Boston High School: Chuck Lenahan

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 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)

Week 2 New Hampshire football preview

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
11:34
AM ET
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)

Lenahan's legacy draws to close at Plymouth (N.H.)

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
2:52
PM ET
Chuck Lenahan's 43rd season as Plymouth (N.H.) Regional High School's head football coach will also be his final season as the Bobcats head coach.

New HampshireLenahan, 70, recently made it known that he will step down as the school's football coach and athletic director after the current school year. He's also in his 43rd year as Plymouth's athletic director.

“This is my last year,” Lenahan said. “I'm going to miss it for sure, but this will allow me to go see a lot of games and do a lot of things I haven't done in a while. I haven't seen UNH play in a long time.

“I made up my mind last year. I talked it over with the administration and they said they wanted some notice. I want to go out by doing a good job.”

Lenahan, 70, has twice been named the national high school football coach of the year. He'll enter the 2013 season with a career record of 345-69-1. He collected victory No. 343 last season, which set the record for career victories by a New England high school football coach.

Plymouth won its 19th state championship under Lenahan last season, when he guided the Bobcats to an undefeated season for the 13th time. Plymouth has strung together 46- and 57-game winning streaks during Lenahan's tenure. The latter streak was the longest in the nation in 2010.

“The one thing that stands out to me about Chuck is his attention to detail and his organizational skills,” longtime Plymouth assistant coach Chris Sanborn said. “There's no limit to the amount of time and effort he'll put in.

“He'll do all of the little things – we all do. But he's definitely a guy who leads by example.”

Lenahan, who is also known for his dry sense of humor, is currently a member of the NHIAA football committee. He said that's a position he may retain.

“I'll have to talk that over with (NHIAA executive director) Pat Corbin,” he said.

Lenahan was one of the committee members who helped realign New Hampshire football in the offseason, when the Granite State went from six divisions to three. Plymouth, which had been competing in Division IV, is now one of 20 teams in Division II.

“It's going to be a challenge, but we're looking forward to it,” Lenahan said. “We'll get to play some new teams like Portsmouth. We'll have three state champions this year. That'll make things a lot tougher.”

Lenahan grew up in Mechanic Falls, Maine, and graduated from Plymouth State University. He was inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame in June.

Lenahan's first Plymouth team finished 0-6-1 in 1971, but he guided the Bobcats to a state title in his second season. Sanborn and Jon Bownes, another Plymouth assistant coach, are among the candidates who could replace Lenahan.

“It's a tremendous school and administration,” Lenahan said. “I'll miss the relationships you have with the coaches and administrators. There's a lot of camaraderie there with the people you work with. One thing I've realized is how lucky I am to coach the kids that I have – that's what I'll miss the most.

”We've had a great run here. It's time to let somebody else do it.”

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 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

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

October, 31, 2012
10/31/12
7:04
PM ET
In the rich history of New England high school football, there isn't a head coach with more career wins than Plymouth (N.H.) Regional's Chuck Lenahan.

New Hampshire“How do I put this? It's a great honor, especially for the school and the program. That's the important thing,” said Lenahan, 69, who clinched career win No. 343 with a 35-21 Division IV decision over John Stark Regional on Oct. 27.

The 14-point win pushed Lenahan's career mark to 343-69-1. He moved past Rod Wotton (342-81-3), who retired in 2010. Wotton enjoyed successful stints at Maine schools South Berwick and Marshwood, and New Hampshire's St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover (111 NHIAA wins).

Lenahan, of course, has never left Plymouth. As if his .831 winning percentage over 41-plus campaigns doesn't cut it, consider these football feats:


-- 29 state championship appearancesar


-- 18 state championships


-- 12 undefeated seasons


-- NHIAA's longest win streaks (57 games from 2005-10; 46 games from 2000-04)

On the strength of those win streaks – the 57-gamer a nation-best early in '10 -- Plymouth went 106-2 (nine titles) from 2000-09.

“Unparalleled success. A level of consistency that is so uncommon it's incredible,” said Bill Ball, the athletics director and 20-year head football coach at Division I Exeter. “To year-in and year-out put out the quality that he does on the football field, yet maintain a high level of sportsmanship, (the record is) an incredible accomplishment by Chuck, his coaches, his players and the Plymouth community.”

The gap between Lenahan and his peers, in terms of career NHIAA wins, is considerable. Brian O'Reilly of Division I Pinkerton Academy is second (249-102). Recently retired Jack Gati, who split time at then-Division I Trinity, Concord and Salem, is third (221-138).

To think, Lenahan didn't crack the win column as a 27-year-old rookie head coach in 1971. After settling for a season-opening 14-14 tie with Hanover, the Bobcats lost their final six games.

“We lost a lot of close games, I'll tell you that. We had injuries all over the place,” Lenahan said. “But I don't believe I had much of a clue what was going on anyway.”

If Lenahan was ever truly clueless, he quickly corrected the coaching flaw. The Bobcats celebrated their first undefeated championship season in '72, the first year the NHIAA adopted a playoff format.

Lenahan's first win was an 18-12 triple-overtime triumph against Newport on Sept. 9, 1972. The OT format, like postseason play, was new to the state's football landscape.

More milestone moments from Lenahan's legendary career:


-- Win No. 100 – Plymouth 22, Littleton 0 (Nov. 3, 1984)


-- Win No. 200 – Plymouth 34, Monadnock 12 (Oct. 10, 1998)


-- Win No. 217, NHIAA record – Plymouth 14, Kennett 0 (Sept. 16, 2000)


-- Win No. 300 – Plymouth 41, Kingswood 7 (Sept. 13, 2008)


Plymouth is again in a familiar position. Lenahan & Co. are the top playoff seed and two wins from a perfect season.

"A big part of our program has been consistency. I'm pretty proud of that," Lenahan said. "Our kids come to play no matter what we have for talent."

XC CHAMPS CROWNED
Northwood's Coe-Brown Academy collected considerable hardware at the NHIAA Cross Country Championship on Oct. 27.

Hannah Parker paced the girls' team to its third consecutive Division II title at Derryfield Park in Manchester. The sophomore finished the 3.1-mile run in 18 minutes, 58 seconds to lead the field. Junior Jeremy Brassard earned an individual title with his time of 16:08.

Parker and Brown became Coe-Brown's first individual winners.

Parker and her teammates were particularly dominant. The underclassman-laden squad was responsible for the first-, third-, fifth-, seventh- and ninth-place finishers. The team tallied a championship-low 25 points.

In Division I, Bedford's boys (57 points) and Londonderry's girls (89) finished No. 1. Concord's B.J. Smith (16:06) and Manchester Central's Elizabeth Conway (18:45) were the individual champs.

Souhegan's boys (44 points) won the Division II title.

In Division III, Hopkinton's boys (65 points) and girls (41) celebrated a No. 1 finish.

Fall Mountain's Levi Frye (16:12) paced the boys. Laconia's Sami Hicks (19:38) was first to finish for the girls.

DEJA VU
Manchester Memorial's Jared Ombati gained more than 300 yards on the ground for the second time this season on Oct. 26. The senior running back totaled 354 yards (three touchdowns) on 31 carries in his team's 29-14 win over Division II Manchester West.

Ombati shredded Division I foe Londonderry on Sept. 21. He ran for 330 yards (five TDs) in a 33-25 win.

“All week, we said the only one that would beat us was 20,” said West head coach Jim Lauzon, referncing Ombati's uniform number. “We had guys (in practice) pretend to be him. One of our coaches dressed and was him. We thought we were really ready to stop him.”

West's defense did stop Ombati – through two carries. He was stuffed for no gain on his first rush. He moved the ball 1 yard on his second touch.

Ombati finished the quarter with four carries for 139 yards, including 55- and 83-yard TD runs that capped one-play drives. His final TD, a 42-yard burst, also finished a one-play possession.

“He's one of the fastest kids in the school,” Memorial head coach Peter Colcord said. “I've been waiting for this for four years. He's really turned it on this year.”

Marc Thaler can be reached at marc.thaler@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
6:13
PM ET
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

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
1:34
PM ET
Seventy games have been played at Plymouth Regional's Zoulias Field since the start of the 2000 season. Just two of those contests were won by the visiting team.

Manchester's Trinity High was the second squad in that span to record the road win. The Pioneers, in most improbable fashion, pulled off the season's No. 1 stunner to date.

In their first-ever trip to Plymouth's home turf, the Pioneers struck for two long touchdown passes in the final minutes of their Division IV tilt to complete a 12-7 comeback win Sept. 24.

Trinity (4-0) terminated Plymouth's 40-game home win streak, which started nearly seven years earlier with a regular-season finale victory over Peterborough's ConVal Regional on Oct. 30, 2004.

"I brought it up (the night before the game) at a team meeting. That was the only time that we really brought it up," Trinity head coach Gary Leonard said of Plymouth's 40-game run at home. "It didn't seem to motivate them. But we can say we did it. That's what counts."

Exactly what motivated the Pioneers is difficult to determine. But it's clear what –- make that “who” -– sparked their comeback. He is sophomore quarterback Carmen Giampetruzzi.

A first-year starter under center, Giampetruzzi hit running back Josh Hughes for an 80-yard touchdown with 4:01 to play. Hughes caught the 10-yard pass outside the left hash mark, turned, and raced 70 yards down the left sideline. The throw was threaded perfectly between two Plymouth defenders.

The play was just the second pass attempt for Trinity, whose double-wing offense rarely moves the ball through the air. But the Bobcats completely neutralized Trinity's rushing attack, which left Leonard with no choice but to rely on his quarterback's left arm.

Moments after Hughes hit paydirt, the Pioneers, as they routinely do, lined up for the two-point conversion. Plymouth stuffed it.

Trailing by a point, the Pioneers needed a defensive stop. They got it with a turnover-on-downs at their 26-yard line.

The scenario: Trinity was 74 yards from the end zone – without a time out. Just 1 minute, 24 seconds remained in regulation.

Giampetruzzi went to work from the shotgun. He completed passes to Hughes (5 yards), Andrew Lauderdale (16 yards) and Adam Chambers (10 yards), moving the ball to Plymouth's 43. A false start moved the ball back to Plymouth's 48.

On third-and-15, with 26.5 seconds to play, Giampetruzzi handled the snap, dropped back, and rifled a spiral down the right seam. Lauderdale, a 6-foot 6-inch tight end, gained a step on his defender, caught the pass in stride and bolted for the goal line.

He crossed it with 17.8 seconds to play.

"So far, for Trinity, for football, this is probably one of the best wins we've had," said Giampetruzzi, whose ensuing two-point pass was incomplete, forcing the defense to make one final stand.

Lauderdale locked up the win, batting down a pass from Plymouth's 43 on the final play.

The Pioneers celebrated. The Bobcats huddled up to hear head coach Chuck Lenahan, the state's all-time wins leader, address them.

"Stick together," said a stunned Lenahan (328-68-1) when asked what he told his team after the final horn sounded. "That's all you can do. Regroup."

BIG WINNERS
Hampton's Winnacunnet High and Northwood's Coe-Brown Academy were the big winners at the 37th annual Manchester Cross Country Invitational Sept. 24.

Without a single runner recording a top 10 finish at Derryfield Park, Winnacunnet won the boys' team title in the large-school race. Coe-Brown won the girls' crown in the small-school event.

Winnacunnet edged Burlington, Vt., 157-161. Justin Trott was Winnacunnet's first runner (12th overall) to complete the 3.1-mile course.

Coe-Brown won comfortably (67-99) over second-place Hopkinton High. Jessie Carney (20:22) and Carissa Hodgdon (20:40) were top 10 finishers, placing fourth and sixth, respectively.

The Bears also celebrated a boys' individual title as Jeremy Brassard won the small-school race. He clocked a time of 16:27.

In the boys' elite race, Pinkerton Academy of Derry delivered a solid showing. The Astros placed second in the team competition behind Rhode Island's Bishop Hendricken (42-89). Anthony Anzivino finished second overall (16:06).

Sami Hicks of Laconia High won the girls' small-school individual title (19:22).

CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW?
Division I field hockey powers Salem High and Pinkerton clashed Sept. 24 in a fight for first place. Very little separated the squads in Salem's 2-1 home win.

Abbey Raymond snapped a 1-all tie inside the final 4 minutes of regulation. The dagger ended Pinkerton's bid for perfection. Danielle Ferraro set up Raymond's game-winning strike.

Jordyn Hamilton's goal late in the first half pulled Pinkerton even at 1-1. Her tally answered an early marker by Erika Smith.

Pinkerton finished the month with back-to-back wins, improving its record to 9-1. Salem also closed the month 9-1.

GRANITE STATE GREATS
Sept. 15: Josh Hofer scored in double overtime to lift Manchester Memorial High to a 2-1 win over Salem in Division I boys' soccer. Hofer buried a rebound in the 95th minute.

Sept. 15: Cassidy John scored in the final minute of regulation to give Penacook's Merrimack Valley Regional a 1-0 win over Concord's Bishop Brady High in Division II girls' soccer. The win was the Pride's fifth straight and, at the time, kept the team unbeaten in league play at 6-0-1.

Sept. 17: Chris Camire made an acrobatic 32-yard catch in the final minute to set up a game-winning 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Connor Benjamin. Division III Goffstown High for the first time in the football program's history defeated Amherst's Souhegan High, 21-14.

Sept. 19: Jenna Freitas connected for five goals in Memorial's 7-0 Division I field hockey win at Nashua North. She scored the game's first three goals and added two more in the second half.

Sept. 24: Playing quarterback and running back during Merrimack Valley's rain-soaked football contest in Week 4, Cody Thurston had a hand in six touchdowns. He tossed four TDs and notched two rushing scores as the Pride topped Wolfeboro's Kingswood Regional, 64-45, in Division IV action.

Marc Thaler is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He can be reached at marc.thaler@gmail.com. Read his "New Hampshire GameDay" blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
2:25
PM ET
When Smith Center, Kan., lost last year's Class 2-1A title game, the nation's longest active win streak in high school football instantly became property of New Hampshire's Plymouth Regional.

New HampshireSmith Center was tackled in overtime, ending the program's 79-game run. And Plymouth – two weeks earlier crowned a champion for the 18th time – inherited pressure previously placed upon the Redmen.

But, after five consecutive 11-0 championship campaigns and two more wins to open this season, Plymouth's state-record run ended at 57 games. Kennett High of Conway, a decided underdog at home, snapped the streak with a shocking 20-9 Week 3 win on Sept. 17.

“We didn't play very well. That's not a trademark (of Plymouth football),” said Plymouth head coach Chuck Lenahan, whose program's previous state-record 46-game win streak was also snapped by Kennett, a 6-0 winner in the 2004 season's third week.

“We felt we had the kids that matched up well with those guys,” first-year Kennett head coach Mike Holderman, an assistant on last year's team that was Plymouth's state-record-breaking 47th straight victim, told the New Hampshire Sunday News. “We believed we were stronger.”

Lengthy win streaks aside, Lenahan's Bobcats are best known for playing disciplined, mistake-free football.

Four turnovers and nearly 100 yards in penalties, however, prevented a 58th straight victory.

“Everything that could go wrong did. Nothing came together for us. Kennett had a lot to do with it. They certainly deserved to beat us that day. It would've been nice to play them better,” said Lenahan, whose team lost at Trinity High of Manchester, 39-6, in Week 4, marking the first losing streak for the small-school powerhouse since 1991.

Plymouth's 57-game run spanned three seasons in Division III (2005-07) and two-plus years in Division IV (2008-present). Two wins, in particular, stand out.

Lenahan & Co. beat Laconia, 14-7, in the 2008 Division IV title game. Clinching the crown required the host Bobcats to erase a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit in the final eight minutes at muddy Zoulias Field.

But Plymouth's “free kick” win at Souhegan High of Amherst in 2007 may top the list.

Trailing by a point with 10 seconds to play, the Bobcats called for a fair catch on Souhegan's punt. An obscure rule allowed the Bobcats to attempt a game-winning 47-yard field goal using a kick-off tee.

Souhegan's defense, forced 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, couldn't pressure the kick.

Kyle Underwood split the uprights, lifting Plymouth to the 11-9 win.

“We had some great games,” said Lenahan, who, in his 40th season at Plymouth, owns a career record of 322-65-1 and the most New Hampshire high school football wins in state history. “You have to be a little lucky. But it's a lot of hard work.”

For all the drama packed into those wins, Plymouth mostly pummeled foes during the streak. The average margin of victory in the 57 games was 26.2 points.
Such dominance wasn't universally celebrated across the state. When Plymouth moved down a division for the 2008-10 classification cycle, the program and streak became hotly debated topics.

Plymouth competes in the appropriate league based on the school's student enrollment, which Lenahan, also the athletics director, said was 714 as of Sept. 20. For some time, though, Plymouth has fielded teams considered vastly superior, in talent and coaching, to opponents of comparable school size.

The proof: From 2000-09, the Bobcats went 106-3 with nine undefeated championship seasons split between Divisions III and IV.

Why not seek a tougher challenge?

“We're right where we should be (based on enrollment),” said Lenahan. “We're pretty happy with what we are.

“I know a lot of people use words like 'Pride and Tradition,'” he added, referring to Plymouth's signature phrase. “But that takes a lot of time and hard work to build. A lot of intangibles go into it.”

RUNNING AWAY WITH IT
Granite State cross country runners dominated the varsity races at the 35th annual Manchester Invitational, which draws many of the Northeast's top talents, on Sept. 25. Five of the six 5K (3.1-mile) races at Derryfield Park were won by local athletes.

Jeff LaCoste, a senior at Nashua's Bishop Guertin High, won the elite boys' race. He was the only runner to record a sub-16 minute time (15-minutes, 53 seconds). Chloe Maleski, a senior at Keene High, placed first in the elite girls' race (18:30).

Merrimack High junior John Conlin topped the field in the boys' large school run (16:17). Exeter High senior Kelsey Smith earned the win in the girls' large school event (18:42).

Marina Slavin, a senior at Durham's Oyster River High, posted a winning time of 18:30 in the girls' small school race. Hopkinton High won the girls' small school team title with 74 points, well ahead of second-place Hanover High (112 points) and 20 other schools.

TOURNEY TIME
Golf will soon crown champions in Divisions I, II and III. Postseason tournaments for each tier tee off Sept. 30 at courses throughout the state.

Bretwood Golf Course of Keene hosts the Division I competition. Paced by sophomore Chelso Barrett, top-seeded Keene High (27-0) has the luxury of playing on its home turf.

Bedford High (22-0) is the team to beat in Division II. Standout senior Jake Nutter and the Bulldogs seek to top the leaderboard at Concord's Beaver Meadow Golf Course.

In Division III, Moultonborough Academy (23-0), Gilford (22-0) and Mascenic Regional of New Ipswich (21-0) take perfect records to Owl's Nest Resort and Golf Club in Campton.

(BLUE) HAWK TALK
Defending Division I champion Exeter High improved to 9-0 in girls' soccer with its 7-2 win on Sept. 28. The team used a different starting lineup in every match.

“What's leading to our success is the depth of our team,” said 10th-year Exeter coach Megan Curran, who guided the Blue Hawks to Class L crowns in 2006, 2007 and 2009. “We go about 15 (players) that can start on any given night. Whoever performs gets that starting role.”

In the nine contests, the Blue Hawks outscored the opposition, 28-6. The champs allowed more than two markers just once.

First-year goalkeeper Micaela Janowski, a senior, is making the routine and difficult saves. Classmates and defenders Alison Wilson, Anna Grant and Connie Boutilier help limit quality scoring chances for the competition.

Center-midfielder and four-year varsity contributor Ally George is the catalyst on offense. Sophomores Aby Short (team-high eight goals) and Aly Day (six goals) consistently finish on the attack.

The best part of Exeter's start? Five of the team's first nine wins were by one goal.

“That's always good, to see the type of character a team has. Pressure situations make you grow a little faster,” said Curran. “You don't learn much from killing a team. I do think it'll help us out in the long run.”

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.
<img src="http://a.espncdn.com/espncitysites/boston/prod/assets/hs_hampshire_110.jpg" alt="New Hampshire" class="floatright" />

SPONSORED HEADLINES