Troy Ward (FB/DE) Londonderry; Chadd Loring (C/DL) Pelham; Chris Ford (OG/DT) Pembroke; Jake Bernaiche (G/DL) Pinkerton; David Hansen (G/LB) Pinkerton; Chris St. Onge (HB/QB/S) Pinkerton; Matt St. Onge (FB/LB) Pinkerton; Brett Stuart (HB/DB) Pinkerton; Dillon Crosby (RB/OLB) Portsmouth; Rick Holt (DT) Portsmouth; Kurtis Leonard (C/DE) Portsmouth; Drew Francoeur (QB/DB) Somersworth; Tyler Kretschmar (OL/DE) Somersworth; Kyle Hall (OL/DL) Spaulding; Ryan Monette (RB/WR/CB/S) St. Thomas; Joe Richard (G/LB) St. Thomas; Joshua David (RB/WR/DB) Timberlane; Ryan McCarthy (WR/DB) Timberlane; Danny Cannone (RB/TE/OLB/DE) Windham; Kevin Cooney (FB/OLB/DE) Windham; Joe Lorenz (QB/S) Windham; Jordan Cutting (G/OT/NG) Winnacunnet; Christian Dyer (OT/DT) Winnacunnet; Ben Franzoso (RB) Winnacunnet; Ben Gareau (WR/DB) Winnacunnet; Mason Taylor (G/OL) Winnisquam.
Bob Camirand (head coach), Peter Bergeron, Dave Bernaiche, Dan Fallon, Dave Malay, Ken Sciacca.
NHL EYES SANFORD
Zach Sanford, who helped Pinkerton Academy win the 2012 Division I ice hockey championship, was among the players listed on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's mid-term rankings, which were released on Jan. 15.
Sanford, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound forward, was listed at No. 83. He is currently playing for the EJHL's Islanders Hockey Club, and had three goals and 15 assists through 24 games.
Sanford, an Auburn resident, had 69 points in 21 games last season – he collected at least one point in every game -- and collected a goal during Pinkerton's 3-2 triumph over Manchester Memorial in the Division I championship game.
EPPING'S STANLEY JOINS ELITE GROUP
Senior Frank Stanley became the seventh Epping High School boys basketball player to score 1,000 career points when he tossed in 25 during a 66-29 victory over Wilton-Lyndeborough on Jan. 11.
Stanley, an undersized center, finished the game with 1,001 career points.
Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report. He has been covering high school sports throughout New England since 1992.