Boston High School: Bedford (N.H.)

New Hampshire Week 6 football preview

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
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There are plenty of people who figured the Concord High School football team would be good this season, but it’s unlikely anyone expected the Crimson Tide to be this good.

New HampshireConcord is 5-0, has won each game by at least 28 points and is averaging 50 points per contest.

Two Crimson Tide running backs are averaging more than 13 yards per carry: Mark Gaudet (13.5) and Walters Ndi (13.2).

“They’ve had their way with everybody,” Pinkerton Academy coach Brian O’Reilly said when asked about Concord, a team Pinkerton will face Friday night in Derry. “No one has been able to stay with them so far, so we’ll see. If we’re not able to stop their offense it’s going to be a long night.”

The Astros are having a pretty good season as well, Pinkerton has won four in a row since opening with a 14-12 loss at unbeaten Bedford.

Pinkerton has the top offensive threat in the state in senior running back Manny Latimore, who has run for 955 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.

Concord coach Eric Brown said the No. 1 thing on his team’s to-do list tonight is preventing Latimore from having a huge night.

“Manny Latimore is in a class by himself,” Brown said. “It’s not just his runs from scrimmage. It’s his punt returns, kickoff returns and the other things he’s done. Hopefully they’ll have to go to someone else.

“We’ve been really strong against the run, but I think Pinkerton’s offense is a different level than some of the teams we’ve been playing. This is going to be a big challenge for us.”

Elsewhere in Division I this weekend:

Spaulding (Rochester) will meet Bishop Guertin (Nashua) on Saturday (4 p.m.) at Nashua’s Stellos Stadium. The game features two teams that are battling to get into the playoffs. BG (4-1) suffered a one-point setback against Winnacunnet (Hampton) in its opener, but has won four in a row since then. Spaulding (3-2) thrust itself into the playoff picture by beating Winnacunnet 42-29 last Friday.

Keene (3-2) will play at Winnacunnet (3-2) in a game that will all but eliminate one team from the playoff hunt. Keene is in third place, behind Nashua South (5-0) and Bishop Guertin (4-1), in Division I West. Winnacunnet is in a three-way tie for first place with Spaulding and Exeter (3-2) in Division I East. Two teams from each conference will qualify for postseason play.

DIVISION II

Even though St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover is about a 15-minute ride from Portsmouth High School, it’s been more than 40 years since the schools played each other in football. That will change Friday night, when the teams will meet in Portsmouth.

St. Thomas is 5-0, Portsmouth is 4-1. The winner will have sole possession of first place in Division II East. Each team runs a spread offense.

“We’re very similar in terms of style,” St. Thomas coach Eric Cumba said. “It could be a very high-scoring game, or the longest game in history.”

St. Thomas has allowed 41 points in its five victories, two of which were shutouts. Portsmouth has scored at least 35 points in each of its five games, and has put up at least 41 points three times.

Portsmouth has won the last two Division III championships, and St. Thomas enters the weekend as one of seven unbeaten teams in the state. Concord, Bedford, Nashua South, Plymouth, Monadnock and Pelham are the others.

“The first thing that jumps out at you is that they carry that Portsmouth High School aura,” St. Thomas coach Eric Cumba said. “There’s a lot of tradition going on there.

“Then when you pop in the film you see that they get the ball to a lot of different guys all over the field. They might be the most explosive team I’ve coached against. They’re a lot like Trinity (Manchester) and Plymouth in terms of their ability to score points, they just do it in a different way.”

DIVISION III

Pelham, the only unbeaten team in Division III, will try to extend its winning streak to five games when it plays at Epping-Newmarket (2-2) Saturday. Despite its 4-0 record, Pelham has little room for error, since the three other teams in its conference -- Bow, Campbell and Somersworth -- each have three victories.

Pelham’s defense has allowed 20 points in its four games. Division I Bedford is the only team in the state that has allowed fewer points (12).

In terms of playoff position, the most meaningful game in Division III this weekend is Saturday’s matchup between Gilford (3-2) and Newfound (2-2) in Bristol. Gilford is tied with Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough for first place in Division III North. Newfound is alone in third.

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New Hampshire Week 5 football preview

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
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Even though his team is off to a 4-0 start, Nashua South coach Scott Knight said he still doesn’t know how good his Panthers are. Why? Because Nashua South has yet to play any of the heavyweights in Division I.

New HampshireSouth’s victories have come against Spaulding (2-2), Alvirne (1-3), Timberlane (1-3) and Nashua North (0-4).

“We could use a signature win this year,” Knight said. “We really don’t have one.”

The Panthers could get one Friday night when they face Exeter (3-1) at Nashua’s Stellos Stadium. Exeter has won the last two Division I titles, but is coming off Saturday’s 21-14 overtime loss to Bishop Guertin.

“We got what we deserved against Guertin,” Exeter coach Bill Ball said. “We have to get better.”

Exeter’s biggest challenge tonight will be stopping Nashua South quarterback Trevor Knight (Scott’s son), who has completed 32 of 56 passes for 449 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Knight, who has committed to play at the University of New Hampshire, missed one game and half of another with a dislocated thumb.

“He makes it interesting because he’s a run-pass threat,” Ball said. “He can beat you long or with the underneath stuff. Plus he’s probably the best athlete in the state with his feet.”

Senior fullback Jay Inzenga is the top threat for Exeter. Inzenga has rushed for 534 yards on 72 carries, but was kept out of the end zone in last weekend’s loss to BG.

“It’ll be a tall order, but we have the size to compete with them up front,” Scott Knight said. “We’ll find out where we’re at for sure. It’s not a playoff game, but it’s a big one.”

Saturday’s contest between neighboring Bedford (4-0) and Goffstown (1-3) is another interesting Division I game on this weekend’s schedule. The game will be a family feud of sorts, since Bedford head coach Kurt Hines will be calling plays against a Goffstown defense that includes his son, Brockton, a defensive end.

“It’s going to be an emotional one,” Hines said. “Not only am I the head coach, I’m the offensive coordinator, so I’ll be game-planning against my son. After the game, win or lose, there’s going to be tears.”

DIVISION II

Monadnock (4-0) enters the weekend as one of three unbeaten teams in Division II -- Plymouth and St. Thomas are the others -- but will be without linebacker/kicker Mischa Hoffman (concussion) for Friday night’s game against Laconia (2-2). The Huskies may also be without quarterback Isaiah Prince, who suffered a leg injury in last weekend’s victory over Sanborn.

“He was in such pain on the field I thought for sure it was a fracture, but our trainer is fairly certain it’s not an injury to the bone, it the muscle,” Monadnock coach Linwood Patnode said. “My gut tells me he’ll go, but he won’t be 100 percent. He’s been a real treat to watch on offense.”

Saturday’s contest between Milford and Windham will likely go a long way toward sorting out the playoff picture in Division II South. Milford, Trinity and Windham are each 3-1 entering the weekend, but only two teams from that conference will qualify for postseason play.

DIVISION III

Talk about parity. Fourteen of the 17 teams in Division III are 2-2 or better.

In terms of the playoffs, this weekend’s most meaningful games are Friday’s matchup between Winnisquam (2-2) and Pelham (3-0), and Saturday’s contest between Stevens (2-2) and Mascoma (2-1).

UNION LEADER/WGIR/WMUR POWER POLL

1. Concord (4-0)

2. Bedford 4-0

3. Nashua South (4-0)

4. Pinkerton (3-1)

5. Exeter (3-1)

6. Bishop Guertin (3-1)

7. Winnacunnet (3-1)

8. Plymouth (4-0)

9. Keene (2-2)

10. Trinity (3-1)

(Read full post)

Exeter (N.H.) girls' soccer takes national No. 1

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
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The Exeter (N.H.) High School girls' soccer team is ranked No. 1 in the National Soccer Coaches’ Association of America poll that was released earlier this week.

Exeter improved its Division I record to 8-0 and stretched the program’s winning streak to 32 games by defeating previously unbeaten Bedford, 3-0, Tuesday. Bedford entered that contest with a 7-0-1 record and had surrendered two goals in those eight games.

“I think [the ranking] is built on your reputation and your record,” Exeter coach Megan Young said. “It’s a reflection of the program, not of this individual team. We have to establish our own identity. It is nice, but at the same time we’re keeping it in perspective.”

Exeter has outscored its opponents 33-4 this season. Six of the team’s eight victories have been shutouts. Junior Casey Estey, who collected two goals in Tuesday’s victory over Bedford, is the team’s leading scorer with 17 goals.

Young, who played soccer at Exeter and for Norwich University, is in her 13th season as the program’s head coach. This year’s Exeter team has eight seniors, 10 juniors and one freshman.

The Blue Hawks were ranked No. 1 in the Sept. 17 NSCAA poll, but dropped to No. 2 on Sept. 24. Exeter moved back to the top spot after Houston High School of Germantown, Tenn., slipped into a tie for No. 2 this week.

There are three other New England teams in this week’s poll: Massachusetts No. 1 squad Central Catholic is No. 7, Falmouth, Maine is No. 13 and Champlain Valley Union of Hinesburg, Vt. is No. 21.

Exeter, which has won the last four Division I state championships, hasn’t lost a game since the 2011 season. The Blue Hawks have won six of the last seven Division I titles. The program has a 130-8-3 record since the start of the 2006 season.

“Quietly, I think the girls do get excited by it (the national ranking),” Young said. “I think they enjoy the publicity that it’s gotten. At the same time I have to remind them to stay level-headed.”

Exeter will try to pass another tough test Thursday, when it plays Pinkerton Academy (8-0-0) in Derry, N.H.

NSCAA Top 25 national poll:

1. Exeter (Exeter, N.H.) 7-0-0
2. South Side (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) 6-0-1
2. Houston (Germantown, Tenn.) 12-0-1
4. Maria Carillo (Santa Rosa, Calif.) 9-0-1
5. Northern Highlands (Allendale, N.J.) 6-0-0
6. Rocky River (Rocky River, Ohio) 11-0-1
7. Cumberland Valley (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) 12-0-0
7. Central Catholic (Lawrence, Mass.) 8-0-0
9. Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) 6-0-3
10. Northport (Northport, N.Y.) 7-0-0
11. Immaculate Heart Academy (Township of Washington, N.J.) 7-0-0
12. Twinsburg (Twinsburg, Ohio) 11-0-1
13. Falmouth (Falmouth, Maine) 6-0-0
14. Jesuit (Portland, Ore.) 6-0-1
15. Sacred Heart Academy (Louisville, Ky.) 11-0-2
16. Arlington (LaGrangeville, N.Y.) 7-0-0
17. Neshaminy (Langhorne, Pa.) 9-0-0
18. Gig Harbor (Gig Harbor, Wash.) 5-0-0
19. Carmel (Carmel, Ind.) 11-1-2
20. Winfield (Winfield, W.Va.) 14-0-0
21. Champlain Valley Union (Hinesburg, Vt.) 8-0-0
22. Massapequa (Massapequa, N.Y.) 7-0-0
23. Montgomery (Santa Rosa, N.Y.) 9-1-0
24. Zionsville (Zionsville, Ind.) 11-2-2
25. Alta (Sandy, Utah) 10-1-0
25. McDonogh School (Owings Mills, Md.) 5-1-1

New Hampshire Week 1 football preview

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
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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.

New HampshireThe 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.”

(Read full post)

New Hampshire football preview

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
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New Hampshire's high school football season will kick-off Wednesday, when teams are allowed to hold their first practice in preparation for the 2013 season.

New HampshireFootball in the Granite State has a drastic new look this year. The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association scrapped the six-division format it had used since 2008 in favor of three larger divisions that have four conferences in each division. The divisions are still based on enrollment and here's how the teams were divided:

Division I
  • East: Exeter, Winnacunnet, Dover, Spaulding and Timberlane.
  • West: Keene, Nashua North, Nashua South, Bishop Guertin and Alvirne.
  • North: Concord, Manchester West, Manchester Central, Manchester Memorial and Bedford.
  • South: Pinkerton, Salem, Londonderry, Goffstown and Merrimack.
Division II
  • North: Kennett, Hanover, Plymouth, Laconia and Lebanon.
  • South: Milford, John Stark, Windham, Souhegan and Trinity.
  • West: Monadnock, Con-Val, Hollis-Brookline, Sanborn and Kearsarge.
  • Central: Portsmouth, Pembroke, Merrimack Valley, Kingswood and St. Thomas.
Division III
  • South: Pelham, Campbell, Bow and Somersworth.
  • Lakes: Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough, Gilford, Winnisquam, Franklin and Newfound.
  • West; Raymond, Epping-Newmarket, Bishop Brady and Farmington/Nute.
  • East: Mascoma, Newport, Fall Mountain and Stevens.

“From the conversations I've had, more coaches like the new alignment than don't like it,” Manchester Memorial coach Peter Colcord said. “I''m just not happy that we've gone down from tenB (regular season) games to nine. That's a lot of work, and you want to play as many games as possible.

“I also understand that you can't please everybody.”

New Hampshire teams will no longer have room for a non-league game, so the Pinkerton-Brockton rivalry is among the casualties of the new alignment.

Eight teams will make the playoffs in each division (two from each conference), so the number of playoff teams (24) is the same as it was last year, when four teams qualified from each of the six divisions. The top two teams from each conference will meet in the quarterfinals. Teams will be reseeded for the semifinals using a point-rating system that will factor in each team's record and strength of its victories. A victory over a strong team is worth more that a victory over a lesser opponent.

“I like it,” Nashua South coach Scott Knight said. “I'm not one of those guys who's afraid of change.

“The only thing I don't like is the two teams in one conference playing in the (quarterfinals). I don't see why you have to play a team twice in a 20-team division. I'd like to play different teams in the playoffs.

“After this year I'm sure they'll tweak it, but we're definitely headed in the right direction.”

TEAMS TO WATCH
Here are 10 teams that should be in the hunt for a championship this season:
  1. PINKERTON ACADEMY -- The Astros have the state's premier running back in senior Manny Latimore, who rushed for 1,477 yards last season.
  2. NASHUA SOUTH -- South quarterback Trevor Knight, a three-year starter, has committed to the University of New Hampshire.
  3. EXETER -- The Blue Hawks are seeking their third straight Division I title.
  4. WINNACUNNET -- The Warriors won last year's Division II championship. They make the move to Division I this year.
  5. CONCORD -- If there's a surprise team in Division I this season it will likely be the Crimson Tide.
  6. PORTSMOUTH -- Clippers are also stepping up in class (to Division II) after winning the last two Division III championships.
  7. TRINITY -- Quarterback Carmen Giampetruzzi is headed to Boston College … to play baseball.
  8. PLYMOUTH -- Plymouth coach Chuck Lenahan has guided the Bobcats to 19 state titles.
  9. BISHOP GUERTIN -- There's plenty of talent left over from a team that reach the Division II semifinals last fall.
  10. BEDFORD -- The Bulldogs competed in Division III two years ago, moved to Division II last year and are in Division I this season.
MEET THE NEW BOSS
First-year head coaches this season: Mark Phillips (Alvirne), Dante Laurendi (Merrimack), Rob Pike (Salem), Jeff Hunt (Spaulding), Rich Bergskaug (Hollis-Brookline), Brian Pafford (Portsmouth), Mike Lochman (Souhegan), Greg Gush (Campbell), Vance Sullivan (Manchester West), Jeff Kaplan (Franklin) and Chris Marden (Gilford).

NIGHT VISION
Pinkerton Academy in Derry has added lights around its football field and, with one exception, will play its home games on Friday nights this season. Pinkerton's game against Londonderry will be played in Derry on a Saturday night, Sept. 28.

Last year, Pinkerton was the only Division I school without lights.

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.

N.H. All-Star Football: West 13, East 7

June, 30, 2013
6/30/13
10:28
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DURHAM, N.H. -– Very little separated the teams in Saturday's CHaD New Hampshire East-West All-Star Football Game at the University of New Hampshire's Cowell Stadium.

The West prevailed 13-7 when Goffstown tailback Connor Benjamin scored on an 8-yard run in overtime.

“I wanted to get in and score more than anything,” Benjamin said. “I ran my hardest and it paid off. We worked hard all week for this.”

The West had an opportunity to win the game in regulation, but Portsmouth's Rick Holt blocked Zach Ziemba's 41-yard field goal attempt as time expired. The East fumbled on the 1-yard line on its overtime possession.

“I feel bad for the kid who fumbled, but what are you going to do –- that's part of the game,” West coach Jim Schubert said. “I thought our kids played real hard, and that's all I cared about.”

The game raises money for Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. The West won the inaugural game 44-12 last summer.

“Real good football game,” East coach Bob Camirand said. “Obviously we were disappointed losing, but I can live with this. It was a great effort on both sides. Two quality teams and I thought two well-coached teams.”

The East trailed by seven until St. Thomas Aquinas running back Ryan Monette scored on a 1-yard run with 10:48 to play. Monette rushed for a game-high 102 yards on 25 carries. He also caught a 15-yard pass and gained 22 yards on two punt returns.

The only scoring in the first half came on a 1-yard pass from quarterback James Caparell to former Bedford teammate Brian Collins with 3:42 left in the first quarter. The scoring drive covered 60 yards in six plays. The big play was a 47-yard pass from Caparell to Collins, who had three catches for 53 yards in the victory.

Benjamin, who was a quarterback during his junior and senior seasons at Goffstown, led the West's running game with 57 yards on 14 carries.

DEFENSE DOMINATES
Holt, a defensive tackle who will play at the University of New Hampshire, was named the game's Most Valuable Player. In addition to blocking what could have been a game-winning field goal, Holt had 8-1/2 tackles, including a sack.

“I knew (UNH coach) Sean McDonnell was here and I wanted to leave it out on the field to the best of my ability, and I think I did that,” Holt said. “Thankfully he let me play in this.”

The West averaged 3.6 yards per play. The East averaged 3.5.

Nashua North linebacker/defensive end Deric Wagner recorded a game-high 10 tackles. The West received 9-1/2 tackles from Bedford linebacker David Cannone and 7-1/2 from Stevens linebacker C.J. Gosselin.

“We were a little undersized, but the kids really stuck in there on defense,” Schubert said. “No. 71 (Holt) was by far the best player on the field. We couldn't handle him. He disrupted our three-step drop and our five-step drop so we had to start sprinting out in the third quarter.

“When you only have 10 days (to prepare) defense is always going to dominate. If you can look at film of a defense then that's different.”

MONEY MATTERS
According to CHaD officials, the game raised $301,500, which included $48,000 in in-kind donations (uniforms, food, etc.)....Souhegan's Tyler Ford had a 74-yard punt....Caparell, who is New Hampshire's leader in career passing yardage (5,389), completed 8 of 12 pass attempts for 97 yards. He will play for the University of Rhode Island....Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, a former assistant coach at UNH, was among those in attendance.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

May, 16, 2013
5/16/13
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White Mountains Regional won last year's Division III softball championship, but there's a lot to like about this year's White Mountains team as well.

New HampshireThe Spartans, who improved their Division III record to 13-0 by beating Kennett, 5-1, Monday, are the only unbeaten high school softball or baseball team in New Hampshire. White Mountains has dominant pitching and a .460 team batting average.

"We have some unrecognized girls who have been playing pretty good defense too,” White Mountains coach Forrest Hicks said. “I feel we’re a complete team. These girls have played together a lot."

White Mountains has 10 players on its roster who played in more than 100 games for the Way North summer league team last year. Junior pitcher Erica Millett is among those players. Millett is 11-0 with a 0.56 ERA this spring.

White Mountains, which beat Stevens of Claremont to win last year's title, has surrendered 13 runs in its 13 games.

"If Erica’s not the best pitcher in the state, she’s probably very close," Hicks said. "She throws multiple pitches, she throws hard and she has great control."

All but one player in the White Mountains starting lineup is batting over .400. Rebecca Hicks (Forrest's daughter) is batting a team-high .547, followed by Kaylee Savage (.523) and Chelsea Payer (.517).

Forrest Hicks said he expects Gilford and Campbell to be among the major obstacles between White Mountains and another state title.

"I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I’m really not surprised by how the girls have been playing," he said. "We were competitive against a lot of good teams in the summer. The only real surprise has been the consistency of our defense."

LET THERE BE LIGHTS
Pinkerton Academy football fans will have their Saturdays free this fall.

Lights are scheduled to be installed at Pinkerton Academy's football field and track in time for the Astros to play their 2013 home games on Friday nights. Last season, Pinkerton was the only Division I football program without lights.

"I've been told that we are good to go," Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly said. "They have announced it to the public. The lights will go up in May and June."

Pinkerton's first home night game will be Sept. 13 against Manchester Central. The Astros will also play Londonderry, Concord and Goffstown at home this season.

COACHING CAROUSEL
Claude Gagnon's tenure as Spaulding's football coach was a short one. Gagnon resigned in late April after spending one season as the the Red Raiders' head coach. Spaulding athletic director Kevin Hebert said Gagnon, who is self-employed, had to make some commitments in his personal life that prevented him from returning for a second season.

“He's a builder and things have been pretty busy for him, and his son is in the military and heading back to Afghanistan, so he'll have to help take care of his grandson while he's gone,” Hebert said

Spaulding was 3-8 overall and 2-6 in Division II last season. Gagnon's replacement will be Spaulding's fifth head coach in as many years.

TOUGH TO BEAT
The Bedford boys' lacrosse team extended its winning streak to 33 games by posting a 13-6 Division II triumph over Bow on Monday.

Bedford's winning streak, which began last season, includes victories over three Division I opponents this season: Exeter (11-10), Hanover (11-7) and Londonderry (16-6).

PITCHING IN
Hanover's Joe Cravero tossed a no-hitter against rival Lebanon on May 8. Cravero, who will play for Holy Cross next season, struck out 16 – including 11 of the last 12 batters he faced – in Hanover's 8-0 victory.

MEMORABLE MILESTONE
The Alvirne baseball team's 11-1 triumph over Salem on Monday was career victory No. 300 for Mike Lee, who is in his 30th season as Alvirne’s head coach.

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

January, 28, 2013
1/28/13
12:24
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The Division I girls basketball season is more than halfway over, and the question many people are asking is this: Just how good is Pinkerton Academy?

New HampshirePinkerton wasn't mentioned among the favorites when the season began, but the Astros are the lone unbeaten team in the division. Pinkerton raised its record to 10-0 by beating Manchester Central, 71-43, Friday night.

Pinkerton leads a pack of contenders that includes Bishop Guertin (9-1), Nashua North (9-1), Bedford (10-2) and Londonderry (8-2).

“The reality is we have not played any of the top four teams – BG, Londonderry, North and Bedford,” Pinkerton head coach John Barry said. “So not playing the top four teams makes the (10-0) record a little deceptive. We have some serious weaknesses that may show up when we play those teams.

“I'd be stupid not to like (the 10-0 start). We felt it was attainable, but I'm a realist and I'm practical about things.”

Senior point guard Samantha Breslin is the only senior on the Pinkerton roster. The Astros have been winning with a balanced offense, and a defense that has held seven of its 10 opponents to less than 40 points.

“If any one of my players tries to do too much by themselves we have problems,” Barry said. “When they play together, they're good. We're not a team based on one star.”

Any question about where Pinkerton fits in Division I should be answered in the first half of February. On Feb. 1 the Astros begin a four-game stretch that features games against Londonderry, Nashua North, BG and Bedford.

“They will play the top teams tough,” Manchester Central head coach Mike Wenners said. “They're more than capable of beating anybody.”

GAGNE HEADED TO WESTFORD ACADEMY
Adam Gagne has resigned as Salem High School's football coach to become the head coach at Westford (Mass.) Academy.

Salem was 0-11 last season, Gagne's only season as the program's head coach. Gagne teaches and coaches freshman basketball at Westford Academy.

"While I thoroughly enjoyed my time coaching at Salem, the opportunity to teach and coach at Westford Academy was something I had to take advantage of," Gagne said. "I am very grateful for this great opportunity and I'm excited to get started."

Gagne, who lives in Haverhill, Mass, was an assistant coach at Westford Academy under Rich McKenna for three seasons before he was hired to replace Jack Gati as Salem's head coach. Gagne was also an assistant coach at Merrimack College from 2003 to 2009.

McKenna recently became the head coach at Billerica (Mass.) High.

Gati resigned following the 2011 season, after guiding Salem to a 121-77 record and two state championships during his 18 seasons at the school. Gati has also served as the head coach at Trinity (1978-85) and Concord (1986-93). He has a 221-138 career record with four state championships (1987, 1989, 1995 and 2009).

BERLIN MEETING LITTLE RESISTANCE
No New Hampshire high school hockey team has a stronger pedigree than Berlin, which has made 27 championship game appearances and claimed nine titles since 1947. Lack of participation prompted Berlin to drop from Division I to Division III following the 2011-12 season, however, and the Mountaineers have established themselves as the clear team to beat in their new division.

At 11-0, Berlin is the only unbeaten team in Division III. The Mountaineers have outscored their opponents 79-13, and six of their 11 victories have been shutouts.

Connor Jewett is the team's offensive leader. Through 10 games Jewett led the state in scoring with 30 goals and 19 assists.

JENNESS NOTCHES RARE FEAT
White Mountains Regional girls basketball coach Gary Jenness collected his 600th career victory Friday night when White Mountains defeated Berlin, 47-20. White Mountains improved its Division III record to 12-0 with the win.

Jenness, who is in his 39th season as a head coach, guided White Mountains to a 56-51 triumph over Campbell in last year's Division III championship game. The victory ended Campbell's 39-game winning streak and handed White Mountains its first state title since 1999.

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader, and has been covering high school sports throughout New England since 1992.

Recruiting: Prep's Thomas running patiently

January, 18, 2013
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St John's Prep running back Jonathan Thomas may be known for his above-average speed, but he appears to be in no hurry to select the school where he'll play college football.

Recruiting NotebookThomas, who will be among the top recruits from New England in the Class of 2014, raised his profile by running the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the Under Armour Combine earlier this month. His time was the second fastest overall at the event, and the top time among juniors.

“Right now it's early in the process for me,” Thomas said. “I don't have a No. 1 school. I'll be taking a lot of [unofficial] visits to schools before next season.”

Thomas said Massachusetts is the only school that has extended a scholarship offer, but he expects both Boston College and Virginia to offer soon. Brown and Dartmouth have also shown strong interest.

“My grades are there, but I don't think I'll be going to the Ivy League,” Thomas said. “I want to play at the [FBS] level, and I know I can.”

Thomas, a Peabody resident, said Connecticut and Penn State are two other schools that have shown serious interest. He attended camps at BC and Virginia last summer, and said he's being recruited exclusively as a running back.

“I would like to go down South and play, but right now [BC] is an option,” Thomas said. “Coach Addazio [BC head coach Steve Addazio] is good friends with Coach O'Leary [St. John's Prep coach Jim O'Leary] and he knows what he's doing. He's no stranger to big-time football programs. They're definitely on my list.”

Thomas, a 5-10 1/2, 200-pound junior, helped St. John's Prep win the Division I Super Bowl last season. St. John's Prep defeated Brockton, 48-28, in the championship game.

Thomas finished the season with 1,794 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on 220 carries. He also caught nine passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns.

“I just want a good academic school with good Division I football,” Thomas said. “Whoever has interest in me, I have interest in playing for them.”

QUARTERBACK KEEPER
Bedford (N.H.) High School's James Caparell may have been the best quarterback in New Hampshire last season, but he's still waiting for his first scholarship offer.

Caparell has received interest from mix of FCS and Division II schools, but said at this point his future is unclear. A postgraduate year at Worcester Academy is also a possibility.

Rhode Island, Marist and Albany are among the FCS schools that have shown interest. He's also been contacted by several Division 2 schools in the Northeast-10 Conference, including Merrimack, New Haven, St. Anselm and Stonehill.

“Merrimack and Stonehill have already said they were going to give me money, it's just a matter of how much,” Caparell said. “I'm just looking for a good program at the highest level I can compete at.”

New Hampshire has also shown interest in Caparell, but not as a quarterback. The Wildcats already have several young QBs on their roster.

“They're really the only school looking at me as an athlete,” Caparell said. “I would still get some reps at quarterback, but they see me as a potential wide receiver or defensive back, which I've played.

“I'd like to play quarterback [in college], but it'll really come down to money and the school. Picking the right school is important just in case something happened and I couldn't play football.”

Caparell completed 153 of 233 passes for 2,265 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 536 yards and 11 touchdowns on 87 carries. He completed 579 passes for 5,389 yards during his four-year varsity career.

NOTEWORTHY
Sanford (Maine) High School running back Alex Shain has accepted a full scholarship from Division 2 Assumption last week. Shain rushed for 1,413 yards and scored 28 touchdowns last season, when he also made 43 solo tackles. He is one of three finalists for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, which is awarded annually to Maine's top senior football player. … Running back/defensive back Brendan Flaherty, a key piece on the Beverly High School team that won last year's Division 2A championship, committed to Holy Cross earlier this week. Flaherty rushed for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns on 160 carries last season. He also caught 10 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns. … BC High fullback/linebacker Luke Catarius couldn't pass up an opportunity to play in the Ivy League. Catarius committed to Bryant in December, but told ESPN Boston earlier this week that he intends to attend Princeton. Catarius suffered a broken bone in his right ankle during BC High's first scrimmage last season, and missed first seven regular-season games. He learned that he had been accepted to Princeton last weekend. …. Three-star wide receiver David Coggins (Sacred Heart/Waterbury, Conn.) said he plans to attend prep school next season, but has yet to select a school. Coggins committed to Boston College last year, but parted ways with BC before the start of his senior season.

Recruiting information regarding high school or prep school players in New England can be sent to Roger Brown at rbrown@nhfootballreport.com.

Recruiting Notes: Coggins de-commits from BC

September, 26, 2012
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Strange as it may sound, David Coggins couldn't have been happier last Thursday when he learned that he would be ineligible for the first four games of the 2013 season.

Coggins, a three-star receiver from Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury, Conn., feared he would lose his entire senior season because of recruiting violations committed by representatives of Naugatuck High School. Instead he received a four-game suspension and is allowed to practice with his Sacred Heart team.

“It's a weight off my shoulders,” said Coggins, who committed to Boston College in July. “I was worried about my future.”

Earlier this month Naugatuck officials reported to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference that former Naugatuck football coach Rob Plasky gave money to the parents and legal guardians of three Sacred Heart players – Coggins among them – who intended to transfer to Naugatuck.

Plasky resigned once the recruiting allegations surfaced, and all three players remained at Sacred Heart.

“I didn't know my legal guardian took the money,” Coggins said. “I wanted to transfer because I couldn't afford Sacred Heart. Some of that money was for tuition [past due]. Now I have my tuition [reduced].”

Coggins, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury, said he is no longer committed to Boston College.

“It's not out there yet, but I have de-committed from BC,” he said Tuesday night. “I wanted to keep my options open and see what else is out there.”

Coggins caught 78 passes for 1,427 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore. He's made 139 receptions for 2,256 yards and 17 touchdowns in his two years of varsity football.

According to Coggins, Temple and Illinois are among the schools that have shown interest. He also has an offer from Central Connecticut State.

“BC isn't out of the picture,” Coggins said. “I'm hoping more schools call after the season.

On the rise: Anthony Davis is the rarest of the rare. He's a Division I football recruit from the state of Vermont.

Davis wasn't born and bred in the Green Mountain State, but he is spending a post-graduate year at Vermont Academy in Saxons River. After an injury-plagued senior season, he's hoping a year of prep school will increase his college options.

“He was heavily recruited as a junior, but did not play at all last year because he was injured, “ Vermont Academy coach Mike Atkins said. “Recruiting fell off, so he needed another year for that reason, and, academically, to prepare for college.”

Davis, a wide receiver/defensive back, has offers from Bryant and Elon, but Atkins said several Division I schools are showing interest.

“I just called Penn State [Friday] morning because they inquired about him,” Atkins said. “Athletically, he could be at that level, but he's not there yet. He fancies himself as a wide receiver, but I think he's a better defensive back. He's athletic enough where he could make a mistake and still recover from it.

“He will try out for the basketball team, which has five for six Division I-level kids, some who have already committed – that's the kind of athlete he is.”

Going Green: Former Everett quarterback Jonathan DiBiaso has guided Phillips Exeter Academy to a 2-0 start. DiBiaso, the Gatorade Player of the Year in Massachusetts last year, has committed to Dartmouth.

DiBiaso completed 9 of 13 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday's 34-13 victory over Worcester Academy.

“I've only been here a month and I've already learned so much,” DiBiaso said.

DiBiaso picked Dartmouth over Harvard. He also considered Pennsylvania and Holy Cross.

“Once I went on my official visit [to Dartmouth] I was pretty much sold,” he said.

Footnotes: Boston College-bound quarterback Tim Boyle passed for 276 yards and three touchdowns to help Xavier (Middletown, Conn.) defeat North Haven 49-12 last weekend. Xavier, the top-ranked team in Connecticut, has won 28 games in a row. … Bedford (N.H.) senior Will McInerney, a 6-foot-7, 275-pound tackle, has taken on an assistant coach's role this season. McInerney will not play this fall because he had surgery on each knee earlier this year. According to Bedford coach Kurt Hines, the four schools that have made scholarship offers – New Hampshire, Fordham, Wagner and Colgate – have said they will honor those scholarships as long a McInerney passes a physical in the spring.

Recruiting information regarding high school or prep school football players in New England can be sent to Roger Brown at rbrown@nhfootballreport.com.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

September, 18, 2012
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“V” is for Victoria – as in Victoria Arlen.

New Hampshire
Arlen won four medals – including gold – during a highly successful journey to London for the 2012 Paralympic Games from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9. Swimming for the U.S. national team, the 17-year-old competed in five events at the Aquatics Center and, in addition to grabbing gold, won three silver medals.

She placed second in her first three events, and closed out her run with a gold medal-winning time of 1 minute, 13.33 seconds in the women's 100-meter freestyle on Sept. 8.

The time set a world record. Arlen broke the previous mark, which she owned, by 1.41 seconds.

The Seacoast star celebrated second-place finishes in the 50-meter freestyle (35.32), 400-meter freestyle (5:20.18) and 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay (4:24.57).

Arlen missed by less than 1 second qualifying for the eight-swimmer final in her fourth event, the 100-meter breaststroke. She completed the race in 1:59.67. Hungary's Fanni Illes (1:58.83) edged Arlen for eighth place.

The fact Arlen participated in competitive swimming – on a world stage, no less – is nothing short of miraculous. She was diagnosed as an 11-year-old with transverse meylitis, which affects the spinal cord. The disorder resulted in Arlen's paralysis from the waist-down.

“I succumbed to a vegetative state for three years, and I couldn't walk, talk, eat, move or communicate,” Arlen told New England Cable News in June. “And I was told I wasn't (going to) make it.”

Shortly before the Games, Arlen was briefly ruled ineligible to compete. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) questioned the severity of her disability.

The ruling, appealed by U.S. officials, was overturned. And Arlen returned home with a handful of hardware.

Here are four messages Arlen recently posted to her Twitter page (@Arlenv1), one for each of the medals she earned:

– Sept. 8: “Gold medal and world record in the final race tonight! #pumped #cannotbelieveit”

– Sept. 10: “That moment when (you're) bringing your carry on through security with 4 London 2012 medals and they stop you & search your bag #uncommon”

– Sept. 11: “Officially have 1,001 followers!!! Woohoo #thanksforthesupport #MuchLove”

– Sept. 13: “That awkward moment when (you're) stopped in the Grocery store to take a picture and you have nothing but junk food in your cart..;) #dontjudge”

NEW LEAGUE, NEW COACH
Bedford is moving up to Division I this winter for boys' basketball – and Mike Fitzpatrick is going with the Bulldogs.

A fixture on Manchester's high school hoop scene since 1991, Fitzpatrick spent the past four seasons at Manchester Memorial. But, he told the New Hampshire Union Leader that player commitment waned. Fitzpatrick cited the decision several players made to forgo summer-league games for AAU.

It didn't sit well with Fitzpatrick, who decided to find another opportunity.

The Bulldogs, Division II finalists last season, opened their doors.

“Everything happens for a reason, and I'm happy to be in Bedford,” Fitzpatrick told the statewide newspaper. “I like the challenge of taking a program that's entering its first season in Division I. They've got good talent, and it's going to be fun coaching those players.”

It isn't unrealistic to think Fitzpatrick could fuel for Bedford a first-year Division I run to the final. His first season at Memorial produced a runner-up finish. City rival Trinity won the 2009 title, 50-25.

Fitzpatrick led another Manchester rival, Central, to state championships in 1996 and 2000.

GREAT GET
Southern New Hampshire University recently hired Bob Slater as an assistant coach for the women's lacrosse team.

Slater spent the previous seven seasons as a high school head coach at Londonderry. He turned the NHIAA Division I Lancers from punching bag into the state's premier program.

From 2006-12, Slater amassed a record of 108-25-1 (three championships). The Lancers reached the state semifinals six times and appeared in four consecutive finals from 2009-12.

Londonderry celebrated a championship three-peat from 2009-11. The program also set state record win streaks for consecutive overall triumphs (51) and consecutive victories versus NHIAA opponents (59).

While Slater was at the helm, more than 30 of his players continued their careers in college.

SIZZLING SIGNAL-CALLERS
Four of the state's top quarterbacks in NHIAA football wasted no time dissecting opposing defenses. Senior QBs Connor Benjamin (Div. III Goffstown), James Caparell (Div. II Bedford), Riley Cote (Div. I Manchester Central) and Lucas Luopa (Div. II Keene) were on point in their Week 1 games Aug. 31.

Benjamin had the biggest game, though his Grizzlies lost at Manchester Memorial, 33-32. He erupted for 278 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. He also completed 15 of 27 passes for 229 yards and a score.

Caparell completed 13 of 20 passes for 276 yards and four TDs, as the Bulldogs blasted Milford, 48-7. Bedford's field general finished his night after three quarters. But he did the bulk of his damage before halftime, completing 12 of 17 passes for 267 yards and the four scores.

Cote connected on 12 of his 17 pass attempts. Four of those tosses went for TDs. He finished with 239 yards through the air, and the Little Green unloaded on Timberlane, 32-0.

Luopa was also a dual threat in a 62-27 thrashing of Salem. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 279 yards and four scores. His 12 rushing attempts generated 168 yards and two TDs.

“You keep your eye on it definitely,” Keene head coach John Luopa, the father of his club's QB, said when asked if he's aware of the statewide talent under center. “The way (high school) offenses are going these days, that position is key.”

In Week 2, Caparell added a TD toss to his count. Cote's TD total reached seven.

It was expected Lucas Luopa and Benjamin would duel in Week 3. But the coaches decided to protect all starters from injury by resting them. NHIAA non-league game don't count toward postseason qualification.

It's too bad. Check these two-week totals:

Lucas Luopa – in five quarters of play – is 23-for-37 with 434 yards and six TDs. He ran 17 times for 233 yards and three scores.

Benjamin – in six frames of action – is 24-for-40 with 359 yards and three TDs. He ran 23 times for 421 yards and six scores.

Marc Thaler is a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader. He co-hosts the “N.H. High School Football Show” on WGIR-AM 610 and WQSO-FM 96.7. Read his blog at NewHampshireGameDay.com and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

June, 27, 2012
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Fundraising totals between the teams competing in the inaugural New Hampshire East-West High School Football All-Star Game couldn't have been much closer.

New HampshireThe game itself? That's a different story.

West's all-stars – widely considered underdogs for the June 23 contest at the University of New Hampshire – proved too tough. The combination of overpowering offense and dominant defense led to a 33-point halftime lead and 44-12 final score.

Thaddeus “Junior” Brown was toughest to cover. Manchester Central High's 6-foot 3-inch, 180-pound receiver made all four of his catches for 87 yards in the first half. Three receptions went for touchdowns, including a 50-yard down-the-right-seam dagger that helped Team West build a 37-6 halftime lead.

“This means a lot. I worked hard for it,” Brown, the game's first Bo Dickson MVP, said of the trophy he was handed for his efforts. “The coaches helped me out a lot. I just busted my butt for 10 days. The outcome was this MVP.”

Off the field, the outcome of Brown's efforts, as well as the 73 other all-stars, was even more impressive.

Teams East and West combined to raise $51,301.21 for Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) in Lebanon.

Team East was designated the home team. It earned use of UNH football's locker room for winning the head-to-head fundraising contest. Coach Bill Raycraft's players raised $25,751.21 – a mere $201.21 more than West's standouts.

In total, $301,000 was raised for CHaD.

HS All Star Game
BASCTBD by editorial
“These kids came together and did a heck of a job for a great cause,” said Team West coach Keith Jones, whose 6-year-old son, Harris, a CHaD patient, participated in the pre-game coin toss.

Harris was involved in a freak snowmobile accident three years ago. His father has said many times if not for CHaD, right-leg amputation would have been required.

On gameday, the soon-to-be first-grader made an appearance in Team West's locker room prior to warm-ups. It gave the players an additional boost, which carried over to kickoff.

Several playmakers fueled Team West's 37-point first half.

Brown caught a pair of 9-yard TD passes from Manchester West High's Aaron Martin, who also used his speed to sneak inside the left pylon for a 2-yard rushing score.

Merrimack High's Jackson King returned an interception 19-yards for a TD.

Nashua South's Johnny Bieren was crucial to posting a second-quarter safety. He also forced and recovered a fumble on one of his three quarterback sacks.

Central's Stephen Grzywacz – who raised a players-best $5,965 for CHaD – converted five extra points (6-for-6 overall).

East's all-stars committed five of the game's eight turnovers. The favored squad fell behind, 30-0, before Salem High's Jerickson Fedrick returned a kickoff 96 yards to paydirt.

Fedrick, and Pinkerton Academy of Derry stars Kevin Davies and Emmitt Smith, were all neutralized. Combining to rush for 4,649 yards and 57 TDs last fall, the trio managed 99 yards – 28 through two quarters.

Conor Donovan of Division VI cooperative team Inter-Lakes-Moultonborough scored East's second TD early in the third. Derek Paradis of Nashua South answered with an up-the-gut run.

“The first series, I thought we did pretty well. We stopped them (but) right away turned the ball over,” Raycraft said. “That's not the way you want to start an all-star game. From there, we pressed a little bit more than we probably should have and, because of that, created more turnovers.

“But, like I told the kids, I had a blast these last (10) days,” he added. “I couldn't have asked for a better group of kids. It's going to be fun watching where they go from here. The score will fade, but they set the tone for fundraising.”

BASEBALL CHAMPS
Division I: Dillon Emerson's extra-inning hit snapped two droughts, including a lengthy one for Concord High.

The senior's single down the right-field line scored Pat Cannon and gave the top-seeded Crimson Tide a 5-4 walk-off win over No. 3 seed Merrimack High in the state final June 16 at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of Double-A baseball's New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Emerson's hit snapped an 0-for-4 skid in the title game and earned Concord (18-4) its first crown since 1980. The Tide lost the state final in 2011.

“I was in the dugout upset over all the missed opportunities I had when coach [Scott Owen] came up to me and said, 'Stick with it. You'll get your at-bat and you'll come through.' He was right,” Emerson told the New Hampshire Sunday News.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

June, 8, 2012
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Bishop Guertin High's wealth of talent, particularly on defense, is best illustrated by this fact related to the 2012 NHIAA Division I final:

New HampshireMinus one of their best close defenders the Nashua powerhouse in boys' lacrosse still clinched a championship three-peat.

Kyle Karaska, a University of Massachusetts recruit, broke his hand in the state semifinals. But given the depth at the position, BG still broke the spirits of Hanover High's Marauders with a 10-5 title-clinching win June 6.

The final score doesn't do BG justice, either. This contest, played at Bedford High, was never in question.

“I thought we outplayed them better than 4-0. But that's been the story of our season,” said BG coach Chris Cameron, referencing the halftime score and his club's ability to dominate play despite what the scoreboard suggested. “We were just so good defensively.”

UMass commit Bob Fahey, the coaches' association pick as defensive player of the year, spearheaded yet another dominant defensive performance. The state's No. 1-ranked club finished 14-1 in-state, and 18-3 overall.

The out-of-state setbacks were by a combined two goals. Guertin lost to La Salle Academy (R.I.), 7-6, and nationally ranked Duxbury (Mass.) High, 6-5.

The Cards also avenged their only in-state loss. After thumping Hanover, 15-3, in the season-opener, Cameron's boys were stunned 10 days later by the same team, 14-9.

“After our (April 20) performance up in Hanover, I thought, 'Maybe they're just better than us,'” Cameron said. “But I could tell right away (in the final) that our kids were ready to play.”

Fahey said he and his teammates “loved our matchups” for the title game. New Hampshire's top close defender took away attackman Christian Johansen.

Long-stick midfielder Brody Smith stayed glued to the other half of Hanover's top scoring tandem, midfielder and Michigan recruit Christian Wolter.

Johansen and Wolter, the sparks to Hanover's up-tempo game, did not score in the season-opening loss. They struck for seven goals and an assist in the win.

“We wanted to slow them in transition,” said Fahey, well aware Hanover's snipers combined for one goal in the rubber match.

R.I.T.-bound Jay Krzyston and Karaska's replacement, Endicott commit Sean Fenn, completed BG's dominant defensive unit. They helped take away the middle and force shooters to fire from the perimeter.

Goaltender and Harvard recruit Colin Delea (eight saves) took a shutout deep into the third quarter, which ended with BG boasting a 10-2 lead.

That's because Blake Boudreau owned the faceoff X after halftime.

BG's junior midfielder won 8 of 9 third-quarter faceoffs. It translated to lengthy possessions and a back-breaking 6-2 frame.

The fourth quarter? It was merely a formality.

Appearing in its eighth straight Division I final, BG became the first program since Pinkerton Academy of Derry (1999-2002) to celebrate a three-peat.

The Cards clinched their fifth crown since emerging on the scene as a surprise winner in 2005.

“They like to push in transition. But, 6-on-6, that's not their game,” Cameron said of the Marauders. “That took them out of their game – and (forced them) to play from behind.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

March, 31, 2012
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History will show Merrimack High survived the 16-team Division I boys' basketball bracket to win the 2011-12 tournament title as a 7-seed.

But these Tomahawks were hardly a Cinderella squad.

“We knew we were better than a 7-seed,” said coach Tim Goodridge, whose team overcame a season-long rash of injuries to key contributors, and rattled off four postseason wins, the last one a 65-56 decision over No. 4 seed Manchester Central High that clinched the state crown March 17.

Goodridge's group was a preseason pick to reach the University of New Hampshire's Lundholm Gym for the Final Four. Cutting down the nets was a distinct possibility.

Yet the injury bug bit early –- and often. Kyle Richardson, the 6-foot 4-inch starting center, suffered a nasty knee injury in the preseason.

Dimitri Floras, early on offered a scholarship by UNH, missed a bulk of the regular season. The star junior broke his right wrist in late-January. Days later, 6-foot-3 senior Jared Peabody was sidelined with arm trouble.

Football standout Jackson King, a suffocating defender for the hoop team, also dealt with a freak injury. The senior, landing awkwardly after making a game-winning block in mid-February, broke his wrist. Classmate Bryan Courtemanche suffered a concussion.

“It felt like I was running a M.A.S.H. Unit for a while,” said Goodridge, who led Merrimack to its third Division I title this millennium, and first crown since 2004. “The last game was probably the first time we had everyone in uniform – and we had no excuses.”

Floras was a definite difference-maker. He made a cameo just before the tourney, but tweaked his ankle in the regular season's final week. Goodridge opted to sit Merrimack's maestro until “win or go home” became the slogan for every squad.

Goodridge made a good call.

The 6-foot-2 star scored 76 points in tourney wins over defending champ and 10-seed Bishop Guertin High of Nashua (62-51 overtime), 15-seed and surprise quarterfinalist Dover High (74-54), 6-seed Spaulding High of Rochester (53-39), and Central.

Merrimack's resilience, however, was truly tested during the regular season. Out of necessity, roles changed.

And changed.

And changed.

As a result, though, lesser-known talents were called upon to play key minutes. Dylan O'Brien, Brad Jarry, Connor Whelan and, before his concussion, Courtemanche took advantage of the opportunity.

Meanwhile, Jeff Giannelli, a towering 6-foot-7 presence in the post, and brothers Tyler and Eric Gendron assumed additional responsibilities.

The trio didn't disappoint, particularly Tyler, a 6-foot-5 senior, who filled in at point guard, and continued to score when needed. Gatorade, in turn, named him the Granite State's Player of the Year.

“I'm going to really miss this group. Eight seniors, 15 on the roster,” Goodridge said. “For them to adapt all season long was tremendous.”

TITLE NO. 18
The best part about a season concluding? Coaches whose teams win a title finally tell you what they really think.

Take Jim Mulvey, Portsmouth High's six-year coach. His second-seeded Clippers overwhelmed 5-seed Bedford High, 58-33, for the Division II boys' basketball title March 17 at UNH.

“I always told them we were the best team. We were the hardest working team,” said Mulvey, whose star senior guard Kamahl Walker, erupted for 22 points, six steals, four rebounds and three assists. “Pressure usually gets to you, when you get to Durham, if you're not prepared. We were prepared.”

Portsmouth's 25-point pasting earned the program its 18th state title dating to 1923. The championship erased back-to-back frustrating finishes for the team's 11 players, seven of whom were seniors.

A year earlier, Portsmouth lost the final by six points to defending champion Milford High. Two years earlier, the Clippers were KO'd by those same Spartans in overtime of the semifinals.

Fair to say Portsmouth (20-2 Div. II) was motivated?

“From Day 1,” the Clippers coach said. “It's much easier to win with seniors. They're more prepared. They understand it. They get it.”

Mulvey said his team really hit high gear midway through the season. Kyle DiCesare, also a standout football player, returned from a broken ankle that sidelined him in the fall.

DiCesare's return gave Portsmouth yet another offensive weapon, and further strengthened a defense that rarely allowed easy buckets.

Undersized big men Charlie Duprey (6-foot-4) and Gregg Tsougranis (6-foot-2) stood tall, especially in the final. Portsmouth's “bigs,” plus DiCesare at 6-foot-2, matched up with Bedford's giant front line.

The Bulldogs boasted three players at least two inches taller than Duprey: Colin McManus (6-foot-10), Trevor Fahmy (6-foot-8) and Roger Larrivee (6-foot-6).

The mismatch never materialized.

“This team felt so much like 2009 to me,” said Mulvey, referring to Portsmouth's previous title-winning team. “It just came together. It felt right. Unselfishness and commitment from all the kids. You just knew the kids were in it for one reason.”

Marc Thaler is a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He co-hosts the “N.H. High School Sports Show” on Manchester's WGIR-AM 610 and the Seacoast's 96.7 FM every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. Read his “New Hampshire GameDay” blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

March, 16, 2012
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Pinkerton Academy's greatest strength this winter can be summed up in two words: potting pucks.

New HampshireYet a defensive play in the closing minutes of the Division I boys' hockey final helped the preseason-favorite club from Derry hold on for a nail-biting 3-2 win.

“The crowd was so loud, it was (about) settling them down (during a time out),” Pinkerton coach Casey Kesselring said. “I said, 'Hey, we're up one. We're in the driver's seat. All we need to do is play a solid 5 minutes and bring it home.”

Ryan Hall – in front of an estimated 3,000 fans – made the stop that cemented the victory March 10 at Verizon Wireless Arena.

The senior defenseman disrupted a golden chance for Manchester Memorial High to pull even with a furious third-period comeback. Brady Bilodeau on a mini-breakout charged toward netminder Matt Marchman with three minutes, 25 seconds left in regulation.

Hall, trailing the play, stretched and poke the puck away. Bilodeau never had the chance to launch the potential game-tying bid.

“That was big. He's going in to tie it. Ryan gets all puck,” Kesselring said. “He probably would tell you, honestly, that he got caught out of position a bit. But he made up for it. That was the main thing.”

The top-seeded Astros (19-2-0 Div. I) controlled play for the majority of the contest. They built a commanding three-goal lead with markers from J.D. Dudek (first period), Zach Sanford (second period) and Dominic Corsetto (third period).

But, as the clock dipped below the 7-minute mark, the second-seeded Crusaders (16-5-0 Div. I) erupted for two goals in a 25-second span.

“We got down three goals. We talked to the kids,” Memorial coach Mark Putney said. “There was no quit in this team.”

Colin Williamson one-timed Bilodeau's back-door feed. Jacob Boylan, on the next shift, lofted a backhand shot from the slot.

The comeback was on. Memorial – seeking its first hockey title since 1995 – was within striking distance with 6-plus minutes to play.

Then, the bid to tie emerged. Memorial's senior captain, the club's heart-and-soul leader, had the puck on his stick with the game up for grabs.

But he never pulled the trigger. Hall didn't allow it.

“We definitely put on the pressure,” Bilodeau said. “We fought hard. They played a great game defensively, even offensively. Great coaching. You really can't say anything bad about them.”

Division II – Sophomore goaltender Stevan Tempesta made 26 championship-game saves, the last 11 stops nothing short of sensational. Top-seeded Bedford High, also on the strength of Kurt Mitchell and Jason Campbell goals, dethroned defending champion and 3-seed Dover High, 2-1.

Bedford (17-3-0 Div. II), as a result, skated to its first hockey crown March 10 at Verizon Wireless Arena. Dover, unable to bury the equalizer in the final minute, finished 14-6-0 in league action.

Tempesta turned back multiple game-tying bids with the state title at stake. Dover's odd-man rush generated a golden chance. A scrum for the puck in heavy traffic also gave the Green Wave hope.

“You hold on for that final 10 seconds and it's the longest 10 seconds in your life. I just didn't want to blow it,” Tempesta told the New Hampshire Sunday News. “That was probably my best game all season.”

Division III – Kennett High of Conway claimed its third championship, each of them won during an unprecedented run of league dominance. The top-seeded Eagles, appearing in a league-record fifth straight final, edged No. 2 seed Alvirne High of Hudson, 4-3, in overtime.

Anthony LaRusso locked up the win. The junior forward buried a feed to the back door with 26.3 seconds remaining in the extra session March 10 at Verizon Wireless Arena.

The goal was LaRusso's second of the contest. Kennett capped its campaign at 20-1-0 overall (19-1-0 Div. III) and secured hardware to go with the 2009 and 2010 NHIAA plaques.

Alvirne, playing for its first hockey championship, finished with an 18-2-0 league record.

Division I (girls) – The first line of Maddie Dewhirst, and twin sisters Madison and Tessa Hill all closed their careers as 100-point scorers.

The senior trio also factored in all five goals of the final, fueling second-seeded Hanover High's 5-1 championship win over Upper Valley rival and top seed Lebanon High March 10 at Verizon Wireless Arena.

Hanover (16-2-0 Div. I) celebrated its third consecutive championship, and fourth No. 1 finish in the five years of NHIAA girls' hockey. Lebanon ended its season 16-2-0 in league play.

Madison Hill struck for a title-game hat trick. Dewhirst delivered two goals and two assists. Tessa Hill tallied five assists.

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