Wednesday, October 13, 2010
New England Roundup: New Hampshire
By Marc Thaler
There were two ways — for one game, anyway — to view the reigning Division I football finalists after their first meeting since last year's title game.
Defending champion Salem and Nashua North could have conducted a seminar on scoring, or they needed to take a course on tackling.
The latter best described these talent-rich teams in Week 5. Each squad's defense did a disappearing act in Salem's 67-54 home win at Grant Field.
“It was a great basketball game today. Great basketball game,” North head coach Jason Robie said with supreme sarcasm on Oct. 2, before attempting to explain how his then-No. 2 Titans posted 54 points and lost by 13.
No, several overtime sessions didn't help produce this points pile-up. All 121 points were scored in regulation (12-minute quarters in New Hampshire).
Games To Watch
Here are our choices for the most intriguing N.H. high school football matchups this weekend.
Friday, Oct. 15
Pinkerton (5-1, 4-1 Div. I) at Brockton, Mass. (4-1), 7 p.m. New Hampshire's No. 2 team, Pinkerton, collides with Brockton, the fourth-ranked squad in the latest ESPNBoston.com Mass. Top 25. These teams meet for the 15th consecutive season. Pinkerton is 4-10 in the rivalry, winning just once (2006) in the last eight meetings. Pinkerton features only 10 seniors on its roster. But the team representing the Granite State's largest school enjoys the rare chance to play underdog.
Man. Memorial (4-2, 2-2 Div. I) at Man. Central (4-2, 2-2 Div. I), 7 p.m. Gill Stadium should be rocking for this Queen City clash. Both Memorial and Central seek their third league win, which could prove critical in the push for the postseason. The winner also gains sole possession of second place in the race for the second Turkey Bowl ticket. Under a new system, Manchester teams Central, Memorial, Trinity and West compare records at season's end. Those with top overall marks meet on Thanksgiving.
Keene (6-0, 4-0 Div. II) at Dover (3-3, 3-2 Div. II) , 7 p.m. Ninth-ranked Keene, though undefeated, remains the great unknown in Division II. It opened with three league wins against struggling opponents and last week edged much-improved Merrimack. The tests start this week with Dover, which erased an 0-2 league start by winning three straight games. The most recent was most impressive: a 7-0 win at two-time defending champ Bishop Guertin.
Milford (3-3, 3-1 Div. III) at Souhegan (5-1, 4-0 Div. III), 7 p.m. Milford is halfway through a brutal four-game stretch in which it is 1-1. The quartet of contests started with a 40-point shutout loss to reigning Division III runner-up Portsmouth. Last week, Milford rebounded to top previously undefeated Bedford by three TDs. The league's two-time defending king is Milford's next challenge. High-powered Souhegan played two teams from Division I and split those games.
Trinity (6-0 Div. IV) at Kennett (4-2 Div. IV), 7 p.m. Division IV newcomer Trinity, last year's Division V champ, is ranked No. 10 in New Hampshire and owns the state's longest active win streak at 17 games. Can the streak survive in Conway? Earlier this season, Kennett ended Plymouth Regional's 57-gamer, at the time the nation's longest active run.
Somersworth (3-3 Div. V) at Bishop Brady (3-3 Div. V), 7 p.m. Sporting identical records, these teams are tied for the fourth and final playoff spot. Somersworth can really help its cause with a win. The state's controversial new point-rating system trumps league records when determining playoff teams, and road wins earn more points (five) than home victories (four).
Saturday, Oct. 16
Portsmouth (3-2, 3-1 Div. III) at Goffstown (2-3, 2-2 Div. III), 3 p.m. Portsmouth was expected to take a step back after graduating its quarterback and top receiver, two players who earned Division I college baseball scholarships. Yet the Seacoast squad, which loves to throw the football, continues to thrive. Senior-led Goffstown was picked in the preseason to win the title. But it opened the season with three straight losses, including two in league play.
Inter-Lakes (4-2 Div. VI) at Winnisquam (4-2 Div. VI), 1 p.m. It's a rematch of last year's championship game. Inter-Lakes won the title, 6-0. Both teams have impressive wins on the resume this season. Inter-Lakes defeated scoring machine Franklin, 19-6, in Week 5. Winnisquam knocked off previously perfect Newport, 27-14, last week.
-- Marc Thaler
Save for one play – a 103-yard interception return for a touchdown by North's Andre Williams – defense was sub-par. And that's being kind.
Salem set single-game program records for points scored and allowed. North set a record in the points-allowed department.
“I, never in my life, in all my coaching years, would believe we played an ugly game and scored 67 points,” said Salem's defensive-minded head coach, Jack Gati, after his then-No. 5 Blue Devils won the tough-to-stomach contest.
How ugly was it?
Nine of the 15 offensive scoring drives, including five for North, lasted five plays or fewer.
Salem scored the game's first 34 points in the opening 13 minutes, four seconds. It led at halftime, 54-28.
The preseason picks to again meet in the league final combined for 1,356 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns. Salem gained 712 all-purpose yards and tallied 10 touchdowns. North notched 644 yards via the run, pass and return game.
Salem's Max Jacques, the New Hampshire Union Leader Player of the Year last season, recorded 338 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns. The senior halfback's totals included 224 rushing yards and four scores, and a program-record 90-yard punt-return to paydirt.
Jerickson Fedrick added 169 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Matt Cannone threw for 120 yards. Abner Rodriguez took a kickoff 83 yards to the house.
North's Williams stopped the 34-point blitz with his pick-six. He also rushed 21 times for 181 yards, including a 49-yard burst to the end zone.
Brandon Karkhanis accounted for six scores, two on QB keepers and four through the air. Anton Marinchik (five catches for 109 yards, two TDs), Eric Muite (four catches for 72 yards, TD) and Jamar Gathright (two catches for 66 yards, TD) combined for four touchdown grabs between 20 and 47 yards.
"I think when you don't have an experienced group like we had last year, it's difficult going in and out of your base defense to a special defense for spread (offense) teams," Gati said. "We've just got to get better at that because we face spread teams and we face traditional teams."
Gati's group rebounded in Week 6 with a 48-7 win over Division II Timberlane Regional of Plaistow. Salem, currently No. 3 in New Hampshire, stands at 4-2 overall and 3-1 in Division I.
Now No. 6 in the state, North (3-3, 3-2) faced a tougher foe. The Titans lost to current No. 4 squad Nashua South, 38-21, in Week 6, meaning this statement from Robie after the Salem game still applies:
“We can do one of two things: We can keep reading the articles saying we're a terrible defense,” Robie said. “Or we can say 'This one's behind us,' let [the media] talk about that, and try and fix what's broken. We'll do the latter.”
GANG GREEN Manchester Central dominated the Manchester Cross Country Championships at Derryfield Park on Oct. 12. Alexandra Conway won the girls' race, and Sam Gagnon, Zack Chabot and Sean Brown recorded the same winning time in the boys' run.
Central, as a result, clinched girls' and boys' XC city titles for the third straight season, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Conway ran the 3.1-mile course in 18 minutes, 45 seconds. She finished 68 seconds ahead of her closest competitor. Gagnon, Chabot and Brown completed the run in 17:02. Teammate Matt Becker was one second off the pace.
MONUMENTAL MARKER Striker Eric Jayne scored his 10th goal of the season on Oct. 5. The tally helped Hanover beat Concord's Bishop Brady, 5-0, in Division II boys' soccer.
Jayne's marker was significant. It was the 43rd goal of the senior's career, which set a new program record. The previous career goal-scoring record stood since the mid-1960s.
Hanover (11-0-0) and Division III Gilford (13-0-0) are the state's only unbeaten/untied teams.
CHAMPIONS CROWNED Golf was the first fall sport to finish its season, making it the first to crown champions.
Keene (Div. I), Bedford (Div. II) and Moultonborough (Div. III) celebrated team titles. Keene's Chelso Barrett, Bedford's Jake Nutter and Gilford's Chris Houston won boys' individual crowns in Divisions I, II and III, respectively.
Lebanon's Colette Schmidt (Div. I) and Newmarket's Chelsea Walker (Div. II) won girls' individual championships.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS Londonderry won its final 13 matches last season to clinch the program's first Division I girls' volleyball championship.
The Lancers, now senior-laden, are poised to repeat in their 15th varsity campaign.
Coach Peter Willis and his powerhouse squad are 14-0 this season. They take a 27-match win streak into their showdown tonight (Oct. 13) with reigning runner-up and fellow 14-0 force Spaulding of Rochester.
“One of the big factors in us (winning) last year was this group really played to the moment,” said Willis, who leads eight seniors and two juniors. “They wouldn't get too up, they wouldn't get too down. They were very business-like on the court. In that sense, they really deal well with pressure.”
The breakdown of Londonderry's 14 wins includes 11 three-game sweeps. The remaining matches went four games. That means the defending champ played 45 games, just three games over the minimum.
Identical twins and outside hitters Katie and Megan Schwarz lead the Lancers along with setter Amy Johnson.
The 5-foot 10-inch Schwarz sisters are “both the total package,” Willis said. They consistently lead the team in kills per match. Katie averages 14 per contest. Megan's per-match average is 17.
They're the program's only members of the 500-kill club.
Johnson recently became the second Lancer to record 1,000 career assists. She averages 30 per match.
Lyssa Winslow, Nicole Williams and Shay Collins split time as middle-hitters. All are difference-makers.
“We've certainly met a lot of people's expectations so far. The trick is do we meet our own expectations?” Willis said. “It's a very self-aware group.”
CENTURY MARK Campbell's Shawna Trunca tallied her 100th career goal in girls' soccer on Oct. 12, according to the school's athletics director, Dan Kiestlinger. Trunca, a senior striker, helped lead the Litchfield-based squad to a 6-0 Division III win over Hillsboro-Deering.
Campbell is 14-0-0 and the only remaining unbeaten/untied team in the state's four soccer divisions. Trunca & Co. have one regular-season game remaining on Oct. 18.
DOUBLE DUTY Play-calling for Laconia is territory of head football coach Craig Kozens, who serves as offensive coordinator for the Sachems.
In Week 6, however, Kozens doubled as defensive coordinator. Longtime assistant Bob Ewell was recovering from surgery. Ewell's appendix burst one day before Laconia hosted Plymouth Regional, winner of five straight titles between Divisions III and IV.
“It was hectic. I had a lot of help from my assistant coaches,” Kozens told the New Hampshire Sunday News after Laconia beat Plymouth, 30-20. “Because we have a consistent staff of 11 guys, everyone helped me keep my thoughts together.”
Laconia hadn't beaten Plymouth since 1999. The 10-point win on Oct. 8 also marked the first time Kozens, in his 10th year as Laconia's head coach, led the Sachems past the Bobcats.
THE 400 CLUB Mike Ackerman readily admits he can't recall the details of his first career coaching win.
The reason is understandable. Ackerman, the head coach at Division IV Woodsville since 1977, has won more than 400 boys' soccer matches.
He reached the 400-win milestone when the Engineers defeated Groveton, 9-0, on Sept. 23. His career record through Oct. 12 was 404-134-36, according to UnionLeader.com.
“It's a few,” Ackerman, 57, said while chuckling about the whopping total. “I'm just worried about the team playing well, what the kids are learning from playing, and that they're good people and graduating from high school.
“Four hundred wins is four hundred wins,” he added. “But the important stuff is what they're getting out of their experience, and that it's making a difference in their lives.”
Gilford's Dave Pinkham is the lone member of the 500-win club. Exeter's Jim Tufts has 300-plus wins. They both began coaching boys' soccer the same year as Ackerman.
Longtime Hanover coach George Merrill retired two wins shy of 400. Ackerman said he once asked Merrill why he called it a career with 398 wins on his resume.
“He said, 'You'll know when it's time,'” Ackerman said. “It isn't time yet for me.”
Woodsville won consecutive championships in the former Class S under Ackerman. He also coached his sons, Ryan and Matt, in the late 1990s. His wife, Glenna, never misses a match.
At a recent school assembly, Ackerman said he was presented with a game ball. It marked the accomplishment three-plus decades in the making.
To think, it all started when his original team manager from the '77 season announced during a booster club banquet that Ackerman was close to clinching his 400th win.
“I was just going to let it slide by if I could,” Ackerman said. “But (this year's players) loved dumping a big bucket of ice water over my head.”
Marc Thaler is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News and UnionLeader.com. He has been the high schools reporter for football and lacrosse since joining the statewide newspaper in 2006. A graduate of Syracuse University (2000), he wrote about the state's football history for an exhibit at The Hall at Patriot Place. The Bedford, N.H., native has covered the Little League World Series, NCAA men's lacrosse championships, UNH athletics and New Hampshire Fisher Cats baseball. He can be reached at email@example.com.