Keene football coach John Luopa won't be walking into the unknown this weekend. He's very much aware of what his team will be up against when it faces Exeter on Saturday night (7 p.m.) in Keene.
Exeter has won New Hampshire's last two Division I championships and is considered by many to be the team to beat again this season. The Blue Hawks have a roster of more than 100 players and have won their last 17 games against Division I competition.
“It's a daunting task playing Exeter,” Luopa said. “They're hands down the best team in the state – and the best program. When you've won the last two Division I championships I think it's fair to say that.
“It's the same Exeter team. They've just changed the names and numbers.”
Keene is coming off a 34-0 triumph over Nashua North. Exeter received three touchdowns from fullback Jay Inzenga in Saturday's 48-6 triumph over Dover.
“I thought we tackled well and we didn't turn it over, which is always a concern when you have all new backs,” Exeter coach Bill Ball said. “Getting out of the gate with a win is huge. It gives you momentum heading into the next week.
“The road gets tougher. Keene is a lot like us – physical. It'll be a physical game."
Luopa said slowing down Exeter's running game and cashing in on scoring opportunities will be the keys for his team Saturday night.
“Offensively you have to find a way to get it in the end zone,” he said. “In years past we've moved the ball well from the 20 to the 20. Inside the 20 is where they really buckle down.
“I think we match up well with teams that run the spread because defensively we can run with the spread teams. The big question entering this game is how will our defense hold up against a big, powerful team that runs the ball?
“It will be interesting to see if we do have the horses to give them a game.”
Trinity (Manchester) and Plymouth were the best teams in Division IV last season, and they may be the two best teams in a reconfigured Division II this year.
Plymouth, which beat Trinity 7-0 to win last year's Division IV title, rolled over Kingswood, 49-28, last weekend. The Bobcats will play at Windham on Saturday. Windham, which lost to Trinity in last year's Division IV semifinals, opened its season with a 28-7 triumph over Hanover.
“I saw their film (against Kingswood) and they flow to the ball real well,” Windham coach Bill Raycraft said. “(Plymouth coach Chuck Lenahan) has 11 guys who make it look like they have 13 out there. Plymouth will be one of the top teams in the division.”
Perhaps no team posted a more impressive victory last weekend than Trinity, which made a statement by beating Portsmouth, 58-37, Friday night. Portsmouth has won the last two Division III championships and was a preseason favorite to win this year's Division II title.
Trinity may get a stiffer test from Milford tonight. The Spartans returned their entire offensive backfield from last year's Division III playoff team, and showed plenty of offensive punch in Saturday's 48-23 victory over Sanborn (Kingston).
“Obviously it was nice to get that win, but we have a long way to go and a lot of work to do,” Trinity coach Steve Burns said.
Fall Mountain (Langdon) played a junior varsity schedule last season because of low participation in the program, but will have a chance to improve its Division III record to 2-0 when it travels to Raymond tonight (7 p.m.).
Fall Mountain is coming off a 40-8 victory over Newfound, and Raymond dropped a 53-35 decision to Bishop Brady (Concord) in its opener.
Tonight's game between Newport and Pelham is this weekend's only Division III matchup between teams that each won last weekend.
UNION LEADER/WGIR/WMUR Power Poll
1. Exeter (1-0)
2. Bedford (1-0)
3. Concord (1-0)
4. Nashua South (1-0)
5. Pinkerton Academy (0-1)
6. Winnacunnet (1-0)
7. Keene (1-0)
8. Trinity (1-0)
9. Londonderry (1-0)
10. Plymouth (1-0)
WEEK TWO SCHEDULE
Alvirne at Nashua South (suspended Thursday night)
Bedford at Manchester West
Bishop Guertin at Dover
Spaulding at Timberlane
Nashua North at Winnacunnet
Salem at Concord
Manchester Central at Pinkerton
Merrimack at Manchester Memorial
Londonderry at Goffstown
Exeter at Keene
Con-Val at Kingswood
Kearsarge at Merrimack Valley
Laconia at Portsmouth
Hanover at Souhegan
Monadnock at Lebanon
Trinity at Milford
John Stark at Pembroke
Kennett at St. Thomas
Sanborn at Hollis/Brookline
Plymouth at Windham
Bishop Brady at Somersworth
Fall Mountain at Raymond
Bow at Franklin
Campbell at Stevens
Newport at Pelham
Newfound at Epping-Newmarket
Winnisquam at Gilford
Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough at Mascoma
Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader, and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.