Friday, September 27, 2013
New Hampshire Week 4 football preview
By Roger Brown
It's usually a big deal when the Plymouth Regional and Trinity football teams meet on the field, and Saturday night's contest will be no exception.
Two of the last four meetings between Trinity and Plymouth came in the Division IV championship game. The two others were regular-season games that ended up determining the No. 1 seed (and home-field advantage) for the playoffs.
Each team is now in Division II, and each will enter Saturday's matchup at Manchester's Gill Stadium (4:30 p.m.) with a 3-0 record. Monadnock (3-0) and St. Thomas (3-0) are the only other unbeaten teams in Division II.
“They're outstanding on offense and defense,” Plymouth coach Chuck Lenahan said when asked about Trinity. “A lot of people have stepped up for us. We're getting a little better (defensively) every game. I think turnovers could be a big, big factor in this one.”
Plymouth beat Trinity, 7-0, in last year's championship game. Trinity defeated Plymouth, 30-14, in the 2011 championship game.
“They're a well-coached team with a ton of good athletes,” Trinity coach Steve Burns said. “They're very, very good, and very, very big. They're solid on both sides of the ball, and their skill kids are fantastic. We have our work cut out for us.”
Trinity has outscored it opponents 130-63 this season. Plymouth has surrendered seven points in its last two games and has outscored its three opponents 131-36.
“I think they were bigger and more physical last year,” Lenahan said. “They have more speed and a lot more finesse this year. After Saturday we won't have to wonder how good we are.”
Saturday night's game between Exeter (3-0) and Bishop Guertin (2-1) at Nashua's Stellos Stadium is this weekend's marquee matchup in Division I.
These two programs were the class of Division II until Exeter moved to Division I following the 2009 season. The Blue Hawks and Cardinals met in the Division II championship game seven times from 1997 to 2008. BG won four of those seven meetings.
BG, which is in its first season at the Division I level, has won two in a row since opening the season with a one-point loss to Winnacunnet. Exeter received a scare from Winnacunnet last weekend, but prevailed, 35-34, when Winnacunnet missed a point-after attempt in overtime.
The rivalry game between Londonderry (2-1) and Pinkerton Academy (2-1) is another noteworthy Division I contest this weekend. The game is part of Mack Placque weekend, the athletic rivalry between the two schools that is contested each fall.
The teams will meet Saturday night (6:45 p.m.) in Derry.
When the NHIAA chose to reduce the number of football divisions in the state from six to three earlier this year, it also altered the playoff format in each division. There are four conferences in each division, and two teams from each conference will qualify for postseason play.
Some have been critical of the playoff format since it may not allow deserving teams to make the playoffs. If the three best teams in a division happen to come from the same conference, one of those teams will not be in the eight-team playoff field.
That scenario could play out in Division III South, which is clearly the strongest conference in that division. Pelham (3-0) and Campbell (2-0) – the only unbeaten teams in that division – both compete in Division III South, which also includes Bow (2-1) and Somersworth (1-2). Although Somersworth is off to a slow start, there are coaches who insist the Toppers are capable of beating anyone in the division.
Somersworth can prove it is playoff material when it faces Campbell on Saturday in Somersworth.
UNION LEADER/WGIR/WMUR POWER POLL
1. Exeter (3-0)
2. Concord (3-0)
3. Bedford (3-0)
4. Nashua South (3-0)
5. Pinkerton (2-1)
6. Winnacunnet (2-1)
7. Trinity (3-0)
8. Bishop Guertin (2-1)
9. Plymouth (3-0)
10 (tie). Londonderry (2-1)
10 (tie). Portsmouth (2-1)
10 (tie). Spaulding (2-1)
WEEK 4 SCHEDULE Division I Friday Spaulding at Keene
Alvirne at Winnacunnet
Salem at Bedford
Goffstown at Manchester Central
Nashua South at Nashua North
Saturday Timberlane at Dover
Manchester Memorial at Concord
Exeter at Bishop Guertin
Merrimack at Manchester West
Londonderry at Pinkerton
Division II Friday Kingswood at Merrimack Valley
Portsmouth at Souhegan
Hanover at Laconia
Kennett at Lebanon
Hollis/Brookline at Milford
Kearsarge at Con-Val
Sanborn at Monadnock
Saturday St. Thomas at Pembroke
Plymouth at Trinity
Windham at John Stark
Division III Friday Fall Mountain at Stevens
Saturday Winnisquam at Bishop Brady
Mascoma Valley at Farmington/Nute
Franklin at Newport
Bow at Gilford
IL/Moultonborough at Newfound
Somersworth at Campbell
Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia.