Boston High School: Chris Medeiros

New Hampshire football playoff preview

November, 7, 2013
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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 Football Preview

September, 20, 2013
How much interest is there in Saturday's Division I game between Exeter and neighboring Winnacunnet of Hampton?

Put it this way: If 4,000 fans show up for Saturday's contest there will undoubtedly be some who will label the turnout a disappointment.

The Exeter-Winnacunnet rivalry has become the fiercest in the state.

“It's the biggest game of the year,” Exeter coach Bill Ball said. “Always has been. Always will be.”

This year's game will have even more meaning since both programs are in Division I. The programs battled in Division II until Exeter moved to Division I after the 2009 season. Winnacunnet moved to Division I after last season.

Both teams will enter this year's matchup with a 2-0 record. Winnacunnet has won close games against Bishop Guertin of Nashua (23-22) and Nashua North (20-17). Exeter has beaten Dover (48-6) and Keene (13-3).

“Like all of our games against Exeter, this one will be won in the box,” Winnacunnet coach Ron Auffant said. “Their offensive line is big and they come off the ball well, so our kids will have to be tough against their running game. Defensively, the key against Exeter is first down. You have to take them out of their comfort zone.

“We'll have to pick our spots (on offense) and try to make some big plays. They're physical, but I like our athletes.”

Exeter has won the last two Division I championships. Winnacunnet, which won last year's Division II title, is the only team that beat Exeter last season.

“It's always huge when we play Exeter,” Auffant said. “We'll have to bring our A game.”

Merrimack Valley of Penacook is off to a 2-0 start and may be the most intriguing team in Division II.

Merrimack Valley first fielded a varsity program in 2002 and has had one winning season since then (5-4 in 2008). Pride quarterback Ivan Niyamugabo has drawn some FCS interest, and Tucker Burt has added some punch to the running game after playing for New Hampton Prep last season.

Merrimack Valley, which didn't win a game last year, will get its stiffest test to date when it plays at Portsmouth (1-1) on Friday night.

“They're better than anybody we've played, that's for sure,” Merrimack Valley coach Dave Jackson said. “Everywhere I look I see athletes who can catch the ball.

“I think for us to win it'll have to be a high-scoring game. We have some speed too. We have some play makers.”

Pelham is one of three unbeaten teams in Division III –- Fall Mountain (Langdon) and Campbell (Litchfield) are the others -– and will try to raise its record to 3-0 when it plays Somersworth (1-1) in Pelham on Friday night.

“I think Somersworth is the best team in the division,” Pelham coach Ryan Clark said. “They have a strong winning tradition. We'll need our play makers to step up.”

Running back Chris Medeiros is the leading rusher in the team's double-wing offense. He's one of several four-year starters on the team.

Pelham finished 3-6 last year, Clark's first season as the program's head coach.

“I felt like we finished last season strong, and we didn't really lose much,” Clark said. “This Friday is going to tell us a lot.”

1. Exeter (2-0)
2. Bedford (2-0)
3. Concord (2-0)
4. Nashua South (2-0)
5. Pinkerton Academy (1-1)
6. Winnacunnet (2-0)
7. Keene (1-1)
8. Trinity (2-0)
9. Londonderry (2-0)
10. Plymouth (2-0)


Division I

Dover at Alvirne
Nashua North at Spaulding
Timberlane at Nashua South
Bedford at Londonderry
Concord at Merrimack

Winnacunnet at Exeter
Manchester Central at Manchester Memorial
Manchester West at Goffstown
Pinkerton at Salem
Keene at Bishop Guertin

Division II

Laconia at Kingswood
Merrimack Valley at Portsmouth
Kearsarge at Hanover
Lebanon at Trinity
Con-Val at Milford

Pembroke at Sanborn
John Stark at St. Thomas
Kennett at Plymouth
Souhegan at Windham
Monadnock at Hollis/Brookline

Division III

Epping-Newmarket at Raymond
Somersworth at Pelham

Bishop Brady at Campbell
Farmington-Nute at Winnisquam
Newfound at Franklin
Gilford at Inter-Lakes/Moultonboro
Newport at Fall Mountain
Stevens at Bow

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