Boston High School: Garrett Workman

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
3:58
PM ET
A year ago, underclassmen-laden Pinkerton Academy wasn't supposed to win its 10th Division I football championship since the celebrated 1985 season. But the young Astros, facing foes with far more experience, beat those odds.

New HampshireThis time around, the odds of repeating are overwhelmingly in their favor.

"Our focus doesn't change at all, even when we're not the favorites," Pinkerton head coach Brian O'Reilly said. "We simply strive for championships. That's our goal, otherwise it's not a successful year."

Quite simply, there isn't a more complete team, at present, than the one residing in Derry.

The Astros return almost everyone. Twelve of the team's 20 seniors are returning starters.

Bulldozer Kevin Davies and speedy Emmitt Smith are the focal points of Pinkerton's Wing-T offense. But there's also junior quarterback Chris St. Onge and sophomore Manny Latimore that round out the returning starting backfield.

Andrew Curran, exclusively a top-line defensive back in 2010, will reprise that role this season. But he's expected to earn touches on offense, too.

On a team stacked with superb athletes, Ryan Coombs could prove most dynamic. The 5-foot 11-inch, 178-pound senior kicks, punts, catches passes and patrols the defensive secondary.

“He's a big-game player. He can be a difference-maker. He's got some outstanding athletic ability that other kids do not have,” O'Reilly said of Coombs. “He just turned 17 for his senior year. He really doesn't come off the field.”

Linebackers Branden Rodgers, Davies and Matt Madden, last year the team's second-leading tackler as a freshman, were huge reasons the Astros excelled in red-zone defense. The linebacking corps added depth with the return of Matt St. Onge, sidelined in '10 with an ACL injury.

Understandably, the Astros were unanimously voted No. 1 in the preseason edition of the fourth-year statewide poll, a joint effort involving the New Hampshire Union Leader, WGAM-Radio and WMUR-TV.

Based on history alone, Pinkerton is the preseason pick.

Since O'Reilly's fabled Ryan Mihalko- and Joe Segreti-led 1985 team surprised everyone to win it all (the program's debut season in Division I) the Astros have always won championships in chunks.

The Astros went back-to-back in 1985-86, copped four straight crowns from 1991-94, and rattled off a three-peat from 2005-07.

But don't talk championship pep rally with O'Reilly just yet. Pinkerton's 34-year head coach knows a grid king isn't crowned in the preseason.

“We might be pegged as favorites. But we weren't pegged as favorites last year – and we won,” he said. “Our focus is 'Don't allow newspaper clippings to influence hard work.'”

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
3:27
PM ET
There’s a good reason Manchester High School Central’s boys and Keene High’s girls can expect to hear considerable footsteps this fall.

And the fact they compete in cross country is only half of it.

New HampshireThe squads for Central and Keene last week learned they earned the statewide preseason No. 1 ranking, according to New Hampshire Cross Country. The weekly newsletter, in its 16th year, bases rankings on returning runners and team success from the previous season.

“It’s very subjective,” said Larry Martin, co-editor of the newsletter with Amy Sanborn. “But the neat thing is it creates controversy.”

It also paints a giant bull’s-eye on two teams.

“We’ll see if it’s a blessing or a curse,” said 11-year Keene coach Bill Derry, whose Blackbirds finished second in last year’s final poll. “This is exciting and this is neat. But we have to stay healthy, and things have to come together at the right time or the ranking doesn’t mean anything.”

Third-year mentor Mike Hennessy, who co-coaches Central’s boys with Coby Jacobus, echoed Derry’s sentiments. Central’s surge a year ago created enormous expectations.

“I knew we were going to be strong (this season). We made New Englands last year and didn’t have any seniors on varsity,” said Hennessy, whose 2009 team closed at No. 5 in the poll. “What we did last year with sophomores and juniors was surprising.”

Central returns its top seven runners from the team that finished fourth at the ’09 Meet of Champions. Sam Gagnon leads the group. The newsletter ranks Central’s senior with Jeff LaCoste (Bishop Guertin of Nashua), Anthony Anzivino (Pinkerton Academy of Derry), John Conlin (Merrimack) and Jack Collopy (Oyster River of Durham) as top runners.

Seniors Zach Chabot, Max Tucker, Dan Ouellette and Ryan McHugh, and juniors Sean Brown and Matt Becker round out Central’s stellar cast. McHugh is back from a broken right femur suffered in a ski accident last winter.

“Last year, we weren’t even ranked to start the season. Now we have a target on our back,” Hennessy said. “Hopefully it raises their game up.”

Four of Keene’s top five runners return. Chloe Maleski, formerly a girls’ soccer player, is among them.

In her first full cross country campaign last year as a junior, Maleski earned all-New England honors. Garnering interest from Georgetown and Boston College, she is joined by Jacy Christiansen (Mascenic Regional of Ipswich), Kelsey Smith (Exeter), Alexandra and Elizabeth Conway (Central), Brianna Tevnan (Merrimack Valley of Penacook) and Corey Dowe (Coe-Brown Academy of Northwood) as the publication's top runners.

Juniors Brie Boden and Anna Fay, and sophomore Rachel Klaski complete Keene’s quality quartet.

“Our question mark is how big is our (gap) going to be from our first to our fifth runner,” Derry said. “That’s going to be the factor that determines how good we are.”

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