Boston High School: Adam Chambers

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
9:35
PM ET
Bill Ball and his Exeter High Blue Hawks, in their second season competing against the state's largest schools, took the express elevator from cellar to penthouse.

It's one way to explain Exeter's voyage.

New HampshireAs is this: "It's just the ultimate roller-coaster. That's what it is," massive lineman Brad Tiernan said after his team stunned heavy favorite and statewide No. 1 Pinkerton Academy, 23-13, for the Division I championship at Memorial Field in Derry.

The Division I final on Nov. 19 was supposed to be a formality. The Astros, after all, topped the statewide poll since the preseason, securing every first-place vote in the process. They were one win from completing the first wire-to-wire run at No. 1 in the four-year era of rankings.

They were facing a former Division 2 power, but a program that went 0-8 in its Division I debut (1-9 overall) last season.

The Blue Hawks (11-1 overall, 9-1 Div. I) didn't forget those season-long frustrations. But they didn't dwell on them, either.

This team was confident. This team was composed. This team was clutch.

How else to explain the title-game comeback? Exeter erased a 13-3 second-quarter deficit.

Conor Carrier scored the fourth-quarter touchdown that placed Pinkerton in panic mode. The senior's big run off-tackle went for 37 yards and six points. The score snapped a 13-all tie with 7 minutes, 10 seconds left in the season.

Touchback-machine Logan Laurent added the extra point. He also iced the contest with his 23-yard field goal -- a kick preceded by 35- and 40-yard boots -- in the final minutes.

Tyler Grant touched the rock 31 times. He totaled 120 yards in Exeter's old-school straight-T offense.

Jamie Tymann tossed a second-quarter touchdown to Lucas Gajewski. The 15-yard strike sparked the 20-point run to the title.

The toss was the second of Tymann's five attempts. Exeter's senior signal-caller entered the final with just 29 pass attempts on the season.

But defense was the biggest difference-maker. Grant, Carrier, Ethan Joyce and Brian Henry led Exeter's disciplined perimeter defense. It surrendered 77- and 78-yard touchdown runs to Emmitt Smith in the second frame, but little else.

Exeter celebrated its sixth championship under Ball, who capped his 19th season at the helm. The coach previously won five Division II championships in 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2007.

"To get this done is just amazing," Ball said. "It's amazing."

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
1:34
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Seventy games have been played at Plymouth Regional's Zoulias Field since the start of the 2000 season. Just two of those contests were won by the visiting team.

Manchester's Trinity High was the second squad in that span to record the road win. The Pioneers, in most improbable fashion, pulled off the season's No. 1 stunner to date.

In their first-ever trip to Plymouth's home turf, the Pioneers struck for two long touchdown passes in the final minutes of their Division IV tilt to complete a 12-7 comeback win Sept. 24.

Trinity (4-0) terminated Plymouth's 40-game home win streak, which started nearly seven years earlier with a regular-season finale victory over Peterborough's ConVal Regional on Oct. 30, 2004.

"I brought it up (the night before the game) at a team meeting. That was the only time that we really brought it up," Trinity head coach Gary Leonard said of Plymouth's 40-game run at home. "It didn't seem to motivate them. But we can say we did it. That's what counts."

Exactly what motivated the Pioneers is difficult to determine. But it's clear what –- make that “who” -– sparked their comeback. He is sophomore quarterback Carmen Giampetruzzi.

A first-year starter under center, Giampetruzzi hit running back Josh Hughes for an 80-yard touchdown with 4:01 to play. Hughes caught the 10-yard pass outside the left hash mark, turned, and raced 70 yards down the left sideline. The throw was threaded perfectly between two Plymouth defenders.

The play was just the second pass attempt for Trinity, whose double-wing offense rarely moves the ball through the air. But the Bobcats completely neutralized Trinity's rushing attack, which left Leonard with no choice but to rely on his quarterback's left arm.

Moments after Hughes hit paydirt, the Pioneers, as they routinely do, lined up for the two-point conversion. Plymouth stuffed it.

Trailing by a point, the Pioneers needed a defensive stop. They got it with a turnover-on-downs at their 26-yard line.

The scenario: Trinity was 74 yards from the end zone – without a time out. Just 1 minute, 24 seconds remained in regulation.

Giampetruzzi went to work from the shotgun. He completed passes to Hughes (5 yards), Andrew Lauderdale (16 yards) and Adam Chambers (10 yards), moving the ball to Plymouth's 43. A false start moved the ball back to Plymouth's 48.

On third-and-15, with 26.5 seconds to play, Giampetruzzi handled the snap, dropped back, and rifled a spiral down the right seam. Lauderdale, a 6-foot 6-inch tight end, gained a step on his defender, caught the pass in stride and bolted for the goal line.

He crossed it with 17.8 seconds to play.

"So far, for Trinity, for football, this is probably one of the best wins we've had," said Giampetruzzi, whose ensuing two-point pass was incomplete, forcing the defense to make one final stand.

Lauderdale locked up the win, batting down a pass from Plymouth's 43 on the final play.

The Pioneers celebrated. The Bobcats huddled up to hear head coach Chuck Lenahan, the state's all-time wins leader, address them.

"Stick together," said a stunned Lenahan (328-68-1) when asked what he told his team after the final horn sounded. "That's all you can do. Regroup."

BIG WINNERS
Hampton's Winnacunnet High and Northwood's Coe-Brown Academy were the big winners at the 37th annual Manchester Cross Country Invitational Sept. 24.

Without a single runner recording a top 10 finish at Derryfield Park, Winnacunnet won the boys' team title in the large-school race. Coe-Brown won the girls' crown in the small-school event.

Winnacunnet edged Burlington, Vt., 157-161. Justin Trott was Winnacunnet's first runner (12th overall) to complete the 3.1-mile course.

Coe-Brown won comfortably (67-99) over second-place Hopkinton High. Jessie Carney (20:22) and Carissa Hodgdon (20:40) were top 10 finishers, placing fourth and sixth, respectively.

The Bears also celebrated a boys' individual title as Jeremy Brassard won the small-school race. He clocked a time of 16:27.

In the boys' elite race, Pinkerton Academy of Derry delivered a solid showing. The Astros placed second in the team competition behind Rhode Island's Bishop Hendricken (42-89). Anthony Anzivino finished second overall (16:06).

Sami Hicks of Laconia High won the girls' small-school individual title (19:22).

CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW?
Division I field hockey powers Salem High and Pinkerton clashed Sept. 24 in a fight for first place. Very little separated the squads in Salem's 2-1 home win.

Abbey Raymond snapped a 1-all tie inside the final 4 minutes of regulation. The dagger ended Pinkerton's bid for perfection. Danielle Ferraro set up Raymond's game-winning strike.

Jordyn Hamilton's goal late in the first half pulled Pinkerton even at 1-1. Her tally answered an early marker by Erika Smith.

Pinkerton finished the month with back-to-back wins, improving its record to 9-1. Salem also closed the month 9-1.

GRANITE STATE GREATS
Sept. 15: Josh Hofer scored in double overtime to lift Manchester Memorial High to a 2-1 win over Salem in Division I boys' soccer. Hofer buried a rebound in the 95th minute.

Sept. 15: Cassidy John scored in the final minute of regulation to give Penacook's Merrimack Valley Regional a 1-0 win over Concord's Bishop Brady High in Division II girls' soccer. The win was the Pride's fifth straight and, at the time, kept the team unbeaten in league play at 6-0-1.

Sept. 17: Chris Camire made an acrobatic 32-yard catch in the final minute to set up a game-winning 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Connor Benjamin. Division III Goffstown High for the first time in the football program's history defeated Amherst's Souhegan High, 21-14.

Sept. 19: Jenna Freitas connected for five goals in Memorial's 7-0 Division I field hockey win at Nashua North. She scored the game's first three goals and added two more in the second half.

Sept. 24: Playing quarterback and running back during Merrimack Valley's rain-soaked football contest in Week 4, Cody Thurston had a hand in six touchdowns. He tossed four TDs and notched two rushing scores as the Pride topped Wolfeboro's Kingswood Regional, 64-45, in Division IV action.

Marc Thaler is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He can be reached at marc.thaler@gmail.com. Read his "New Hampshire GameDay" blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
3:58
PM ET
A year ago, underclassmen-laden Pinkerton Academy wasn't supposed to win its 10th Division I football championship since the celebrated 1985 season. But the young Astros, facing foes with far more experience, beat those odds.

New HampshireThis time around, the odds of repeating are overwhelmingly in their favor.

"Our focus doesn't change at all, even when we're not the favorites," Pinkerton head coach Brian O'Reilly said. "We simply strive for championships. That's our goal, otherwise it's not a successful year."

Quite simply, there isn't a more complete team, at present, than the one residing in Derry.

The Astros return almost everyone. Twelve of the team's 20 seniors are returning starters.

Bulldozer Kevin Davies and speedy Emmitt Smith are the focal points of Pinkerton's Wing-T offense. But there's also junior quarterback Chris St. Onge and sophomore Manny Latimore that round out the returning starting backfield.

Andrew Curran, exclusively a top-line defensive back in 2010, will reprise that role this season. But he's expected to earn touches on offense, too.

On a team stacked with superb athletes, Ryan Coombs could prove most dynamic. The 5-foot 11-inch, 178-pound senior kicks, punts, catches passes and patrols the defensive secondary.

“He's a big-game player. He can be a difference-maker. He's got some outstanding athletic ability that other kids do not have,” O'Reilly said of Coombs. “He just turned 17 for his senior year. He really doesn't come off the field.”

Linebackers Branden Rodgers, Davies and Matt Madden, last year the team's second-leading tackler as a freshman, were huge reasons the Astros excelled in red-zone defense. The linebacking corps added depth with the return of Matt St. Onge, sidelined in '10 with an ACL injury.

Understandably, the Astros were unanimously voted No. 1 in the preseason edition of the fourth-year statewide poll, a joint effort involving the New Hampshire Union Leader, WGAM-Radio and WMUR-TV.

Based on history alone, Pinkerton is the preseason pick.

Since O'Reilly's fabled Ryan Mihalko- and Joe Segreti-led 1985 team surprised everyone to win it all (the program's debut season in Division I) the Astros have always won championships in chunks.

The Astros went back-to-back in 1985-86, copped four straight crowns from 1991-94, and rattled off a three-peat from 2005-07.

But don't talk championship pep rally with O'Reilly just yet. Pinkerton's 34-year head coach knows a grid king isn't crowned in the preseason.

“We might be pegged as favorites. But we weren't pegged as favorites last year – and we won,” he said. “Our focus is 'Don't allow newspaper clippings to influence hard work.'”

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