Pinkerton Academy football coach Brian O'Reilly had three quarterbacks competing for the starting job throughout the preseason, but few people outside of the O'Reilly household know who will be behind center when Pinkerton opens its Division I season at Bedford on Friday night.
The candidates are all juniors: Jack Hannaway, Conner Holland and Jake Froehlich. Hannaway and Holland were with the Pinkerton program last season. Froehlich transferred to Pinkerton from the Tilton School, where he threw for 1,492 yards and 13 touchdowns in eight games last season.
Choosing from three talented quarterbacks is a problem many coaches would welcome.
“But it is a problem,” O'Reilly said. “They're all pretty good.”
Regardless of who it is, Pinkerton's quarterback will be handing the ball to running back Manny Latimore often Friday night. Latimore, who is widely considered to be the top offensive players in the state, rushed for 1,504 last season. He'll likely have a larger role in the Pinkerton offense this season.
“Based on his senior year, it's possible that Manny could be one of the best running backs we've ever had here,” O'Reilly said. “When you have that kind of weapon you have to use it. I will use it. Trust me.”
Bedford is playing in its third division in as many years. The Bulldogs lost to Portsmouth in the 2011 championship game, and to Winnacunnet in last year's Division II championship game.
The Bulldogs, who have 125 players in their program, made to move to Division I in the offseason.
“This is where I would prefer to be,” said Bedford coach Kurt Hines, who has been Bedford's head coach since the school first fielded a varsity team in 2008. “We're going to find out where we fit in the division Friday night.”
Winnacunnet at Bishop Guertin is another interesting Division I matchup on this weekend’s schedule. The Warriors and Cardinals are scheduled to meet Saturday night (7 p.m.) at Nashua's Stellos Stadium.
Both programs competed at the Division II level last season, but each was placed in Division I when the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association reduced the number of divisions for football from six to three.
Winnacunnet defeated BG in last year's Division II semifinals.
“As long as we stay healthy I think we should be in the playoffs,” BG coach Travis Cote said. “We should be in that first round (quarterfinals) and who knows after that.”
Portsmouth and Trinity are expected to be among the title contenders in Division II, and those teams will face each other in Portsmouth on Friday night (7). Portsmouth won last year's Division III title. Trinity lost to Plymouth in the Division IV championship game.
Portsmouth uses a fast-paced, no-huddle offense that resembles what Chip Kelly ran when he was the head coach at the University of Oregon – and for good reason. The Portsmouth staff learned much of the team's offense from Kelly when he was an assistant coach at the University of New Hampshire.
The game will showcase two of the top quarterbacks in the division in Portsmouth's Donovan Phanor and Trinity's Carmen Giampetruzzi. Giampetruzzi is headed to Boston College on a baseball scholarship.
“We still have a lot of good athletes at the skill positions,” Portsmouth coach Brian Pafford said. “This should be a good test for both teams.”
Somersworth at Stevens looks like the marquee matchup in Division III this weekend. Both programs made the playoffs in Division V last season, but each school graduated 15 players.
Somersworth beat Stevens in last year's Division V semifinals before it lost to Monadnock in the Division V championship game.
“Until we prove ourselves on the field, I'm not going to say we're the team to beat,” Somersworth coach Dan Hodsdon said. “Right now I have no idea what kind of team we're going to be.”
WEEK 1 SCHEDULE
Nashua South at Spaulding
Timberlane at Alvirne
Pinkerton at Bedford
Manchester Memorial at Salem
Manchester West at Londonderry
Goffstown at Merrimack
Keene at Nashua North
Pembroke at Laconia
Trinity at Portsmouth
St. Thomas at Kearsarge
Windham at Hanover
Hollis/Brookline at Kennett
Lebanon at ConVal
Souhegan at Monadnock
Raymond at Bishop Brady
Newfound at Fall Mountain
Somersworth at Stevens
Dover at Exeter
Winnacunnet at Bishop Guertin
Concord at Manchester Central
Kingswood at Plymouth
Merrimack Valley at John Stark
Milford at Sanborn
Farmington-Nute at Epping-Newmarket
Gilford at Newport
Mascoma at Winnisquam
Franklin at Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough
Pelham at Bow
Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader, and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.