In a six-day span, the three teams perched atop the statewide rankings for NHIAA boys' lacrosse – all of them perennial powers in the Granite State – suffered setbacks.
No. 1 Bishop Guertin High of Nashua, No. 2 Pinkerton Academy of Derry, and No. 3 Exeter High actually combined to lose five contests between April 16 and 22.
Bishop Guertin lost just once. But it was the biggest stunner. BG wasn't expected to lose an in-state matchup this spring. The two-time defending Division I champion is extremely talented and very, very deep.
But BG isn't invincible. Hanover High – No. 1 as a result of its 14-9 upset win April 20 – proved it.
“They beat us in two state finals (2007, 2009). Other than Hanover, nobody has beaten us, in New Hampshire, in the playoffs since 2007,” BG coach Chris Cameron said. “There was no reason for us to take them lightly because they're a quality program.”
Cameron's club was without UMass recruit Bob Fahey. BG's shut-down close defender sat out the second half of Guertin's previous game, a 14-8 win at highly ranked Needham (Mass.) High, with an ankle injury.
Guertin's coach, however, didn't use Fahey's absence as an excuse. BG still boasted four other close defenders recruited to play college lacrosse.
The Marauders led at the end of every period. Attackman Alex Krass (two goals, three assists) and midfielder Christian Wolter (four goals, assist) played with purpose. Christian Johansen and Ryan Brigham (11 of 25 faceoff wins) added three goals apiece.
Goaltender James Washington settled down nicely after BG scored the game's first goal in the opening 30 seconds. The senior made 15 saves.
“They were pretty happy. But (their post-game reaction) wasn't like they won the state championship,” said Hanover coach Jeff Reed, whose club from the state's Upper Valley was blasted by BG, 15-3, in the April 10 season-opener at Nashua's Stellos Stadium. “They reacted like it was a big win, but not 'the win.' They know there's a bigger goal at the end.”
No. 2 Pinkerton twice lost to teams known as the Lancers.
The Astros started their three-game week with an 11-9 league loss April 16 at arch-rival Londonderry High. The tough stretch closed with a 14-9 home loss April 21 versus Longmeadow (Mass.) High.
Maintaining focus was an uncharacteristic problem for Pinkerton in both losses.
Furthermore, offensive production almost exclusively came from the attack. Josh Gallant tallied three goals and three assists at Londonderry; Dom Corsetto went for three goals and an assist against Longmeadow.
“Maybe a little of it is conditioning. We could not get our faceoffs in the second half and we could not pick up ground balls,” Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly said after the Astros lost to Longmeadow, which erased a 4-1 first-period deficit. “It's the same thing as the Londonderry game.”
Exeter's defeats, in a sense, were understandable. The Blue Hawks, in a four-day span, lost competitive contests to the teams ranked ahead of them: BG (9-6 on April 16) and Pinkerton (8-6 on April 19).
Goaltender Jake Pleadwell (18 saves) stood tall against an early Pinkerton onslaught. Close defenders Jamie Vogt, Joe Moser and Zach Adler also enabled the Seacoast squad to pull within striking distance.
“The fact that we went down to BG, 3-0, and they never quit, and then we were down, 5-1, against Pinkerton and made it a game, it shows their resilience,” Holly said. “That's the one thing you can take out of it.”
Here's one lesson, stressed by BG's coach, that is applicable to every power program:
“There are too many good teams out there,” Cameron said. “We can't just show up and expect to win.”
Joe McCarthy spun a seven-inning, 73-pitch complete game April 24. And, in the process, the BG senior retired all 21 batters he faced at Manchester's Gill Stadium.
No runs. No hits. No errors. No base runners of any kind. No mercy-rule-shortened perfect game, either.
This was the real deal.
It earned the Cardinals a 1-0 Division I baseball win over Manchester Memorial High. McCarthy's catcher, Alan McQuarrie, knocked in the game's only run with a first-inning RBI groundout. Eric Damphousse touched home.
As for the 6-foot 5-inch McCarthy, recruited to play Division II baseball at Southern New Hampshire University, he only went to a single three-ball count. The hurler's first three pitches of the game were outside the strike zone.
McCarthy, who fanned six Crusaders, clearly found his rhythm.
Londonderry girls' lacrosse coach Bob Slater planned to step down after leading the Lancers to their third straight Division I championship last spring.
But just before athletics director Howard Sobolov began his search for the program's next coach, he made sure Slater's mind was made up.
Slater decided on returning for his seventh season. He celebrated career win No. 100 with a 23-3 decision April 20 against Nashua North High.
The victory extended Londonderry's in-state win streak to 56 games. (Lopsided wins against Memorial and Salem High have since added to the record run.)
On May 1, the Joe Yukica New Hampshire Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame hosts its signature event, the scholar-athlete dinner.
This year's dinner at the Executive Court Banquet Facility in Manchester – honoring 23 high school football seniors for excellence on the field, in the classroom and throughout their communities – is the 25th annual.
Yukica, the former head coach at the University of New Hampshire (1966-67), Boston College (1968-77) and Dartmouth College (1978-86), said he always envisioned the scholar-athlete dinner would reach its silver anniversary. He expects a golden anniversary celebration 25 years from now.
“The whole concept carries a lot of value and it is very well-received,” Yukica said. “(Having a student-athlete honored at the dinner) reflects on the school and reflects on the football program.”
This year's honorees, by school, include:
Bedford: Nate Harrington
Bishop Guertin: Nolan Cornell, Brody Smith (DB)
Campbell (Litchfield): John Houston
Exeter: Tim Stackhouse
Hanover: Dan Gorman
Lebanon: Alexander Morrill
Manchester Central: Jared Chandler, Stephen Grzywacz
Nashua North: Chris Anderson, Austin Bauer
Nashua South: John Bieren
Newfound (Bristol): Shannon Tucker
Pinkerton (Derry): Alex Pacocha, Emmitt Smith
Portsmouth: Dan Kaczmarek
Plymouth: Nick Reisert
Salem: Abner Rodriguez
Souhegan (Amherst): Chris Chininis, Rob McCormick, Alex Price
Stevens (Claremont): Cameron Blewitt
Trinity (Manchester): Mike Leonard
Marc Thaler is a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He co-hosts the “N.H. Sports Show” on Manchester's WGIR-AM 610 and the Seacoast's 96.7 FM every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. Read his “New Hampshire GameDay” blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.