Boston High School: Moultonborough Academy

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

March, 16, 2012
Pinkerton Academy's greatest strength this winter can be summed up in two words: potting pucks.

New HampshireYet a defensive play in the closing minutes of the Division I boys' hockey final helped the preseason-favorite club from Derry hold on for a nail-biting 3-2 win.

“The crowd was so loud, it was (about) settling them down (during a time out),” Pinkerton coach Casey Kesselring said. “I said, 'Hey, we're up one. We're in the driver's seat. All we need to do is play a solid 5 minutes and bring it home.”

Ryan Hall – in front of an estimated 3,000 fans – made the stop that cemented the victory March 10 at Verizon Wireless Arena.

The senior defenseman disrupted a golden chance for Manchester Memorial High to pull even with a furious third-period comeback. Brady Bilodeau on a mini-breakout charged toward netminder Matt Marchman with three minutes, 25 seconds left in regulation.

Hall, trailing the play, stretched and poke the puck away. Bilodeau never had the chance to launch the potential game-tying bid.

“That was big. He's going in to tie it. Ryan gets all puck,” Kesselring said. “He probably would tell you, honestly, that he got caught out of position a bit. But he made up for it. That was the main thing.”

The top-seeded Astros (19-2-0 Div. I) controlled play for the majority of the contest. They built a commanding three-goal lead with markers from J.D. Dudek (first period), Zach Sanford (second period) and Dominic Corsetto (third period).

But, as the clock dipped below the 7-minute mark, the second-seeded Crusaders (16-5-0 Div. I) erupted for two goals in a 25-second span.

“We got down three goals. We talked to the kids,” Memorial coach Mark Putney said. “There was no quit in this team.”

Colin Williamson one-timed Bilodeau's back-door feed. Jacob Boylan, on the next shift, lofted a backhand shot from the slot.

The comeback was on. Memorial – seeking its first hockey title since 1995 – was within striking distance with 6-plus minutes to play.

Then, the bid to tie emerged. Memorial's senior captain, the club's heart-and-soul leader, had the puck on his stick with the game up for grabs.

But he never pulled the trigger. Hall didn't allow it.

“We definitely put on the pressure,” Bilodeau said. “We fought hard. They played a great game defensively, even offensively. Great coaching. You really can't say anything bad about them.”

Division II – Sophomore goaltender Stevan Tempesta made 26 championship-game saves, the last 11 stops nothing short of sensational. Top-seeded Bedford High, also on the strength of Kurt Mitchell and Jason Campbell goals, dethroned defending champion and 3-seed Dover High, 2-1.

Bedford (17-3-0 Div. II), as a result, skated to its first hockey crown March 10 at Verizon Wireless Arena. Dover, unable to bury the equalizer in the final minute, finished 14-6-0 in league action.

Tempesta turned back multiple game-tying bids with the state title at stake. Dover's odd-man rush generated a golden chance. A scrum for the puck in heavy traffic also gave the Green Wave hope.

“You hold on for that final 10 seconds and it's the longest 10 seconds in your life. I just didn't want to blow it,” Tempesta told the New Hampshire Sunday News. “That was probably my best game all season.”

Division III – Kennett High of Conway claimed its third championship, each of them won during an unprecedented run of league dominance. The top-seeded Eagles, appearing in a league-record fifth straight final, edged No. 2 seed Alvirne High of Hudson, 4-3, in overtime.

Anthony LaRusso locked up the win. The junior forward buried a feed to the back door with 26.3 seconds remaining in the extra session March 10 at Verizon Wireless Arena.

The goal was LaRusso's second of the contest. Kennett capped its campaign at 20-1-0 overall (19-1-0 Div. III) and secured hardware to go with the 2009 and 2010 NHIAA plaques.

Alvirne, playing for its first hockey championship, finished with an 18-2-0 league record.

Division I (girls) – The first line of Maddie Dewhirst, and twin sisters Madison and Tessa Hill all closed their careers as 100-point scorers.

The senior trio also factored in all five goals of the final, fueling second-seeded Hanover High's 5-1 championship win over Upper Valley rival and top seed Lebanon High March 10 at Verizon Wireless Arena.

Hanover (16-2-0 Div. I) celebrated its third consecutive championship, and fourth No. 1 finish in the five years of NHIAA girls' hockey. Lebanon ended its season 16-2-0 in league play.

Madison Hill struck for a title-game hat trick. Dewhirst delivered two goals and two assists. Tessa Hill tallied five assists.

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

November, 10, 2011
In his 41st year at the helm of Plymouth Regional's storied football program – a span that's produced a state-record 334 wins and 18 championships – Chuck Lenahan has surely experienced it all.

New HampshireYet it was the manner in which the Bobcats won their most recent matchup that had the gruff-voiced grid coach admitting, “I'm kind of numb.”

It's understandable. Lenahan approved the call for a fourth-quarter fake punt that produced the game-winning touchdown. Plymouth celebrated a 21-14 Division IV semifinal win Nov. 5 against longtime rival Laconia High.

The scenario: Plymouth was forced to punt from its 32-yard line in a 14-all game. The game clock showed less than nine minutes remained in regulation.

Special teams coach Chris Sanborn persuaded Lenahan to fake the punt. The Bobcats desperately needed a spark. Their rushing attack, which generated two lengthy first-half scoring drives capped by Cole Brooker touchdown runs, was stifled after halftime.

Standout senior Taylor Newberry (37 carries for 205 yards) was asked to fake the punt for the first time in his career. It worked out better than even Lenahan could have expected.

Newberry gained the three yards necessary to extend the drive. He also picked up 65 more yards, cutting left-to-right across the field, dodging would-be tacklers, and ultimately celebrating a 68-yard TD run.

“We actually just set that up (in the week leading up to the semifinal). We were 50-50 on it,” Newberry said. “I guess it worked.”

Plymouth – a year removed from missing the playoffs on a three-team tiebreaker – actually plays the role of underdog in the Nov. 12 final.

The second-seeded Bobcats (9-1) travel to Manchester's Gill Stadium for a showdown with No. 1 seed Trinity High (10-0). The Bobcats were stunned at home in Week 4 by the Pioneers, allowing a pair of late-game touchdown passes in a 12-7 loss.

It snapped Plymouth's 40-game home win streak.

“Another week,” Lenahan said. “The kids wanted it bad. What the heck. We might as well take a trip to Manchester.”

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

October, 13, 2011
The Little Green cross country machine didn't take long to hit high gear.

New HampshireBoth the boys' and girls' teams for Manchester Central High, fresh off last year's NHIAA championship campaigns, served notice in the season-opening race Oct. 11 that they're still the squads to beat.

Dylan Lafond led the boys and Elizabeth Conway paced the girls as Central swept the Manchester City Championship at Derryfield Park.

“This race was the first step (in the championship season),” Lafond told the New Hampshire Union Leader after posting the lone sub-17-minute time of 16 minutes, 55.6 seconds. “Our goal is to win states, and if we make New Englands, even better.”

Central's boys secured the top three finishes on the 3.1-mile course. Sean Brown and Matt Becker finished second and third, respectively, with times of 17:06.5 and 17:11.2.

Those times helped the Little Green record 26 team points. Manchester Memorial High's Adam Vargas (17:18.1) finished fourth. The Crusaders placed second with 40 points, followed by Manchester West High (70) and Trinity High (74).

Central's girls were equally dominant. Elizabeth Conway had a lot to do with it.

Conway crossed the finish line in 18:54.7. Teammate Laurel Gagnon (20:03.8) finished second – exactly 1:09.1 after Conway. Megan Brockett clinched third with a time of 20:48.5.

Kaitlin George-Blay led the Crusaders. Her time of 21:09 was good for fourth place.

Gang Green scored 20 team points to distance itself from Memorial (56), Trinity (68) and West (102).

“It was scorching on those hills,” Conway told the Union Leader. “Our team is looking pretty strong, though we do have a couple of girls fighting injuries.”

The division championships take place Oct. 29. Central certainly seems posed to, yet again, dominate Division I.

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

September, 2, 2011
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

December, 16, 2010
Concord High caught a few teams by surprise during its postseason run to the Division I boys' hockey championship a year ago.

New Hampshire"We certainly got hot in the tournament," said Concord coach Duncan Walsh, recalling his team's run to the title as the No. 4 seed. "I don't think anyone thought Concord was going to win it."

The Crimson Tide's rink rivals won't be fooled this time around. The Tide is the preseason team to beat.

"You've got to start with Concord. They've got a lot of guys back," said Pinkerton Academy of Derry coach Casey Kesselring, whose Astros, as defending champs last season, were ousted in a wide open semifinal round that also featured Nashua's Bishop Guertin and Exeter. "They lost a key piece in (Division I Player of the Year) Kevin Marceau. But they have the Lacasse brothers back."

Pat Lacasse is Concord's top returning playmaker. Nick Lacasse leads a veteran defensive group. The twin brothers are among 16 of 20 returning players from the program's first title team since 1999.

"Goals are going to come harder than last year," Walsh said. "Last year, we had a dominant first line. There weren’t many games they didn’t get two or three goals. I don’t think we’ll get four or five goals (per game), but we might get two or three."

Concord's first line projects to be Pat Lacasse, the lone returning first-liner from last season, and Chris Acres and Pat Cannon. It's on the other end of the ice where the Tide has fewer question marks.

Nick Lacasse, Taylor Lebell and Dustin Walsh earned the bulk of ice time along the blue line during the 2009-10 campaign. Goaltender Brendan Garrett is also back from the surprise squad that ousted top-seeded BG, 4-3, in the semifinals and blanked No. 3 seed Exeter, 1-0, in the final.

"In my opinion, it's Concord, Hanover, Pinkerton and Bishop Guertin. Those are the usual suspects," Exeter coach Jim Tufts said. "But Concord is the defending champ. Their starting goalie is back, and those twins are really good."

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

September, 29, 2010
When Smith Center, Kan., lost last year's Class 2-1A title game, the nation's longest active win streak in high school football instantly became property of New Hampshire's Plymouth Regional.

New HampshireSmith Center was tackled in overtime, ending the program's 79-game run. And Plymouth – two weeks earlier crowned a champion for the 18th time – inherited pressure previously placed upon the Redmen.

But, after five consecutive 11-0 championship campaigns and two more wins to open this season, Plymouth's state-record run ended at 57 games. Kennett High of Conway, a decided underdog at home, snapped the streak with a shocking 20-9 Week 3 win on Sept. 17.

“We didn't play very well. That's not a trademark (of Plymouth football),” said Plymouth head coach Chuck Lenahan, whose program's previous state-record 46-game win streak was also snapped by Kennett, a 6-0 winner in the 2004 season's third week.

“We felt we had the kids that matched up well with those guys,” first-year Kennett head coach Mike Holderman, an assistant on last year's team that was Plymouth's state-record-breaking 47th straight victim, told the New Hampshire Sunday News. “We believed we were stronger.”

Lengthy win streaks aside, Lenahan's Bobcats are best known for playing disciplined, mistake-free football.

Four turnovers and nearly 100 yards in penalties, however, prevented a 58th straight victory.

“Everything that could go wrong did. Nothing came together for us. Kennett had a lot to do with it. They certainly deserved to beat us that day. It would've been nice to play them better,” said Lenahan, whose team lost at Trinity High of Manchester, 39-6, in Week 4, marking the first losing streak for the small-school powerhouse since 1991.

Plymouth's 57-game run spanned three seasons in Division III (2005-07) and two-plus years in Division IV (2008-present). Two wins, in particular, stand out.

Lenahan & Co. beat Laconia, 14-7, in the 2008 Division IV title game. Clinching the crown required the host Bobcats to erase a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit in the final eight minutes at muddy Zoulias Field.

But Plymouth's “free kick” win at Souhegan High of Amherst in 2007 may top the list.

Trailing by a point with 10 seconds to play, the Bobcats called for a fair catch on Souhegan's punt. An obscure rule allowed the Bobcats to attempt a game-winning 47-yard field goal using a kick-off tee.

Souhegan's defense, forced 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, couldn't pressure the kick.

Kyle Underwood split the uprights, lifting Plymouth to the 11-9 win.

“We had some great games,” said Lenahan, who, in his 40th season at Plymouth, owns a career record of 322-65-1 and the most New Hampshire high school football wins in state history. “You have to be a little lucky. But it's a lot of hard work.”

For all the drama packed into those wins, Plymouth mostly pummeled foes during the streak. The average margin of victory in the 57 games was 26.2 points.
Such dominance wasn't universally celebrated across the state. When Plymouth moved down a division for the 2008-10 classification cycle, the program and streak became hotly debated topics.

Plymouth competes in the appropriate league based on the school's student enrollment, which Lenahan, also the athletics director, said was 714 as of Sept. 20. For some time, though, Plymouth has fielded teams considered vastly superior, in talent and coaching, to opponents of comparable school size.

The proof: From 2000-09, the Bobcats went 106-3 with nine undefeated championship seasons split between Divisions III and IV.

Why not seek a tougher challenge?

“We're right where we should be (based on enrollment),” said Lenahan. “We're pretty happy with what we are.

“I know a lot of people use words like 'Pride and Tradition,'” he added, referring to Plymouth's signature phrase. “But that takes a lot of time and hard work to build. A lot of intangibles go into it.”

Granite State cross country runners dominated the varsity races at the 35th annual Manchester Invitational, which draws many of the Northeast's top talents, on Sept. 25. Five of the six 5K (3.1-mile) races at Derryfield Park were won by local athletes.

Jeff LaCoste, a senior at Nashua's Bishop Guertin High, won the elite boys' race. He was the only runner to record a sub-16 minute time (15-minutes, 53 seconds). Chloe Maleski, a senior at Keene High, placed first in the elite girls' race (18:30).

Merrimack High junior John Conlin topped the field in the boys' large school run (16:17). Exeter High senior Kelsey Smith earned the win in the girls' large school event (18:42).

Marina Slavin, a senior at Durham's Oyster River High, posted a winning time of 18:30 in the girls' small school race. Hopkinton High won the girls' small school team title with 74 points, well ahead of second-place Hanover High (112 points) and 20 other schools.

Golf will soon crown champions in Divisions I, II and III. Postseason tournaments for each tier tee off Sept. 30 at courses throughout the state.

Bretwood Golf Course of Keene hosts the Division I competition. Paced by sophomore Chelso Barrett, top-seeded Keene High (27-0) has the luxury of playing on its home turf.

Bedford High (22-0) is the team to beat in Division II. Standout senior Jake Nutter and the Bulldogs seek to top the leaderboard at Concord's Beaver Meadow Golf Course.

In Division III, Moultonborough Academy (23-0), Gilford (22-0) and Mascenic Regional of New Ipswich (21-0) take perfect records to Owl's Nest Resort and Golf Club in Campton.

Defending Division I champion Exeter High improved to 9-0 in girls' soccer with its 7-2 win on Sept. 28. The team used a different starting lineup in every match.

“What's leading to our success is the depth of our team,” said 10th-year Exeter coach Megan Curran, who guided the Blue Hawks to Class L crowns in 2006, 2007 and 2009. “We go about 15 (players) that can start on any given night. Whoever performs gets that starting role.”

In the nine contests, the Blue Hawks outscored the opposition, 28-6. The champs allowed more than two markers just once.

First-year goalkeeper Micaela Janowski, a senior, is making the routine and difficult saves. Classmates and defenders Alison Wilson, Anna Grant and Connie Boutilier help limit quality scoring chances for the competition.

Center-midfielder and four-year varsity contributor Ally George is the catalyst on offense. Sophomores Aby Short (team-high eight goals) and Aly Day (six goals) consistently finish on the attack.

The best part of Exeter's start? Five of the team's first nine wins were by one goal.

“That's always good, to see the type of character a team has. Pressure situations make you grow a little faster,” said Curran. “You don't learn much from killing a team. I do think it'll help us out in the long run.”

Marc Thaler is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News and 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
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