Boston High School: Jenna Freitas

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
4:21
PM ET
Show of hands: Who's surprised by Spaulding High's success this season on the gridiron?

New HampshireAsk that question in Rochester and, truthfully, throughout New Hampshire. You'll find the team's head football coach is among many with an arm stretched high to the sky.

"Kind of. I didn't think we'd win three in a row," head coach Dennis Fontaine said shortly before his Red Raiders added a fourth straight win to their resume Oct. 21. "For the kids to grasp the new systems on offense and defense, they picked it up quick. They're executing what we showed them."

Those new systems on both sides of scrimmage are the result of Fontaine's appointment to the head coaching post this fall. Spaulding's once-proud program is under new leadership for the second time in as many seasons.

Fontaine is the fifth head coach since 1998, the first season after legendary Hugo Bolin retired with a 198-127-3 career record and five state titles.

The post-Bolin era hasn't been pretty.

Spaulding went 28-107 from 1998-2010, a span that included time in Divisions I and II. The program celebrated just one playoff season in those 13 campaigns. Jim Keays, known for his championship success at Somersworth High years ago, led the '06 Red Raiders to the Division II semifinals.

Considering the coaching turnover and run of football futility, there was nothing in the preseason that indicated Spaulding (4-4 overall, 3-3 Div. II) would compete for the playoffs.

There weren't any signs in September, either.

The Red Raiders went 0-4, including three consecutive setbacks to perennial contenders in league play. They suffered three shutout losses. They were outscored, 125-8.

Then came the turning point. Rather than fight the formula for winning -- from yet another head coach -- the players bought into it.

“They're realizing it's not just a bunch of hot air. They're taking it and applying it on the field,” said Fontaine, previously a longtime assistant for recently retired Rod Wotton, who owns New England's record for career wins (342), and led Maine's Marshwood High and Dover's St. Thomas Aquinas High to a combined 21 state titles.

Spaulding rattled off four straight wins from Sept. 30 to Oct. 21.

The Red Raiders stunned Keene High, 25-17. They whacked Manchester West High, 47-14. They slammed Merrimack High, 39-0, for the program's first shutout win since the '06 season.

Handling Hudson's Alvirne High with ease, 39-13, Spaulding celebrated its first four-game win streak since 1999, when Dave Keller was at the helm.

Fontaine said the turnaround has been a team effort.

There are, however, standouts in the group. The Scott brothers, Tyrone and Trey, are running the football with purpose. Linemen Dillon Couture and Ben Lafond are providing push up front.

Safety Nate Zriny “is playing fantastic defense,” Fontaine said. “He'll play anything for us. He'll play nose tackle if we ask him to.”

Fontaine's gridders have two regular-season games remaining, though they close their league slate Oct. 28 at Hugo Bolin Field against Plaistow's Timberlane Regional.

A win for the Red Raiders earns them the No. 3 playoff seed.

Surely, Fontaine is excited by his squad's stunning second half to the season. Right?

“Yes and no. I've been there before from prior coaching. You can't get too excited in front of the kids,” he said. “We just do our normal practice, work on what we need to do on offense and defense.”

Spoken like one very focused head football coach.

(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.

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