Boston High School: Bow

Concord rolls in N.H. state football championships

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
10:42
PM ET
Saturday’s NHIAA Division I championship game provided something no one expected to see: running time.

NHIAA rules require running time on the game clock once a team builds a lead of 35 points or more, and that’s what happened during top-seeded Concord’s 42-14 triumph over third-seeded Pinkerton Academy.

Concord led 42-7 after Robbie Law connected with Nicholas Comeau for a 5-yard touchdown pass with 6:28 left in the third quarter. Law completed 8 of 11 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns in the victory, which improved Concord’s record to 12-0.

“Our goal has always been to be the best team in New Hampshire and we achieved that today,” Concord running back/linebacker Marc Gaudet said. “We definitely had the confidence coming in that we would be able to handle them, but not like this. Four or five touchdowns? We couldn’t have pictured that. We were playing on a different level today.”

Law also threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Gaudet, and a 27-yard score to Seimou Smith. Top-seeded Concord received two rushing touchdowns from tailback Walters Ndi and a 27-yard touchdown run from Leo Sudeih.

Third-seeded Pinkerton (9-3) committed three turnovers (two fumbles) and had a punt blocked, and Concord turned each miscue into a touchdown.

T.J. Urbanik (5-yard run) and Manny Latimore (11-yard run) scored for Pinkerton, which has lost each of the last three Division I title games. Latimore finished the game with 91 yards on 16 carries.

“They earned it today, obviously,” Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly said. “Having the clock run on us in the second half? I’m not sure that’s happened to us before. That’s a credit to them. They did whatever they wanted to today. They’re undefeated for a reason.”

DIVISION II
Plymouth 21, Portsmouth 14 (OT)
Chuck Lenahan won his final game as Plymouth’s head coach when his Bobcats scored in overtime and then kept Portsmouth out of the end zone on its overtime possession.

Plymouth (11-1) took the lead for good when quarterback Collin Sullivan scored on a 13-yard run in overtime. Sullivan also had a 1-yard touchdown run earlier in the game.

Top-seeded Plymouth’s other touchdown came on a 29-yard run by John Thomas.

Second-seeded Portsmouth received a 10-yard touchdown pass from Donovan Phanor to Loden Formachelli, and 19-yard touchdown run from Phanor. Portsmouth (10-2) beat Plymouth, 27-22, during the regular season.

It was Plymouth’s 20th state championship in Lenahan’s 43 years as the program’s head coach. Lenahan, who announced his plans to retire earlier this year, improved his coaching record to 356-70-1.

DIVISION III
Bow 20, Stevens 6

Top-seeded Bow turned in another dominating defensive performance and won its first state championship since 2004.

Bow allowed 12 points in its three playoff games, and held eight opponents to seven points or less this season. The Falcons posted four shutouts.

Chris Robbins ran for 87 yards and two touchdowns for Bow, which raised its record to 10-1 and ended the season on a 10-game winning streak. Robbins scored on runs of 1 and 10 yards. The Falcons also received 123 yards rushing on 20 carries from Matt Ehrenberg, who set a school record with 1,503 yards rushing this season.

Bow’s other touchdown came on a 1-yard run from Gavin Lacourciere.

Second-seeded Stevens (8-3) scored on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Tanguay to Brandon Bell. Donald Pellerin led the Cardinals with 127 yards rushing on 23 carries.

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. football championships preview

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
5:16
PM ET
New Hampshire will crown its three state champions in football Saturday, when the championship game in each division will be held at the home of the higher-seeded team. Here are the matchups and the top storyline in each game:

Division I: Pinkerton Academy (9-2) at Concord (11-0), 1 p.m.
Pinkerton is playing in the Division I championship game for the ninth time in the last 10 years and will be trying to knock off the only unbeaten team in the state.

Division II: Portsmouth (10-1) at Plymouth (10-1), 1 p.m.
This will be Chuck Lenahan’s final game as Plymouth’s head coach. Lenahan has a 355-70-1 record in 43 seasons on the Plymouth sideline. No New England high school football coach has won more games. A victory in this contest would hand Lenahan his 20th state championship.

Division III: Stevens (8-2) at Bow (9-1), 1 p.m.
Stevens will be trying to win its first state championship in football since 1962, and the school’s first state title in any sport since 1989 (boys' soccer).

Here’s a closer look at each game:


Pinkerton at Concord
No one has come closer to beating Concord this season than Pinkerton, which had an eight-point lead with less than a minute to play in the regular-season game between these teams. Concord scored with 51 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, added the two-point conversion and prevailed 21-14 in overtime.

Each team has scored 467 points (42.5 ppg.), which is a single-season school record for both programs. Concord runs a spread offense and is as dangerous through air as it is running the ball. Pinkerton runs a wing-T that has helped Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly post a 270-103 record in 36 seasons with the Astros.

“That’s a crowd-pleasing offense,” O’Reilly said when asked about Concord. “That’s not what we do. We run the ball until you stop us from running the ball."

Pinkerton will be looking for a big game from senior running back Manny Latimore, who has rushed for 1,496 yards and 16 touchdowns on 165 carries this season.

“Manny is a talented kid,” Concord coach Eric Brown said. “Giving up big plays is my No. 1 concern. We’ll have to minimize those.”

Concord also has a 1,000-yard rusher in Walters Ndi, who has run for 1,095 yards on 21 carries. He’s complimented by running back/slot receiver Marc Gaudet, who has scored 19 touchdowns (16 rushing).

Concord’s other offensive weapons include quarterback Rob Law, who has completed 92 of 138 passes for 1,404 yards and 15 touchdowns; and wide receiver Seimou Smith, who has a team-high 32 receptions for 620 yards and seven touchdowns.

“It’s hard to stop a team when they have so many facets they can go to,” O’Reilly said. “They’re the real deal.”

Portsmouth at Plymouth
Plymouth hasn’t lost a championship game at home since 1995, but Portsmouth beat the Bobcats 27-22 in Plymouth earlier this season. Plymouth built a 22-7 lead in that game, but the Clippers scored three touchdowns in the final quarter.

Like the Division I championship game, this contest will offer a contrast in offensive styles. Plymouth runs the wing-T and rarely throws the ball. Portsmouth uses a four-wide, no-huddle offense and prefers to attack through the air.

Plymouth has two 1,000-yard rushers in its backfield in Jared Kuehl (1,021) and John Thomas (1,011). Plymouth quarterback Collin Sullivan has completed 47 of 73 passes for 842 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s also run for seven touchdowns.

Portsmouth quarterback Donovan Phanor has completed 89 of 166 passes for 1,478 yards and 17 touchdowns, and has run for 719 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Clippers have four receivers who are averaging at least 10 yards per catch.

“There’s no rocket science in this one,” Portsmouth coach Brian Pafford said. “You can’t go toe-to-toe with them. You have to spread them out and make things happen. If it’s OK weather I think we can move the ball and put points up.

“Defensively you have to play tough up front. When we watched film on them before our first game we never saw them punt. If we can get one stop a quarter, that’s pretty good.”

This is the fourth meeting between these programs. Plymouth has a 3-1 record in those games, which includes a 35-20 triumph in the 2006 Division III championship game.

Stevens at Bow
Defense has been the story for each of these teams. Seven of Bow’s opponents failed to score more than seven points, and Stevens hasn’t surrendered more than six points in any of its last five games.

Each team has a go-to player on offense. Bow’s Matt Ehrenberg has rushed for a school-record 1,380 yards this year. Donald Pellerin leads Stevens with 1,377 yards and 22 touchdowns on 255 carries.

Bow scored in each quarter when it posted a 28-14 victory over Stevens during the regular season, but the Cardinals have won seven in a row since that loss.

Alex Reitze may be a wildcard for Bow, which is seeking the program’s first state championship since 2004. Reitze missed the first five games this season with appendicitis, but gained a team-high 98 yards on 14 carries in last Saturday’s semifinal victory over Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough.

The regular-season loss to Bow was the only game in which Pellerin didn’t score at least one touchdown this season.

“Bow does a real good job against the run,” Stevens coach Paul Silva said. “We’ll need to be on top of our game in all phases.”

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 Hampshire football playoff preview

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
9:45
PM ET
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.

New Hampshire Week 6 football preview

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
1:38
PM ET
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.

(Read full post)

New Hampshire Week 4 football preview

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
11:47
AM ET
It's usually a big deal when the Plymouth Regional and Trinity football teams meet on the field, and Saturday night's contest will be no exception.

New HampshireTwo of the last four meetings between Trinity and Plymouth came in the Division IV championship game. The two others were regular-season games that ended up determining the No. 1 seed (and home-field advantage) for the playoffs.

Each team is now in Division II, and each will enter Saturday's matchup at Manchester's Gill Stadium (4:30 p.m.) with a 3-0 record. Monadnock (3-0) and St. Thomas (3-0) are the only other unbeaten teams in Division II.

“They're outstanding on offense and defense,” Plymouth coach Chuck Lenahan said when asked about Trinity. “A lot of people have stepped up for us. We're getting a little better (defensively) every game. I think turnovers could be a big, big factor in this one.”

Plymouth beat Trinity, 7-0, in last year's championship game. Trinity defeated Plymouth, 30-14, in the 2011 championship game.

“They're a well-coached team with a ton of good athletes,” Trinity coach Steve Burns said. “They're very, very good, and very, very big. They're solid on both sides of the ball, and their skill kids are fantastic. We have our work cut out for us.”

Trinity has outscored it opponents 130-63 this season. Plymouth has surrendered seven points in its last two games and has outscored its three opponents 131-36.

“I think they were bigger and more physical last year,” Lenahan said. “They have more speed and a lot more finesse this year. After Saturday we won't have to wonder how good we are.”

DIVISION I

Saturday night's game between Exeter (3-0) and Bishop Guertin (2-1) at Nashua's Stellos Stadium is this weekend's marquee matchup in Division I.

These two programs were the class of Division II until Exeter moved to Division I following the 2009 season. The Blue Hawks and Cardinals met in the Division II championship game seven times from 1997 to 2008. BG won four of those seven meetings.

BG, which is in its first season at the Division I level, has won two in a row since opening the season with a one-point loss to Winnacunnet. Exeter received a scare from Winnacunnet last weekend, but prevailed, 35-34, when Winnacunnet missed a point-after attempt in overtime.

The rivalry game between Londonderry (2-1) and Pinkerton Academy (2-1) is another noteworthy Division I contest this weekend. The game is part of Mack Placque weekend, the athletic rivalry between the two schools that is contested each fall.

The teams will meet Saturday night (6:45 p.m.) in Derry.

DIVISION III

When the NHIAA chose to reduce the number of football divisions in the state from six to three earlier this year, it also altered the playoff format in each division. There are four conferences in each division, and two teams from each conference will qualify for postseason play.

Some have been critical of the playoff format since it may not allow deserving teams to make the playoffs. If the three best teams in a division happen to come from the same conference, one of those teams will not be in the eight-team playoff field.

That scenario could play out in Division III South, which is clearly the strongest conference in that division. Pelham (3-0) and Campbell (2-0) – the only unbeaten teams in that division – both compete in Division III South, which also includes Bow (2-1) and Somersworth (1-2). Although Somersworth is off to a slow start, there are coaches who insist the Toppers are capable of beating anyone in the division.

Somersworth can prove it is playoff material when it faces Campbell on Saturday in Somersworth.

UNION LEADER/WGIR/WMUR POWER POLL

1. Exeter (3-0)

2. Concord (3-0)

3. Bedford (3-0)

4. Nashua South (3-0)

5. Pinkerton (2-1)

6. Winnacunnet (2-1)

7. Trinity (3-0)

8. Bishop Guertin (2-1)

9. Plymouth (3-0)

10 (tie). Londonderry (2-1)

10 (tie). Portsmouth (2-1)

10 (tie). Spaulding (2-1)

(Read full post)

New Hampshire football preview

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
5:46
PM ET
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

May, 16, 2013
5/16/13
6:10
PM ET
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

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

February, 7, 2012
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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

November, 10, 2011
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In his 41st year at the helm of Plymouth Regional's storied football program – a span that's produced a state-record 334 wins and 18 championships – Chuck Lenahan has surely experienced it all.

New HampshireYet it was the manner in which the Bobcats won their most recent matchup that had the gruff-voiced grid coach admitting, “I'm kind of numb.”

It's understandable. Lenahan approved the call for a fourth-quarter fake punt that produced the game-winning touchdown. Plymouth celebrated a 21-14 Division IV semifinal win Nov. 5 against longtime rival Laconia High.

The scenario: Plymouth was forced to punt from its 32-yard line in a 14-all game. The game clock showed less than nine minutes remained in regulation.

Special teams coach Chris Sanborn persuaded Lenahan to fake the punt. The Bobcats desperately needed a spark. Their rushing attack, which generated two lengthy first-half scoring drives capped by Cole Brooker touchdown runs, was stifled after halftime.

Standout senior Taylor Newberry (37 carries for 205 yards) was asked to fake the punt for the first time in his career. It worked out better than even Lenahan could have expected.

Newberry gained the three yards necessary to extend the drive. He also picked up 65 more yards, cutting left-to-right across the field, dodging would-be tacklers, and ultimately celebrating a 68-yard TD run.

“We actually just set that up (in the week leading up to the semifinal). We were 50-50 on it,” Newberry said. “I guess it worked.”

Plymouth – a year removed from missing the playoffs on a three-team tiebreaker – actually plays the role of underdog in the Nov. 12 final.

The second-seeded Bobcats (9-1) travel to Manchester's Gill Stadium for a showdown with No. 1 seed Trinity High (10-0). The Bobcats were stunned at home in Week 4 by the Pioneers, allowing a pair of late-game touchdown passes in a 12-7 loss.

It snapped Plymouth's 40-game home win streak.

“Another week,” Lenahan said. “The kids wanted it bad. What the heck. We might as well take a trip to Manchester.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

June, 13, 2011
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The resume: Seven consecutive appearances in the Division I boys' lacrosse final.

The crown count: Four.

The program celebrating those staggering statistics: Nashua's Bishop Guertin High.

New HampshireGuertin tightened its grip on the sport June 8 with a first-time feat for the program. Coach Chris Cameron and his Cardinals clinched their second straight title with an 11-8 win.

“This one feels good,” said Cameron, whose team finished 14-1 in league play. “This one feels good.”

Success was indeed sweet, considering second-seeded BG beat its fiercest rival. Top-seeded Pinkerton Academy of Derry entered the tournament final undefeated (20-0 overall) and perfect in NHIAA finals since 1997 when boasting an unblemished record (3-0).

Roughly 1,500 fans filed in to Stellos Stadium for the much-anticipated matchup played in extreme humidity. The final marked the fourth time BG and Pinkerton fought to finish No. 1 since 2005.

BG now owns a 3-1 record in those colossal clashes.

What prepared BG's young and inexperienced squad for this giant win? Try six grueling out-of-state games that left the team linked to an uncharacteristic 0-6 record.

Cameron annually schedules the most unforgiving non-league schedule of any team playing NHIAA lacrosse. After his team topped No. 3 seed Hanover High in the semifinals, 15-6, the eighth-year coach said this spring's out-of-state slate was the toughest to date.

The Cards lost to Massachusetts squads Lexington (6-4), Needham (14-11), Cohasset (7-4) and Duxbury (15-3). New Jersey's St. Joseph Metuchen (11-3) and Rhode Island's La Salle Academy (6-5) also beat BG.

There was also an 8-7 loss to the Astros, which snapped BG's 48-game regular-season win streak against in-state foes. Guertin had as many losses this spring (seven) as the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons combined.

Shut-down junior defenseman Bob Fahey said team confidence took a hit. But the losses served a purpose.

“It got us ready for this exact game, right here,” said Fahey, who has already committed to UMass. “Coach Cameron gives us that great out-of-state schedule to get ready for these games.”

Cameron's club took control of the final after halftime. The teams took the field for the third quarter knotted at 6-apiece.

BG's midfield- and close-defense – operating without defensive slides – caused all kinds of problems for Pinkerton. Fahey, Kyle Karaska and Jay Krzyston forced the Astros to shoot from the perimeter. Long-stick midfielder Brody Smith locked off lanes to the cage. Colin Delea (14 saves) made the necessary stops between the pipes.

“You've got to give credit to them,” said Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly, noting his offensive-minded club was contained to four goals in 6-on-6 play. “It's not like we were missing the cage. It's just the shots didn't seem to be there.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
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MacKenzie Anderson earned the respect of teammates long before she cracked the goal line in her team's Division IV football finale.

New HampshireA back-up defensive tackle for Hanover High, Anderson carried the football on consecutive goal-line plays in a 42-7 home win over Merrimack Valley of Penacook on Oct. 29.

Calling Anderson's number was the coaching staff's way to recognize a player who didn't miss a practice as an upperclassman.

It was an important behind-the-scenes feat. She helped prepare Hanover's starters as a member of the scout team.

“One of the only seniors that hadn’t scored a touchdown [this season] was Mackenzie. We just decided to give it a shot,” said Hanover head coach Mike Ivanoski, who rewarded members of the offensive and defensive lines with goal-line carries in the final week's of the season. “The first time she got hit hard at the 1. We had to make a decision to do it again. We went again on second down and she powered it in.”

Anderson's second effort was a microcosm for Hanover's season.

A perennial playoff team, Hanover (3-6) opened with five consecutive losses. Three setbacks were by seven or fewer points. But, the Marauders finished with three wins in four games.

Ivanoski said Anderson, the first female he coached in 16 seasons, never sought attention. She relished playing an important – but often anonymous – role in the trenches. The coach also said she recorded a crucial quarterback sack in Hanover's 24-21 Week 3 loss at Lebanon.

But Anderson's touchdown was a truly memorable moment – for herself, her teammates and Hanover's fans.

“Her work with the scout teams,” Ivanoski said, “she just gained that respect.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

October, 27, 2010
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The Granite State's governing body for high school sports, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, is conducting a postseason experiment.

It's currently taking place on the soccer pitch.

New HampshireEvery boys' and girls' soccer team in Division III, regardless of regular-season record, received the chance to compete for the state championship. During the 2009-10 academic year, athletics directors from the league's schools requested a one-year trial run with a “quasi-open” tournament format.

“It came about because, for a number of years, there's been a few ADs who have been pushing for an open tournament,” NHIAA executive director Pat Corbin said. “It's a quasi-open tournament so as not to lengthen the season. We took the last regular-season game and considered it a 'play-in' game.

“It wasn't without controversy,” Corbin added. “But it did finally pass (executive) council this year.”



Whether you consider the play-in round part of the tournament – and the NHIAA does not – is splitting hairs. All 24 boys' teams and 19 girls' teams were playoff-eligible.

Similar to Division III soccer, the open format will be used this winter in Division III boys' and girls' basketball, and this spring in Division III baseball and softball.

“There's been a real push to look at alternatives to what's always been done,” Corbin said.

Cutting down on travel time and costs are key reasons Division III schools opted to go this route. The NHIAA is encouraging more cross-divisional play. But, smaller schools playing teams from large-school leagues may incur additional losses on the regular-season resume.

The open format prevents a Division III team from being penalized – read: missing the playoffs – come tourney time.

But, does the format devalue regular-season results? Why play the games if, ultimately, they don't count toward tournament qualification?

“Well, if you want to play a weak regular-season (schedule) because you like having a good win-loss record, you'll play the mettle of the league in the tournament and not last long,” said Corbin, playing the role of devil's advocate.

Under this experimental format, the top eight boys' soccer teams and top four girls' squads bypassed the play-in round. Given the number of teams in the girls' league, the top four teams also earned a bye in the tournament's first official round – a concern for some coaches, Corbin said, due to the long layoff.

Fifteen play-in matches – eight for the boys, seven for the girls – took place at homes of the higher seeds on Oct. 22.

Twelve of the play-in matches played out as expected. The better teams, based on a two-month body of work, extended their seasons. In three cases, however, the lower-seeded squads sprung upsets.

Two of those stunners took place in the girls' tournament.

Sixteenth-seeded Raymond (3-10-2 regular season) defeated White Mountains of Whitefield (8-6-1), the No. 9 seed, 2-0. Thirteenth-seeded Kingswood of Wolfeboro (6-8-1) beat Stevens of Claremont (7-7-1), the No. 12 seed, 3-0.

The lone upset on the boys' side belonged to No. 19 seed Stevens (2-12-1). It won, 2-1, over No. 14 seed Hillsboro-Deering (6-9-0).

“The intent is to collect data and look at it at the end of the year,” Corbin said. “We'll do an analysis of how things would've likely shaken out if under the old format … and the council will make a decision.”

POINT SYSTEM STIFF-ARMED
The NHIAA was recently at the center of another big decision. This one affected football.

On Oct. 21, the 21-member executive council voted to discontinue use of the first-year New Hampshire Index Plan. The controversial point-rating system, in place this year for use in all sports, decides playoff teams.

The system best serves sports whose teams cannot all play one another during the regular season, creating the need for an equalizer.

Football, however, is the one sport where every team – across all six divisions – faces all league foes. The need for this equalizer was unnecessary.

Furthermore, the system's way of awarding points seemed certain to penalize a playoff-caliber team from punching one of four postseason tickets per division. A win for the designated “road” team earned five points. A win for the designated “home” team earned four points.

Yet caliber of competition is a non-factor. A powerhouse team that beats its winless host earns more points than the struggling squad that springs an upset at home.

Earlier this season, Division I contenders Nashua North and Nashua South met in their annual regular-season rivalry game. Stellos Stadium is home for both teams.

Based on the NHIAA's designation for road and home teams, South was considered the visitor. South won the Week 6 contest, 38-21. It also collected an extra point – for winning on its turf.

“It’s a crazy thing,” South head coach Scott Knight, referring to the NHIP, said after the win. “I guess it stinks if it doesn’t work (to your advantage). But it worked to our benefit this time.”

Displeasure with the system mounted throughout the state's football community. The NHIAA's football committee, led by first-year chair Carol Dozibrin, made the issue an agenda topic for its Oct. 7 meeting.

Two weeks later, Dozibrin made a presentation to the NHIAA Council, which voted to re-instate the old tournament selection system. League records and head-to-head results are, again, top priority.

“When you deal with high school athletics … you just try to do the best thing for the kids,” Dozibrin told the New Hampshire Sunday News. “I think the best thing for the kids is to allow them to determine the outcome on the field.”

EXPECTED OUTCOMES
Soccer tournaments for the Divisions I and IV boys, and Division II girls are under way.

A combined 20 first-round matches were played in those tournaments. The higher-seed squad won 19 times.

The lone exception came in the Division IV boys' bracket. No. 10 seed Colebrook defeated No. 7 seed Nashua Christian, 5-1.

Tournaments for the Division I girls and Division II boys begin Wednesday. Playoffs for the Division IV girls start Thursday.

FINAL FOUR
Title contenders have been significantly whittled down in Divisions I, II and III field hockey.

The Division I semifinals take place Thursday at Exeter's Bill Ball Stadium. Second-seeded Pinkerton Academy of Derry (13-1-1) faces No. 3 seed Salem (13-2) at 5 p.m. Top-seeded Winnacunnet of Hampton (14-0-1) draws No. 5 seed and defending champion Timberlane of Plaistow (11-5).

Winners advance to Sunday's 2:30 p.m. final at Bedford.

The Division II semifinals take place Wednesday at Exeter. Second-seeded Kennett of Conway (15-1) meets upset specialist and No. 14 seed Plymouth (8-8) at 5 p.m. Top-seeded Bow (16-0) and No. 4 seed Oyster River of Durham (12-4) compete in the 7 p.m. matchup.

Winners advance to Sunday's noon championship at Bedford.

Division III has its finalists. Top-seeded Derryfield of Manchester (16-0) meets No. 2 seed Berlin (15-1) in Sunday's 5 p.m. clash at Bedford.

STRETCH RUN
Cross country's most important races are fast approaching.

Derryfield Park in Manchester is the site for the divisional meets on Saturday. Six races on the 3.1-mile course will determine team and individual champions.

The race day schedule is: Division I girls (10 a.m.) and boys (10:40 a.m.); Division II girls (11:30 a.m.) and boys (12:10 p.m.); and Division III girls (1 p.m.) and boys (1:40 p.m.).

Top runners in each division advance to the Meet of Champions, at Nashua's Mines Falls, on Nov. 6. Nashua South hosts the event, which is a qualifying race for the New England Championships.

The girls' race starts at 2:30 p.m. The boys' race begins at 3:20 p.m.

BIG GAME, GIANT WIN
Sixteen yards separated Nick Lawrence from Timberlane's single-game rushing record.

The senior running back carried the football 29 times for 324 yards and four touchdowns on Oct. 15. He surpassed 1,200 yards for the season as the suddenly surging Owls scored a 26-14 Week 7 win over Winnacunnet, at the time undefeated and New Hampshire's No. 1-ranked team.

Lawrence ran with power and patience. He ran tough between the tackles. He turned the corner when reaching the edges.

The ability to maintain his balance – a big reason he is a three-time Division I wrestling champion in the 130-, 140- and 160-pound weight classes – made him tough to tackle.

"It definitely doesn’t hurt him," Timberlane head coach Kevin Fitzgerald said of Lawrence's wrestling experience. "I'm not a big wrestling guy, but I’m sure there’s a correlation between (having) balance on the mat and on the football field."

The 5-foot 11-inch, 174-pound punisher looked a lot like former Timberlane star Derek Furey, owner of the single-game rushing record. As a junior in 2008, Furey turned 40 carries into a 340-yard, five-TD performance.

But Lawrence's most impressive contribution was arguably on the other side of scrimmage.

As an inside linebacker, Lawrence recovered two fumbles, one coming on his strip-sack of standout Winnacunnet quarterback Steve Cronan.

"It was one of his better defensive games of the season," Fitzgerald said. "He moved from the secondary to inside linebacker this season. It took time to transition, but with reps and looking at film, he’s gotten better."

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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