The Little Green cross country machine didn't take long to hit high gear.
Both the boys' and girls' teams for Manchester Central High, fresh off last year's NHIAA championship campaigns, served notice in the season-opening race Oct. 11 that they're still the squads to beat.
Dylan Lafond led the boys and Elizabeth Conway paced the girls as Central swept the Manchester City Championship at Derryfield Park.
“This race was the first step (in the championship season),” Lafond told the New Hampshire Union Leader after posting the lone sub-17-minute time of 16 minutes, 55.6 seconds. “Our goal is to win states, and if we make New Englands, even better.”
Central's boys secured the top three finishes on the 3.1-mile course. Sean Brown and Matt Becker finished second and third, respectively, with times of 17:06.5 and 17:11.2.
Those times helped the Little Green record 26 team points. Manchester Memorial High's Adam Vargas (17:18.1) finished fourth. The Crusaders placed second with 40 points, followed by Manchester West High (70) and Trinity High (74).
Central's girls were equally dominant. Elizabeth Conway had a lot to do with it.
Conway crossed the finish line in 18:54.7. Teammate Laurel Gagnon (20:03.8) finished second – exactly 1:09.1 after Conway. Megan Brockett clinched third with a time of 20:48.5.
Kaitlin George-Blay led the Crusaders. Her time of 21:09 was good for fourth place.
Gang Green scored 20 team points to distance itself from Memorial (56), Trinity (68) and West (102).
“It was scorching on those hills,” Conway told the Union Leader. “Our team is looking pretty strong, though we do have a couple of girls fighting injuries.”
The division championships take place Oct. 29. Central certainly seems posed to, yet again, dominate Division I.
Pinkerton Academy (6-0 overall, 5-0 Div. I) continued to dominate in the season's sixth week. The Derry squad – ranked No. 1 in New Hampshire – rolled to a 42-16 road win at No. 2 Exeter High.
Seniors Emmitt Smith and Kevin Davies combined for 408 rushing yards and six touchdowns in the Oct. 6 contest, played a night earlier than originally scheduled to avoid a conflict with Yom Kippur.
Smith's number was called just eight times. But the senior ran for 288 yards, which included scores of 96, 80 and 23 yards. His first and second touchdown runs came on consecutive touches.
Davies gained 120 yards on nine carries. His 67-yard score kicked off a string of three consecutive one-play scoring drives for the Astros.
Days earlier, on Oct. 1, the Astros thumped arch-rival Londonderry High, 41-6. Senior Ryan Coombs was the star with three TDs, including a 74-yard reception, and punt returns of 80 and 70 yards.
TIE GOES TO ...
Sixth-seeded Hanover High won the Division II golf championship Oct. 6, beating previously perfect Windham High at Canterbury Woods Golf Club.
What separated the teams? Try a tiebreaker.
Hanover and Windham recorded identical team scores of 403. Each team's five lowest scores created the total.
Nick Fairweather and Connor Greenleaf each carded a 76 to lead Windham, which entered 21-0. Adam Dolan (81), Jack Grubbs (83) and Patrick Higgins (87) rounded out the team's top five.
Nate Choukas (74) and Benny Hayes (80) led Hanover. Nick O'Donnell, Kenyon Hunt and Mattson Rosenbaum each chipped in with an 83.
NHIAA golf breaks the tie by using each team's sixth-best score. Austin Taylor (87) clinched the crown for Hanover.
Division I – Keene High won its second consecutive title with a team score of 402. Chelso Barrett paced the Blackbirds with a 74, edging Londonderry High's Taylor Simpson at Nashua Country Club.
Division III – For the fourth straight season, Mascenic Regional of New Ipswich finished No. 1. The Vikings, using their four lowest scorers, tallied a 327 at Pheasant Ridge Country Club. Andrew Martel shot a team-best 80, though Gilford High's Chris Houston recorded a 67.
Division IV – Moultonborough Academy, last year's Division III king, reigned supreme with a team total of 329. Hayden Maroun topped the leaderboard with a 77.
As for individual golf champions, Keene's Barrett, Windham's Fairweather, Gilford's Houston and Moultonborough's Maroun were crowned kings Oct. 8.
Barrett won his second consecutive Division I title with a 74-72–146 at Nashua Country Club.
In a three-golfer playoff at Canterbury Woods, Fairweather (76-72–148) birdied the first hole to win the Division II title.
Houston shot a 67-70–137 at Pheasant Ridge to capture his fourth straight Division III crown.
Maroun carded a 77-74–151 at Pheasant Ridge for a comfortable 10-stroke triumph in Division IV play.
Pinkerton girls' lacrosse will be under new leadership this spring. Bryon Murphy, who started the program, announced his resignation Oct. 5.
Murphy served as head coach for 13 seasons. He compiled a career record of 186-59-1. He won the Division I championship in 2004, and finished runner-up in 2005, 2008 and 2009.
The school's decision last spring to cut its teaching staff factored in Murphy's decision. The coach's daughter, Celine, was let go after teaching for four years and serving as a lacrosse assistant.
“I think that we were certainly a program that's been respected over the years. We were considered a top-tier team,” Murphy told New Hampshire GameDay. “I have no regrets with anything we've done. The overall body of work would speak favorably for how we did things over the years.”
Murphy said he has no plans to step down as Pinkerton football's defensive coordinator, a role he has filled since the 1980s.
Granite State gridiron fans were introduced to the “New Hampshire High School Football Show” on Oct. 8. It's a two-hour live program, which I co-host with Pete Tarrier.
The show airs every Saturday from 7 to 9 a.m. on WGIR-AM 610 in Greater Manchester and WQSO-FM 96.7 “The Wave” on the Seacoast. Fans can also listen online at www.wgiram.com and www.967thewave.com.
Coaches who joined the debut show were Bishop Guertin's Travis Cote, Exeter's Bill Ball, Pinkerton's Brian O'Reilly and Manchester Central's Ryan Ray.
GRANITE STATE GREATS
– Oct. 6: Nashua South High senior Armond McRae totaled 248 all-purpose yards in his team's 47-0 Week 6 win over Gate City rival Nashua North High. He ran for 55- and 48-yard TDs, caught a 58-yard pass for six points and returned a kickoff 74 yards.
– Oct. 6: Junior quarterback Lucas Luopa cracked 300 passing yards and fired five TDs in Keene High's 36-13 Division II home win over Merrimack High.
– Oct. 7: Salem High senior Jerickson Fedrick answered all doubts about whether he was returning too early from a hip injury sustained one week earlier. He erupted for 365 yards and five touchdowns as the Division I Blue Devils overwhelmed Division II Timberlane Regional of Plaistow, 59-20.
– Oct. 11: Sisters Colbi and Berklee Vaillancourt combined for three goals and an assist in a 5-1 Division III field hockey win for Manchester's Derryfield School. Colbi led the Cougars against Mascenic with two markers.
– Oct. 12: Liz Peabody of Northwood's Coe-Brown Academy recorded 19 service points, 15 kills, 10 digs and five aces in a 3-1 girls' volleyball setback to Somersworth High.
Marc Thaler is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He co-hosts the “New Hampshire High School Football Show” on WGIR-AM 610 and WQSO-FM 96.7 every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. Read his “New Hampshire GameDay” blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.