Boston High School: Bishop Brady

New Hampshire football playoff preview

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
9:45
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The regular season is in the rear-view mirror, and the high school football playoffs in New Hampshire begin this weekend with 12 conference championship games -- four in each of the three divisions. Each game is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.

New HampshireThe conference champions will advance to next weekend’s semifinals. Here’s a look at this weekend’s matchups and the teams to beat in each division:

DIVISION I:
  • East: Exeter (6-3) at Spaulding (6-3)
  • North: Central (7-2) at Concord (9-0)
  • South: Londonderry (4-5) at Pinkerton (7-2)
  • West: Keene (7-2) at Nashua South (8-1)
Analysis: Concord is the only Division I team that navigated through the regular season without a loss, and is clearly the favorite in this division. The Crimson Tide has more offensive weapons than any other team in the division, and has put those weapons to good use. Concord scored at least 34 points in eight of its nine games, and held five of its opponents to seven points or less.

Manchester Central will be Concord’s first hurdle. Concord beat Central 35-6 in Week 1, but Central has won seven in a row since its 0-2 start. Central running back Jesiah Wade has rushed for 2,074 yards this season, and gained 556 yards -- the single-game rushing record by a running back from New England -- against Merrimack earlier this year.

Keene, Nashua South and Pinkerton Academy also look like teams capable of winning this year’s title. Keene has won six of its last seven games and handed Nashua South its only loss two weeks ago (42-28). Nashua South is led by University of New Hampshire-bound quarterback Trevor Knight, and Pinkerton also has a big-play threat in running back Manny Latimore.

It would be a surprise if Londonderry, Exeter or Spaulding advanced past the semifinals, although Exeter is averaging 38 points per game since moving Joey Jones to quarterback. The Blue Hawks have won the last two Division I titles.

DIVISION II:
  • East: Merrimack Valley (7-2) at Portsmouth (8-1)
  • North: Kennett (5-4) at Plymouth (8-1)
  • South: Trinity (7-2) at Windham (8-1)
  • West: Sanborn (5-4) at Monadnock (9-0)
Analysis: There’s a good chance Chuck Lenahan will end his coaching career with his 20th state championship. Lenahan, who has announced his will retire after this season, has a 353-70-1 record in 43 seasons as Plymouth’s head coach. His Bobcats will be at home as long as they last in the postseason.

Plymouth’s biggest threat may be Portsmouth, which used a late rally to post a 27-22 victory at Plymouth earlier this season. Portsmouth lost to Trinity in its opener, but enters the playoffs on an eight-game winning streak.

Monadnock is the only unbeaten team in Division II, but seven of its nine regular-season opponents finished under the .500-mark. Monadnock posted a 27-19 victory over Sanborn, the only playoff team it faced.

Saturday’s Trinity-Windham winner may be the only other team capable of making a deep playoff run. Windham is a junior-laden team that made huge strides in the second half of the season. Windham’s only loss came against Plymouth, but it was a 41-7 setback. Trinity may have more talent than anyone in the division, but will have to win a rematch with Windham to advance. Windham beat Trinity 52-20 two weeks ago.

DIVISION III:
  • East: Bishop Brady (4-4) at Epping-Newmarket (4-4)
  • North: Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough (4-4) at Gilford (6-2)
  • South: Bow (7-1) at Pelham (8-0)
  • West: Newport (6-2) at Stevens (6-2)
Analysis: The two best teams in Division III may be on opposite sidelines Saturday, when Bow meets Pelham. The winner of that contest will be the clear-cut favorite to capture this year’s title.

Bow’s only loss was a 7-0 decision against Pelham in the opener for each team. Bow has won seven in a row since then, and posted three shutouts along the way. Pelham ended a 30-game losing streak last year, but was the only Division III team to finish the regular season unbeaten. The game will feature two of the best running backs in the division in Bow’s Matt Ehrenberg and Pelham’s Chris Medeiros.

Stevens may be the best of the rest. The Cardinals have a do-it-all running back in Donald Pellerin, who is also a threat as a receiver and kick returner.

The legitimate contenders for the Division III championship may end there since Newport and Giflord, the only other teams with at least six wins, were overmatched by the top teams during the regular season. Pelham beat Newport 56-6 and Bow defeated Giflord 42-7.

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

N.H. football squads eye postseason play

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
3:00
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The final weekend of the New Hampshire high school football season is upon us.

New HampshireEight teams from each division -- two per conference -- will advance to next weekend’s conference championship games, which will serve as the postseason’s quarterfinal round.

Here’s what’s still at stake in each division:

DIVISION I

Four teams have already qualified for postseason play in Division I: Concord (8-0), Nashua South (7-1), Pinkerton Academy (6-2) and Londonderry (4-4). Londonderry will play at Pinkerton Academy in next weekend’s Division I South championship game.

Keene (6-2) can clinch a playoff spot by beating Alvirne (1-7) Friday. If Keene wins, it will play Nashua South in the Division I West title game. Keene handed Nashua South its only loss (42-28) last weekend.

Spaulding (5-3) and Exeter (5-3) will be the two teams that move on from Division I East if each wins Friday. Spaulding plays at Dover (2-6), and Exeter is home against Nashua North (3-5). If either Spaulding or Exeter loses Friday, the door will be open for Winnacunnet (5-3) to reach the postseason.

The winner of Friday’s game between Manchester Central (6-2) and Bedford (7-1) will face Concord in the Division I North title game.

DIVISION II

Seven of the eight playoff teams have been determined in Division II: Monadnock (8-0), Portsmouth (7-1), Plymouth (7-1), Windham (7-1), Trinity (6-2), Sanborn (5-3) and Kennett (4-4).

Sanborn will play Monadnock in the Division II West title game, and Trinity will face Windham in the Division II South title game.

Merrimack Valley will clinch a postseason berth if it beats Plymouth on Saturday, or if St. Thomas (6-2) loses to Trinity. A St. Thomas win and a Merrimack Valley loss would make it possible for St. Thomas to advance, depending on results of other Division II games this weekend. Either Merrimack Valley or St. Thomas will face Portsmouth in the Division II East championship game.

Kennett will face Plymouth in the Division II North championship game.

DIVISION III

The matchups in two of the four Division III conference championship games are set in Division III: Epping-Newmarket (3-4) will face Bishop Brady (3-4) in the Division III East title game; and Bow (6-1) will meet Pelham (7-0) in the Division III South championship game.

Stevens (5-2) and Gilford (6-2) have also qualified. Stevens will face the winner of Saturday’s game between Mascoma Valley (5-2) and Newport (5-2) for the Division III West title, and Gilford will meet either Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough (4-3) or Winnisquam (3-4) in the Division III North championship game. Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough will advance if it beats Epping-Newmarket on Saturday, or if Winnisquam loses to Newfound (2-5).

NHIAA WEEK 9 SCHEDULE
DIVISION I
Friday
Spaulding at Dover
Nashua North at Exeter
Bishop Guertin at Timberlane
Winnacunnet at Nashua South
Manchester Central at Bedford
Goffstown at Concord
Manchester West at Manchester Memorial
Salem at Londonderry
Pinkerton at Merrimack
Alvirne at Keene
DIVISION II
Friday
Kennett at Kingswood
Pembroke at Mondadnock
Hanover at Portsmouth
St. Thomas at Trinity
Milford at Laconia
Lebanon at Kearsarge
Hollis/Brookline at Souhegan
Sanborn at Windham

Saturday
Merrimack Valley at Plymouth
Con-Val at John Stark

DIVISION III
Friday

Raymond at Stevens

Saturday
Franklin at Bishop Brady
Epping/Newmarket at IL/Moultonborough
Pelham at Farmington-Nute
Winnisquam at Newfound
Campbell at Bow
Fall Mountain at Somersworth
Newport at Mascoma Valley

UNION LEADER/WGIR/WMUR POWER POLL
1. Concord (8-0)
2. Bedford (7-1)
3. Pinkerton (6-2)
4. Nashua South (7-1)
5. Keene (6-2)
6. Manchester Central (6-2)
7. Bishop Guertin (5-3)
8. Portsmouth (7-1)
9. Exeter (5-3)
10. Plymouth (7-1)

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

Week 2 New Hampshire football preview

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
11:34
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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.

New HampshireExeter 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.”

DIVISION II
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.

DIVISION III
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.

(Read full post)

New Hampshire football preview

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
5:46
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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.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

January, 4, 2013
1/04/13
2:52
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Shelby Herrington won her battle with the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association.

New HampshireHerrington, a junior, has played for the Bishop Brady (Concord) boys hockey team for the past two seasons, but the NHIAA ruled that Herrington could no longer skate for the boys team when Bishop Brady formed a cooperative girls team with Trinity High School of Manchester this year.

NHIAA bylaws state: “Interscholastic athletics involving mixed [boys and girls] competition is prohibited except in those instances where the member school does not offer equivalent activities for girls.”

Herrington has been centering Bishop Brady's second line.

Herrington's parents filed a suit against the NHIAA, and on Dec. 19 Merrimack County Superior Court judge Richard McNamara ruled that Herrington could continue to play for the boys team.

At issue is whether or not boys and girls hockey are considered “equivalent activities.” The Bishop Brady girls team doesn't practice as often as the boys team, and the girls team also has many players from Trinity, a school located 20 miles away. The boys teams has no players who do not attend Bishop Brady.

McNamara wrote: “This finding, though, does not lend any support to the [NHIAA's Council Appeal] Board's conclusion that the two teams provide 'equivalent activities' for each gender but, rather, lends support to the opposite conclusion.”

NHIAA executive director Pat Corbin expressed concern with the judge's decision, and the effect it night have on other NHIAA sports. He said the ruling could allow a boy cut from his team to play for a girls team.

“A concern is if this becomes a precedent for all other sports,” Corbin told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “All those things come to light.”

MERRIMACK'S BATTISTA RESIGNS
Joe Battista's five-year tenure as Merrimack High School's head coach ended Dec. 17, when he submitted his letter of resignation. The Tomahawks have a 15-40 record over the last five seasons.

“I feel I gave Merrimack everything I had,” Battista said. “A lot of kids gave me a lot. I just couldn't turn the program into a consistent winner.

“I started thinking about it [resigning] toward the end of the season. I thought it would be best to see what else is out there for me. I'm energized and motivated. I'm really looking forward to seeing what's next. I will be coaching somewhere next year.”

The highlight of Battista's five years with the program came in 2010, when the Tomahawks finished 7-4 and were one victory shy of making the Division II playoffs. Merrimack will compete in Division I next season, when NHIAA football will shrink from six divisions to three.

Merrrimack was 0-11 last season, a season that ended with a 41-14 loss to Souhegan on Thanksgiving. Battista, 42, wasn't on the Merrimack sideline on Thanksgiving for reasons that are still unclear.

“No comment on that,” Battista said. “I left Merrimack on good terms. There are no bitter feelings.”

KERSHAW AMED SHRINE COACH
There was talk that the Mascenic Regional (New Ipswich) football program might fold because of low participation numbers when Ray Kershaw became the team's head coach. Three years later Kershaw had the Vikings in the Division VI championship game.

Kershaw, a 46-year-old Springfield resident, was rewarded for his team's 2012 season by being named New Hampshire's head coach for this summer's Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl. New Hampshire will face Vermont on Aug. 3 at Dartmouth College.

“It was very exciting for me when I found out I'd be New Hampshire's coach,” Kershaw said. “It's a great honor because of what the game is all about.”

Proceeds from the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl benefit Shriners' Hospitals for Crippled and Burned Children.

Both teams will being practicing for this year's game on Aug. 27.

MASCENIC ENDS LOSING STREAK
When the 2012-13 girls basketball season began no player on the Mascenic Regional girls basketball team had won a varsity game.

That changed when Mascenic beat Hillsboro-Deering 41-34 on Dec. 14. The victory ended the program's 94-game losing streak that began in the 2006-07 season. Mascenic has had five head coaches in the last six years.

Sarah Sharp scored a team-high 11 points in the win.

SHERBURNE SELECTS NIAGARA
Jamie Sherburne, a junior on the Bishop Guertin girls' basketball team, recently committed to play college basketball at Niagara University, a Division I program that competes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

She is the second BG player who has committed to a Division I school. Meghan Green announced last July that she will continue her career at Boston University.

Sherburne and Green helped BG win the program's first state championship last March.

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader, and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report: www.nhfootballreport.com.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

December, 14, 2012
12/14/12
4:07
PM ET
The high school ice hockey season arrived last week, and with it came controversy.

New HampshireThe issue that created headlines involved Shelby Herrington, a junior at Bishop Brady High School in Concord. Herrington has played varsity hockey for Bishop Brady's boys team the last two years, and intended to do so this season as well. Bishop Brady formed a cooperative girls hockey team with Trinity High School in Manchester this year, however, and the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association declared Herrington ineligible to play for the boys team.

Herrington challenged that decision and a court order allowed her to begin the season with the boys team. A final ruling on whether or not the NHIAA is within its rights to prevent Herrington from playing with the boys team is expected later this month.

Robert Carey, Herrington's attorney, has argued that the NHIAA is attempting to deny Herrington a spot on the boys team solely on the basis of her sex.

If the court rules in Herrington's favor there is concern that other talented girls will attempt to play for boys teams – thereby weakening the girls sport -- and that some boys may even attempt to skate with the girls.

According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, NHIAA executive director Patrick Corbin sent a letter to Bishop Brady that included the following:

“If a sport is offered for boys and a comparable sports is offered for girls, then the girls must play on the team of their gender. There is no consideration or provision that accounts for competitiveness or ability in the by-laws.”

Another female, Danielle DiCesare, played for the St. Thomas Aquinas (Dover) boys team in 2007-08, the first season the NHIAA offered girls hockey as a varsity sport. DiCesare women's college hockey at Princeton.

FOOTBALL CHANGES SHAPE
New Hampshire high school football will have a different look next season, when the state will scrap the six-division format that has been used for years and place its 57 varsity teams in three divisions.

Eight teams from each division will qualify for postseason play, which will create an additional round of playoffs. Four teams from each of the six divisions advanced to the playoffs last season.

Critics of the old alignment argued that there was no need for six divisions – and six state champions – in a state the size of New Hampshire.

“We already have teams that are not very happy with it, but we have to give something a shot here,” said Plymouth coach Chuck Lenahan, who is a member of the NHIAA football committee. “Hopefully it works out well. We have a lot more flexibility with it. Maybe we'll have to tweak it a little, but I think it's good that we're trying something.”

Student-athletes transferring from one school to another is not uncommon, but in no sport has player movement been the major focus of a season preview as it is in high school basketball.

HAWK TALK
Guard Dimitri Floras returned from prep school (Kimball Union Academy) to lead Merrimack to the Division I boys basketball championship last season. If the Tomahawks win another title in 2012-13 they'll have to do it without Floras, who is now suiting up for Vermont Academy.

Although Manchester Central is the consensus favorite in Division I, Merrimack's backcourt will make life tough on Merrimack opponents. Sophomore point guard Austin Franzen has transferred from Bishop Guertin and will team with junior Eric Gendron to form one of the best guard combinations in the state.

ANOTHER TITLE IN THE CARDS?
Bishop Guertin of Nashua won last year's Division I girls basketball state title, and the Cardinals entered this season as the overwhelming favorite as well.

BG returned five starters from its 2011-12 championship team, including junior point guard Jamie Afterburner and Boston University-bound forward Meghan Green.

BG opened its season with a 91-36 victory over Salem. Last year's championship was the school's first in girls basketball.

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

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

February, 7, 2012
2/07/12
2:30
PM ET
Too often powerless on the power play and generally struggling to generate offense during the hockey season's first half, Hanover High tinkered with its top line.

New HampshireIf the first game with captain Peter Bensen centering Connor Gordon and Ryan Brigman was any indication, hovering-around-.500 Hanover could pose problems in Division I.

“In any sport you play, in any season, there's going to be a turning point … I think this is going to be our turning point,” Bensen said Jan. 28 after he paced the reigning state-runner-up to a commanding 5-2 road win over No. 2-ranked Manchester Memorial High at JFK Coliseum.

Perennial power Hanover owned a 4-4 record when it faced the league's only 10-win team. Losing 13 players from a year ago contributed to the club's mediocre mark.

Coach Dick Dodds felt change up front was needed.

Brigman moved from the blue line to right wing. It didn't take the long for Dodds' decision to pay off.

Hanover's senior winger buried a first-period rebound. The goal erased Memorial's early 1-0 lead, served as the first of Hanover's two power-play strikes, and set off a run of three unanswered goals.

“He created a lot of havoc in the offensive zone,” Dodds said. “It really helped. That group works well together. They had a nice game for us.”

Bensen (two goals, two assists), Gordon (goal, three assists) and Brigman (goal, two assists) factored in all five goals for the Marauders.

But Brigman's equalizer was significant for another reason: The goal was a quick response to falling behind midway through the opening frame.

Hanover trailed for a mere 3 minutes, 28 seconds.

Roles were reversed in the club's previous contest, a 3-2 home loss to Nashua North High. The Marauders twice surrendered markers within 50 seconds of tallying their goals.

“We just pointed out to our kids how important the next shift is,” Dodds said. “We worked on it in practice. So, it was encouraging to see us come back and score.”

The Marauders were oh-so-close to clinching a comeback win Feb. 1 against Concord High. The game ended in a 3-3 tie.

Hanover's three goals in the final frame erased a two-goal deficit. The club's third connection, a shorthanded goal with 73 seconds left, was offset by Concord's ability to capitalize in 5-on-3 play.

Five league games remain on the regular-season schedule for Hanover (5-5-1 Div. I).

New Hampshire's club from the Upper Valley starts the stretch with four straight road games. Defending champ Trinity High of Manchester (Feb. 11) and another bout with Concord (Feb. 15) are on the slate.

“I think that our team really thrives in a tough environment when we're under pressure,” Bensen said.

Hanover won't lack chances to prove it.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

January, 19, 2012
1/19/12
3:43
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Draining the game-winning shot is a dream shared by most, if not all, hoop junkies.

New HampshireNow add this element to the drama: Knocking down the 3-pointer that serves as the knockout punch to your former team.

Manchester Central High's Dawson Dickson didn't just dream such a scenario. He lived it Jan. 10. The sophomore point guard's trey earned the Little Green a 41-40 Division I boys' basketball road win over fierce Queen City rival Trinity High.

“I've wanted to hit a game-winning shot my whole life,” said Dickson, who transferred from Trinity, this year's championship favorite, after his freshman year. “I didn't even think about the situation. I was open, so I shot it.”

Reacting rather than thinking served the sophomore well. McHugh Gym – one of the smaller, yet most electric hoop venues in the state – was packed.

“It was my old school and bragging rights were on the line,” Dickson said.

It was hot. It was loud. And, hardly surprising, the home team's unforgiving student section didn't give Dickson a break for four quarters.

On the court, the game was tied at 38-apiece inside the final minute. Dickson, a year removed from shooting countless jumpers on Trinity's home court, hadn't attempted a single 3-point shot.

Until, that is, a defensive breakdown left him open beyond the arc.

Muscle memory – and a go-for-the-jugular mindset – kicked in. Dickson lofted the 3-ball with 52 seconds to play.

Dagger.

Central's one-possession lead, however, was trimmed to a point. The Pioneers also had a chance to take the lead in the final seconds, but couldn't convert the critical field goal.

Dickson's former team was saddled with its first league loss of the season.

As for the underclassman, hardly overwhelmed with the game in the balance, what was he feeling once the score went final?

“Relief,” Dickson said. “The Trinity kids were on me the whole game.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

February, 9, 2011
2/09/11
3:10
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Mike Kelly's dream of playing Division I college football turned nightmarish before the high school campaign built any momentum.

New Hampshire“When it happened (last September), I got down. Like anyone else would,” Kelly said of the Week 2 foot injury that ended his senior season for Nashua's Bishop Guertin High, the eventual Division II three-peat champion. “It just didn't seem possible.”

Nor did this: Verbally accepting a partial scholarship offer on Jan. 27 to play football for the University of New Hampshire, which competes in the Football Championship Subdivision's super-competitive Colonial Athletic Association.

“Knowing most colleges go off senior tape, I didn't think it would be enough for colleges to assess me,” said the 5-foot 9-inch, 176-pound talent, a projected slot receiver, kick- and punt-returner, and possible cornerback for the Wildcats. “I was nervous about that. In one game, to seemingly have (my dream) taken away, it was a hard thing to come to grips with.”

Good thing Kelly, a Merrimack resident, enjoyed a career contest in the season-opener. Guertin routed defending Division I champ Salem, the heavy preseason favorite to repeat, 48-21.

Kelly was impossible to contain.

The top weapon in BG's spread-option attack totaled 310 yards of offense and five touchdowns. His 17 carries generated 193 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 117 yards, including a 65-yard catch-and-run TD on the season's first play from scrimmage.

Running a crossing pattern toward the left sideline, Kelly snared in stride Steve Cuipa's 20-yard toss and hit high gear. He burned past Salem's secondary for the final 45 yards.

It was vintage Kelly, who a year earlier scored three touchdowns in Guertin's Division II title-game clincher.

“He's gifted. He's got tremendous speed. And on the football field, speed is everything,” BG athletics director and head football coach Tony Johnson said, noting Kelly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds before injuring his foot. “(UNH coaches) looked at his ability to change directions, excel quickly, sustain speed for a long period of time. They were interested in him in spring of his junior year.”

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

January, 1, 2011
1/01/11
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You can't ring in the New Year without a countdown.

New HampshireIn the spirit of the time-honored Dec. 31 tradition – counting down the final 10 ticks of the calendar year – here are the top items this reporter contributed to ESPNBoston.com High Schools since its launch in August 2010:

10. The 6-0-3 sets record. New Hampshire extended its win streak in the annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl to a series-record 10 games.

The Granite State's recent high school graduates topped Vermont in the 57th all-star football game, played at Windsor (Vt.) High's MacLeay-Royce Field, in early August, 34-20. The previous record for longest win streak was a nine-gamer set by New Hampshire from 1989-97.

New Hampshire's 14-point win makes it sound like the game was somewhat competitive. Guess again.

Despite committing seven turnovers, including four in the first quarter, and amassing 165 yards on 18 penalties, New Hampshire never trailed. The 2010 team did, however, twice lead by 20 points and ultimately improved the state's all-time record in the series to 42-13-2.

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
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There were two ways — for one game, anyway — to view the reigning Division I football finalists after their first meeting since last year's title game.

New HampshireDefending champion Salem and Nashua North could have conducted a seminar on scoring, or they needed to take a course on tackling.

The latter best described these talent-rich teams in Week 5. Each squad's defense did a disappearing act in Salem's 67-54 home win at Grant Field.

“It was a great basketball game today. Great basketball game,” North head coach Jason Robie said with supreme sarcasm on Oct. 2, before attempting to explain how his then-No. 2 Titans posted 54 points and lost by 13.

No, several overtime sessions didn't help produce this points pile-up. All 121 points were scored in regulation (12-minute quarters in New Hampshire).



Save for one play – a 103-yard interception return for a touchdown by North's Andre Williams – defense was sub-par. And that's being kind.

Salem set single-game program records for points scored and allowed. North set a record in the points-allowed department.

“I, never in my life, in all my coaching years, would believe we played an ugly game and scored 67 points,” said Salem's defensive-minded head coach, Jack Gati, after his then-No. 5 Blue Devils won the tough-to-stomach contest.

How ugly was it?

Nine of the 15 offensive scoring drives, including five for North, lasted five plays or fewer.

Salem scored the game's first 34 points in the opening 13 minutes, four seconds. It led at halftime, 54-28.

The preseason picks to again meet in the league final combined for 1,356 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns. Salem gained 712 all-purpose yards and tallied 10 touchdowns. North notched 644 yards via the run, pass and return game.

Salem's Max Jacques, the New Hampshire Union Leader Player of the Year last season, recorded 338 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns. The senior halfback's totals included 224 rushing yards and four scores, and a program-record 90-yard punt-return to paydirt.

Jerickson Fedrick added 169 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Matt Cannone threw for 120 yards. Abner Rodriguez took a kickoff 83 yards to the house.

North's Williams stopped the 34-point blitz with his pick-six. He also rushed 21 times for 181 yards, including a 49-yard burst to the end zone.

Brandon Karkhanis accounted for six scores, two on QB keepers and four through the air. Anton Marinchik (five catches for 109 yards, two TDs), Eric Muite (four catches for 72 yards, TD) and Jamar Gathright (two catches for 66 yards, TD) combined for four touchdown grabs between 20 and 47 yards.

"I think when you don't have an experienced group like we had last year, it's difficult going in and out of your base defense to a special defense for spread (offense) teams," Gati said. "We've just got to get better at that because we face spread teams and we face traditional teams."

Gati's group rebounded in Week 6 with a 48-7 win over Division II Timberlane Regional of Plaistow. Salem, currently No. 3 in New Hampshire, stands at 4-2 overall and 3-1 in Division I.

Now No. 6 in the state, North (3-3, 3-2) faced a tougher foe. The Titans lost to current No. 4 squad Nashua South, 38-21, in Week 6, meaning this statement from Robie after the Salem game still applies:

“We can do one of two things: We can keep reading the articles saying we're a terrible defense,” Robie said. “Or we can say 'This one's behind us,' let [the media] talk about that, and try and fix what's broken. We'll do the latter.”

GANG GREEN
Manchester Central dominated the Manchester Cross Country Championships at Derryfield Park on Oct. 12. Alexandra Conway won the girls' race, and Sam Gagnon, Zack Chabot and Sean Brown recorded the same winning time in the boys' run.

Central, as a result, clinched girls' and boys' XC city titles for the third straight season, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Conway ran the 3.1-mile course in 18 minutes, 45 seconds. She finished 68 seconds ahead of her closest competitor. Gagnon, Chabot and Brown completed the run in 17:02. Teammate Matt Becker was one second off the pace.

MONUMENTAL MARKER
Striker Eric Jayne scored his 10th goal of the season on Oct. 5. The tally helped Hanover beat Concord's Bishop Brady, 5-0, in Division II boys' soccer.

Jayne's marker was significant. It was the 43rd goal of the senior's career, which set a new program record. The previous career goal-scoring record stood since the mid-1960s.

Hanover (11-0-0) and Division III Gilford (13-0-0) are the state's only unbeaten/untied teams.

CHAMPIONS CROWNED
Golf was the first fall sport to finish its season, making it the first to crown champions.

Keene (Div. I), Bedford (Div. II) and Moultonborough (Div. III) celebrated team titles. Keene's Chelso Barrett, Bedford's Jake Nutter and Gilford's Chris Houston won boys' individual crowns in Divisions I, II and III, respectively.

Lebanon's Colette Schmidt (Div. I) and Newmarket's Chelsea Walker (Div. II) won girls' individual championships.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Londonderry won its final 13 matches last season to clinch the program's first Division I girls' volleyball championship.

The Lancers, now senior-laden, are poised to repeat in their 15th varsity campaign.

Coach Peter Willis and his powerhouse squad are 14-0 this season. They take a 27-match win streak into their showdown tonight (Oct. 13) with reigning runner-up and fellow 14-0 force Spaulding of Rochester.

“One of the big factors in us (winning) last year was this group really played to the moment,” said Willis, who leads eight seniors and two juniors. “They wouldn't get too up, they wouldn't get too down. They were very business-like on the court. In that sense, they really deal well with pressure.”

The breakdown of Londonderry's 14 wins includes 11 three-game sweeps. The remaining matches went four games. That means the defending champ played 45 games, just three games over the minimum.

Identical twins and outside hitters Katie and Megan Schwarz lead the Lancers along with setter Amy Johnson.

The 5-foot 10-inch Schwarz sisters are “both the total package,” Willis said. They consistently lead the team in kills per match. Katie averages 14 per contest. Megan's per-match average is 17.

They're the program's only members of the 500-kill club.

Johnson recently became the second Lancer to record 1,000 career assists. She averages 30 per match.

Lyssa Winslow, Nicole Williams and Shay Collins split time as middle-hitters. All are difference-makers.

“We've certainly met a lot of people's expectations so far. The trick is do we meet our own expectations?” Willis said. “It's a very self-aware group.”

CENTURY MARK
Campbell's Shawna Trunca tallied her 100th career goal in girls' soccer on Oct. 12, according to the school's athletics director, Dan Kiestlinger. Trunca, a senior striker, helped lead the Litchfield-based squad to a 6-0 Division III win over Hillsboro-Deering.

Campbell is 14-0-0 and the only remaining unbeaten/untied team in the state's four soccer divisions. Trunca & Co. have one regular-season game remaining on Oct. 18.

DOUBLE DUTY
Play-calling for Laconia is territory of head football coach Craig Kozens, who serves as offensive coordinator for the Sachems.

In Week 6, however, Kozens doubled as defensive coordinator. Longtime assistant Bob Ewell was recovering from surgery. Ewell's appendix burst one day before Laconia hosted Plymouth Regional, winner of five straight titles between Divisions III and IV.

“It was hectic. I had a lot of help from my assistant coaches,” Kozens told the New Hampshire Sunday News after Laconia beat Plymouth, 30-20. “Because we have a consistent staff of 11 guys, everyone helped me keep my thoughts together.”

Laconia hadn't beaten Plymouth since 1999. The 10-point win on Oct. 8 also marked the first time Kozens, in his 10th year as Laconia's head coach, led the Sachems past the Bobcats.

THE 400 CLUB
Mike Ackerman readily admits he can't recall the details of his first career coaching win.

The reason is understandable. Ackerman, the head coach at Division IV Woodsville since 1977, has won more than 400 boys' soccer matches.

He reached the 400-win milestone when the Engineers defeated Groveton, 9-0, on Sept. 23. His career record through Oct. 12 was 404-134-36, according to UnionLeader.com.

“It's a few,” Ackerman, 57, said while chuckling about the whopping total. “I'm just worried about the team playing well, what the kids are learning from playing, and that they're good people and graduating from high school.

“Four hundred wins is four hundred wins,” he added. “But the important stuff is what they're getting out of their experience, and that it's making a difference in their lives.”

Gilford's Dave Pinkham is the lone member of the 500-win club. Exeter's Jim Tufts has 300-plus wins. They both began coaching boys' soccer the same year as Ackerman.

Longtime Hanover coach George Merrill retired two wins shy of 400. Ackerman said he once asked Merrill why he called it a career with 398 wins on his resume.

“He said, 'You'll know when it's time,'” Ackerman said. “It isn't time yet for me.”

Woodsville won consecutive championships in the former Class S under Ackerman. He also coached his sons, Ryan and Matt, in the late 1990s. His wife, Glenna, never misses a match.

At a recent school assembly, Ackerman said he was presented with a game ball. It marked the accomplishment three-plus decades in the making.

To think, it all started when his original team manager from the '77 season announced during a booster club banquet that Ackerman was close to clinching his 400th win.

“I was just going to let it slide by if I could,” Ackerman said. “But (this year's players) loved dumping a big bucket of ice water over my head.”

Marc Thaler is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News and UnionLeader.com. He has been the high schools reporter for football and lacrosse since joining the statewide newspaper in 2006. A graduate of Syracuse University (2000), he wrote about the state's football history for an exhibit at The Hall at Patriot Place. The Bedford, N.H., native has covered the Little League World Series, NCAA men's lacrosse championships, UNH athletics and New Hampshire Fisher Cats baseball. He can be reached at marc.thaler@gmail.com.

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