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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

11/27/2011

Bill Ball and his Exeter High Blue Hawks, in their second season competing against the state's largest schools, took the express elevator from cellar to penthouse.

It's one way to explain Exeter's voyage.

New HampshireAs is this: "It's just the ultimate roller-coaster. That's what it is," massive lineman Brad Tiernan said after his team stunned heavy favorite and statewide No. 1 Pinkerton Academy, 23-13, for the Division I championship at Memorial Field in Derry.

The Division I final on Nov. 19 was supposed to be a formality. The Astros, after all, topped the statewide poll since the preseason, securing every first-place vote in the process. They were one win from completing the first wire-to-wire run at No. 1 in the four-year era of rankings.

They were facing a former Division 2 power, but a program that went 0-8 in its Division I debut (1-9 overall) last season.

The Blue Hawks (11-1 overall, 9-1 Div. I) didn't forget those season-long frustrations. But they didn't dwell on them, either.

This team was confident. This team was composed. This team was clutch.

How else to explain the title-game comeback? Exeter erased a 13-3 second-quarter deficit.

Conor Carrier scored the fourth-quarter touchdown that placed Pinkerton in panic mode. The senior's big run off-tackle went for 37 yards and six points. The score snapped a 13-all tie with 7 minutes, 10 seconds left in the season.

Touchback-machine Logan Laurent added the extra point. He also iced the contest with his 23-yard field goal -- a kick preceded by 35- and 40-yard boots -- in the final minutes.

Tyler Grant touched the rock 31 times. He totaled 120 yards in Exeter's old-school straight-T offense.

Jamie Tymann tossed a second-quarter touchdown to Lucas Gajewski. The 15-yard strike sparked the 20-point run to the title.

The toss was the second of Tymann's five attempts. Exeter's senior signal-caller entered the final with just 29 pass attempts on the season.

But defense was the biggest difference-maker. Grant, Carrier, Ethan Joyce and Brian Henry led Exeter's disciplined perimeter defense. It surrendered 77- and 78-yard touchdown runs to Emmitt Smith in the second frame, but little else.

Exeter celebrated its sixth championship under Ball, who capped his 19th season at the helm. The coach previously won five Division II championships in 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2007.

"To get this done is just amazing," Ball said. "It's amazing."

Division 2

For the fourth consecutive season -- and seventh time in the last eight years -- Nashua's Bishop Guertin High reigned supreme. The top-seeded Cardinals defeated No. 2 seed Dover High, 16-7, at Stellos Stadium Nov. 19.

The difference between BG's seventh title and the six crowns collected from 2004-10? This latest one was won with a new coaching staff, headed by Travis Cote, who switched the offensive system that worked so well in past campaigns.

Tony Johnson, the school's athletics director, stepped down as head coach over the winter after 17 years calling the shots.

In the end, the Cards still outlasted their league foes. They finished 9-3 overall (9-1 Div. II).

Paul Lipari opened the fourth quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run. The plunge and Steven Toscano's PAT gave Guertin a 10-7 lead.

Zach Mailloux delivered the dagger. It came in the form of a late-game 64-yard touchdown run.

BG closed the contest on a 16-point run. It started with Toscano's 25-yard field goal, which cut into Dover's 7-0 lead. Kyle Seawards opened the scoring with a 95-yard fumble recovery touchdown. Cam Rewucki converted the PAT.

Guertin became the first Division 2 team to win four straight titles since Milford (1976-79).

Division 3

Portsmouth High's three-decade championship drought is history. After three straight seasons as runner-up, the program finally prevailed.

The Clippers (8-3, 8-2 Div. 3) pummeled second-seeded Bedford High, 41-6, at Bulldog Stadium Nov. 19. In the process, they became the league's first No. 4 seed to win the title since Laconia in 1999.

They also won their first title since 1981 (Div. I).

Prior to burying the Bulldogs, Portsmouth pounded top-seeded Goffstown High, 34-8, in the semifinals.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Clippers scored 20 unanswered points heading into halftime. Billy Lane raced for 41- and 16-yard touchdowns. Charlie Duprey added the extra points, and field goals of 38 and 34 yards.

Bedford quarterback James Caparell connected with Brian Collins to open the second-half scoring. Caparell's 36-yard toss pulled the host Bulldogs within 14 points.

But the Clippers closed on a 21-point barrage. Billy Hartmann hit Peter Hamblett for a 15-yard touchdown. Hamblett also hit paydirt on a 41-yard run before Lane's 8-yard score. Duprey finished 5-for-5 in PATs.

Division 4

Falling short in last year's final, Trinity High of Manchester provided the perfect response this season: A perfect 11-0 campaign.

The top-seeded Pioneers beat No. 2 seed Plymouth Regional, 30-14, at Gill Stadium Nov. 12. Trinity's triumph snapped an 11-game win streak for Plymouth in title contests.

Earlier this year, the Pioneers beat the Bobcats on their home turf, 12-7. The five-point outcome snapped a 40-game home win streak for the 18-time champs.

Trinity built a 14-0 lead in the final. Quarterback Carmen Giampetruzzi opened the scoring with his 1-yard keeper. Adam Chambers rushed for an 8-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Josh Hughes added the two-point conversion.

Nick Reisert (7-yard TD) pulled Plymouth within 14-6 at halftime. Brandon Goodale's 44-yard touchdown (Taylor Newberry run) answered the 13-yarder by Trinity's Ryan Carrier (Hughes run).

But, in the fourth frame, the Pioneers burned the Bobcats through the air. Just like Week 4.

Giampetruzzi hit Andrew Lauderdale for an 18-yard strike. Carrier ran for the conversion.

"For the seniors who came in here and started in Division V (and won the 2009 title), I couldn't be prouder," Trinity head coach Gary Leonard told the New Hampshire Union Leader. "The program is moving in the right direction. There's a good junior and sophomore class in there, and the freshmen have talent. I think the future is looking good for Trinity."

Division 5

Top-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas High of Dover capped a perfect season with a 49-28 win over No. 3 seed Windham on Nov. 12.

The championship was the first for first-year head coach Eric Cumba, who has yet to lose a game. The Saints went 11-0.

Sparkplug Ryan Monette had touchdown runs of 53, 38 and 6 yards. Scott Monroe fired 24-, 25- and 35-yard scoring strikes to Tylor Blaine-Buckley, David Rogers and Monette, respectively. Rogers started the onslaught with a modest 4-yard scamper.

The second-year varsity Jaguars were led by Kevin Cooney (2- and 49-yard TDs) and Joe Lorenz, who fired a 1-yard touchdown to Scott Priestly before capping the offense's final scoring march with a 1-yard keeper.

Division 6

Remember the fact about Milford's four consecutive championship teams in the 1970s? Paul Lavigne coached those clubs.

He coached cooperative team and top-seeded squad Inter-Lakes-Moultonborough (11-0) to the title Nov. 12. The Lakers locked up their second crown under Lavigne with a 29-7 win over No. 2 seed Epping-Newmarket.

That gives Lavigne -- who also coached high school football in Manchester as well as college ball during his lengthy career -- six NHIAA titles.

Title No. 6 was essentially locked up at halftime. All the scoring took place before the break.

Conor Donovan ran for 6- and 65-yard touchdowns. He also kicked a 38-yard field goal and converted the extra point on I-L-M's first score, a Mitchell Jurius-to-Nick Sindorf 24-yard touchdown.

Jurius also hit Tanner Quinney for an 11-yard touchdown.

I-L-M's 22-point second quarter was only slightly offset by an 80-yard run from Blue Devil Dustin Jarosz.

Marc Thaler is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He co-hosts the “New Hampshire High School Football Show” on Manchester's WGIR-AM 610 and the Seacoast's 96.7 every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. Read his “New Hampshire GameDay” blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.