Boston High School: Kingswood

Week 2 New Hampshire football preview

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
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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)

New Hampshire football preview

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
5:46
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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.

Portsmouth (N.H.) baseball continues historic streak

April, 12, 2011
4/12/11
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The Portsmouth (N.H.) High School baseball team extended the program’s winning streak to 64 games when it opened the season with a 7-1 triumph over Kingswood on Monday.

Senior Keegan Taylor struck out 10 and held Kingswood to two hits in six innings. Taylor, who has committed to play baseball at Northeastern, improved his varsity record to 15-0. The Clippers also received four RBI from junior third baseman Matt Feeney.

Portsmouth, which has won the last three Class I state championships, is 11 victories away from tying the national record for consecutive wins. That record is held by Homer (Mich.) High School.

“We’re not 2009, we’re not 2010, we’re the 2011 team,” Feeney said. “We make our own destiny. We do what we do, and nothing else matters except for this season.”

Portsmouth hasn’t lost a game since the 2007 Class I semifinals.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

October, 27, 2010
10/27/10
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The Granite State's governing body for high school sports, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, is conducting a postseason experiment.

It's currently taking place on the soccer pitch.

New HampshireEvery boys' and girls' soccer team in Division III, regardless of regular-season record, received the chance to compete for the state championship. During the 2009-10 academic year, athletics directors from the league's schools requested a one-year trial run with a “quasi-open” tournament format.

“It came about because, for a number of years, there's been a few ADs who have been pushing for an open tournament,” NHIAA executive director Pat Corbin said. “It's a quasi-open tournament so as not to lengthen the season. We took the last regular-season game and considered it a 'play-in' game.

“It wasn't without controversy,” Corbin added. “But it did finally pass (executive) council this year.”



Whether you consider the play-in round part of the tournament – and the NHIAA does not – is splitting hairs. All 24 boys' teams and 19 girls' teams were playoff-eligible.

Similar to Division III soccer, the open format will be used this winter in Division III boys' and girls' basketball, and this spring in Division III baseball and softball.

“There's been a real push to look at alternatives to what's always been done,” Corbin said.

Cutting down on travel time and costs are key reasons Division III schools opted to go this route. The NHIAA is encouraging more cross-divisional play. But, smaller schools playing teams from large-school leagues may incur additional losses on the regular-season resume.

The open format prevents a Division III team from being penalized – read: missing the playoffs – come tourney time.

But, does the format devalue regular-season results? Why play the games if, ultimately, they don't count toward tournament qualification?

“Well, if you want to play a weak regular-season (schedule) because you like having a good win-loss record, you'll play the mettle of the league in the tournament and not last long,” said Corbin, playing the role of devil's advocate.

Under this experimental format, the top eight boys' soccer teams and top four girls' squads bypassed the play-in round. Given the number of teams in the girls' league, the top four teams also earned a bye in the tournament's first official round – a concern for some coaches, Corbin said, due to the long layoff.

Fifteen play-in matches – eight for the boys, seven for the girls – took place at homes of the higher seeds on Oct. 22.

Twelve of the play-in matches played out as expected. The better teams, based on a two-month body of work, extended their seasons. In three cases, however, the lower-seeded squads sprung upsets.

Two of those stunners took place in the girls' tournament.

Sixteenth-seeded Raymond (3-10-2 regular season) defeated White Mountains of Whitefield (8-6-1), the No. 9 seed, 2-0. Thirteenth-seeded Kingswood of Wolfeboro (6-8-1) beat Stevens of Claremont (7-7-1), the No. 12 seed, 3-0.

The lone upset on the boys' side belonged to No. 19 seed Stevens (2-12-1). It won, 2-1, over No. 14 seed Hillsboro-Deering (6-9-0).

“The intent is to collect data and look at it at the end of the year,” Corbin said. “We'll do an analysis of how things would've likely shaken out if under the old format … and the council will make a decision.”

POINT SYSTEM STIFF-ARMED
The NHIAA was recently at the center of another big decision. This one affected football.

On Oct. 21, the 21-member executive council voted to discontinue use of the first-year New Hampshire Index Plan. The controversial point-rating system, in place this year for use in all sports, decides playoff teams.

The system best serves sports whose teams cannot all play one another during the regular season, creating the need for an equalizer.

Football, however, is the one sport where every team – across all six divisions – faces all league foes. The need for this equalizer was unnecessary.

Furthermore, the system's way of awarding points seemed certain to penalize a playoff-caliber team from punching one of four postseason tickets per division. A win for the designated “road” team earned five points. A win for the designated “home” team earned four points.

Yet caliber of competition is a non-factor. A powerhouse team that beats its winless host earns more points than the struggling squad that springs an upset at home.

Earlier this season, Division I contenders Nashua North and Nashua South met in their annual regular-season rivalry game. Stellos Stadium is home for both teams.

Based on the NHIAA's designation for road and home teams, South was considered the visitor. South won the Week 6 contest, 38-21. It also collected an extra point – for winning on its turf.

“It’s a crazy thing,” South head coach Scott Knight, referring to the NHIP, said after the win. “I guess it stinks if it doesn’t work (to your advantage). But it worked to our benefit this time.”

Displeasure with the system mounted throughout the state's football community. The NHIAA's football committee, led by first-year chair Carol Dozibrin, made the issue an agenda topic for its Oct. 7 meeting.

Two weeks later, Dozibrin made a presentation to the NHIAA Council, which voted to re-instate the old tournament selection system. League records and head-to-head results are, again, top priority.

“When you deal with high school athletics … you just try to do the best thing for the kids,” Dozibrin told the New Hampshire Sunday News. “I think the best thing for the kids is to allow them to determine the outcome on the field.”

EXPECTED OUTCOMES
Soccer tournaments for the Divisions I and IV boys, and Division II girls are under way.

A combined 20 first-round matches were played in those tournaments. The higher-seed squad won 19 times.

The lone exception came in the Division IV boys' bracket. No. 10 seed Colebrook defeated No. 7 seed Nashua Christian, 5-1.

Tournaments for the Division I girls and Division II boys begin Wednesday. Playoffs for the Division IV girls start Thursday.

FINAL FOUR
Title contenders have been significantly whittled down in Divisions I, II and III field hockey.

The Division I semifinals take place Thursday at Exeter's Bill Ball Stadium. Second-seeded Pinkerton Academy of Derry (13-1-1) faces No. 3 seed Salem (13-2) at 5 p.m. Top-seeded Winnacunnet of Hampton (14-0-1) draws No. 5 seed and defending champion Timberlane of Plaistow (11-5).

Winners advance to Sunday's 2:30 p.m. final at Bedford.

The Division II semifinals take place Wednesday at Exeter. Second-seeded Kennett of Conway (15-1) meets upset specialist and No. 14 seed Plymouth (8-8) at 5 p.m. Top-seeded Bow (16-0) and No. 4 seed Oyster River of Durham (12-4) compete in the 7 p.m. matchup.

Winners advance to Sunday's noon championship at Bedford.

Division III has its finalists. Top-seeded Derryfield of Manchester (16-0) meets No. 2 seed Berlin (15-1) in Sunday's 5 p.m. clash at Bedford.

STRETCH RUN
Cross country's most important races are fast approaching.

Derryfield Park in Manchester is the site for the divisional meets on Saturday. Six races on the 3.1-mile course will determine team and individual champions.

The race day schedule is: Division I girls (10 a.m.) and boys (10:40 a.m.); Division II girls (11:30 a.m.) and boys (12:10 p.m.); and Division III girls (1 p.m.) and boys (1:40 p.m.).

Top runners in each division advance to the Meet of Champions, at Nashua's Mines Falls, on Nov. 6. Nashua South hosts the event, which is a qualifying race for the New England Championships.

The girls' race starts at 2:30 p.m. The boys' race begins at 3:20 p.m.

BIG GAME, GIANT WIN
Sixteen yards separated Nick Lawrence from Timberlane's single-game rushing record.

The senior running back carried the football 29 times for 324 yards and four touchdowns on Oct. 15. He surpassed 1,200 yards for the season as the suddenly surging Owls scored a 26-14 Week 7 win over Winnacunnet, at the time undefeated and New Hampshire's No. 1-ranked team.

Lawrence ran with power and patience. He ran tough between the tackles. He turned the corner when reaching the edges.

The ability to maintain his balance – a big reason he is a three-time Division I wrestling champion in the 130-, 140- and 160-pound weight classes – made him tough to tackle.

"It definitely doesn’t hurt him," Timberlane head coach Kevin Fitzgerald said of Lawrence's wrestling experience. "I'm not a big wrestling guy, but I’m sure there’s a correlation between (having) balance on the mat and on the football field."

The 5-foot 11-inch, 174-pound punisher looked a lot like former Timberlane star Derek Furey, owner of the single-game rushing record. As a junior in 2008, Furey turned 40 carries into a 340-yard, five-TD performance.

But Lawrence's most impressive contribution was arguably on the other side of scrimmage.

As an inside linebacker, Lawrence recovered two fumbles, one coming on his strip-sack of standout Winnacunnet quarterback Steve Cronan.

"It was one of his better defensive games of the season," Fitzgerald said. "He moved from the secondary to inside linebacker this season. It took time to transition, but with reps and looking at film, he’s gotten better."

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.

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