MacKenzie Anderson earned the respect of teammates long before she cracked the goal line in her team's Division IV football finale.
A back-up defensive tackle for Hanover High, Anderson carried the football on consecutive goal-line plays in a 42-7 home win over Merrimack Valley of Penacook on Oct. 29.
Calling Anderson's number was the coaching staff's way to recognize a player who didn't miss a practice as an upperclassman.
It was an important behind-the-scenes feat. She helped prepare Hanover's starters as a member of the scout team.
“One of the only seniors that hadn’t scored a touchdown [this season] was Mackenzie. We just decided to give it a shot,” said Hanover head coach Mike Ivanoski, who rewarded members of the offensive and defensive lines with goal-line carries in the final week's of the season. “The first time she got hit hard at the 1. We had to make a decision to do it again. We went again on second down and she powered it in.”
Anderson's second effort was a microcosm for Hanover's season.
A perennial playoff team, Hanover (3-6) opened with five consecutive losses. Three setbacks were by seven or fewer points. But, the Marauders finished with three wins in four games.
Ivanoski said Anderson, the first female he coached in 16 seasons, never sought attention. She relished playing an important – but often anonymous – role in the trenches. The coach also said she recorded a crucial quarterback sack in Hanover's 24-21 Week 3 loss at Lebanon.
But Anderson's touchdown was a truly memorable moment – for herself, her teammates and Hanover's fans.
“Her work with the scout teams,” Ivanoski said, “she just gained that respect.”
PARITY ON THE PITCH
Four champions in boys' soccer were crowned at Southern New Hampshire University. Three of the title matches paired Nos. 2 and 4 seeds.
Only one top seed played for a title. Division III Gilford completed a perfect season with a 1-0 double-overtime win against second-seeded Bow. Nick Riendeau recorded the lone goal with 7-plus minutes remaining in the second sudden-death session on Nov. 6.
Gilford, led by legendary coach Dave Pinkham and six returning starters, claimed its 14th title in program history. The Golden Eagles reached the final for the 23rd time during Pinkham's 34-year tenure.
"This season, the players did not need to be reminded as to what happened last season," Pinkham said in reference to last year's lone loss coming in the final. "They were extremely focused and prepared with their goal being to bring a championship back to Gilford. They bought into the changes that I demanded – emphasis on defending and being in better physical condition."
In Division II, second-seeded Hanover edged No. 4 seed Bedford, 2-1. Hanover's all-time scoring leader, Eric Jayne (50 goals, 21 assists), netted the game-winner on Nov. 7. The senior striker delivered the dagger in the 77th minute, lifting the Marauders to a sixth consecutive title.
"Winning a sixth straight title means a great deal to the kids," said Hanover coach Rob Grabill, whose team finished 17-1. "They deny it, but I am sure they felt the weight of the five previous ones and didn't want to be the team that broke the streak."
Fourth-seeded Wilton-Lyndeborough won the Division IV championship, its first since 1962 and long before the state adopted a classification system. Stephen Taliadoros provided the match's single score on Nov. 6. He made second-seeded Derryfield of Manchester pay for failing to clear a corner kick in the opening minutes. W-L finished 17-2-1.
The Division I final on Nov. 7 was the only championship decided by more than one marker.
Fourth-seeded Pinkerton prevailed, 3-0, against No. 2 seed Manchester Central. Sean Smith scored in the 22nd minute. Teammates Hayden Hicks and Erik Shaw added late insurance goals as the Astros (16-2-1) dethroned the defending champion.
EASY AS 1-2-3
Champions were also determined at SNHU in Divisions I, II, III and IV girls' soccer.
A pair of top-seeded teams, Division I Exeter (18-0-1) and Division III Campbell of Litchfield (18-0), won titles. Second-seeded Lebanon (17-2-1) was tops in Division II. Third-seeded Derryfield (17-3) delivered in Division IV.
Aby Short scored the lone goal in Exeter's 1-0 win against sixth-seeded Londonderry on Nov. 6. The Blue Hawks outscored the opposition, 8-0, in four tournament matches, won their second straight crown, and fourth in five years.
Trina Scheie fueled Lebanon's 3-1 win over top-seeded Portsmouth on Nov. 6. She netted the match's first two markers in the 13th and 18th minutes. Michaela Cioffredi added insurance in the 34th minute. Portsmouth's Samantha Hobbs struck in the 60th minute.
Campbell's all-time leading scorer, Shawna Trunca, scored her 104th career goal to clinch the program's first championship on Nov. 5. The striker's 30th goal of the season, in sudden-death overtime, defeated No. 2 seed Bow, 2-1.
Derryfield defeated top-seeded Sunapee, 2-0, on Nov. 6. Roz Kenny-Birch buried a shot in the 25th minute. Chloe Warner doubled the lead in the 71st minute as Derryfield repeated.
TRICK OR TREAT
The state finals for field hockey's three divisions took place at Bedford High on Halloween. Division I Winnacunnet of Hampton, Division II Kennett of Conway and Division III Derryfield survived the second season.
Top-seeded Winnacunnet (16-0-1) defeated No. 2 seed Pinkerton in overtime, 4-3. Sarah Carter connected for her second goal before the sudden-death session was 4 minutes old. She collected the rebound of her teammate's shot and buried the winner.
Abigail Marchell and Lyndsie Rabenius also netted goals for Winnacunnet, which erased a pair of two-goal deficits, the second with less than 15 minutes remaining in regulation. Brittany Hawkins, Taryn Norris and Jordyn Hamilton tallied for Pinkerton.
Second-seeded Kennett (17-1) stunned top-seeded and unbeaten Bow, 3-1. Katie Bishop broke a 1-all tie late in regulation and Vicky Wiegold provided a cushion inside the final 30 seconds. Abby Gutowski gave Kennett the lead 18 seconds into the match. Kristen Chulada accounted for Bow's lone goal.
Top-seeded Derryfield (17-0) beat Berlin, 2-0. The shutout win was Derryfield's 15th of the season. Standout duo Tayla Satkwich and Ann DiPastina each scored in the win.
NO SLOWIN' DOWN
Manchester Central swept the cross country boys' and girls' Division I team titles – a school feat last celebrated in 2005 – at Derryfield Park on Oct. 30. The squads duplicated the effort with Meet of Champions wins at Nashua South's Mine Falls course on Nov. 6.
Central's boys proved worthy of the preseason No. 1 status that New Hampshire Cross Country bestowed upon them. A late surge on Derryfield Park's 3.1-mile course from senior Sam Gagnon helped the team clinch its first Division I crown since 2005.
Gagnon finished second overall, 20 seconds off the pace, in the large-school race. It helped Central edge Pinkerton, 92-96.
Sophomore Elizabeth Conway earned third-place honors, 49 seconds behind the frontrunner. Central's girls squad, ranked second in the preseason, topped Nashua's Bishop Guertin, 72-83.
Just like Central's team success, the boys' and girls' individual champions were the same at both meets.
BG's Jeff LaCoste won the boys' Division I race with a time of 15-minutes, 31 seconds. He also set a course record at Mine Falls, finishing in 15:07.8. One week after posting a Division I-winning time of 18:02, Keene's Chloe Maleski finished in 17:48.9.
In Division II, Oyster River of Durham, paced by top finisher Jack Callopy (16:07), comfortably won the boys' team title. Coe-Brown of Northfield won the girls' team title. OR's Marina Slavin (18:24) earned girls' first-place honors.
Bow and Hopkinton won the Division III boys' and girls' championships, respectively. Hopkinton's Fabian Stocek (16:51) paced the boys' field. Portsmouth Christian's Kylie McCoy (18:16) was the first female to finish.
The top 25 runners in the boys' and girls' MoC races punched tickets to the New England Championships. The meet takes place in Thetford, Vt., on Nov. 13.
THIRTY-FIVE AND COUNTING
Londonderry celebrated its 35th consecutive girls' volleyball win in style -- by hoisting the Division I championship plaque inside Pinkerton's gym.
Top-seeded Londonderry defeated No. 3 seed Salem, 3-0, in the Nov. 6 final. Senior outside hitter Katie Schwarz recorded 21 kills and 10 digs as the Lancers claimed their second straight crown. Twin sister and fellow outside hitter Megan Schwarz added 10 kills in the title-clinching match.
Londonderry finished the season 22-0.
Division II Oyster River and Division III Winnisquam Regional of Tilton, both top-seeded teams, also won girls' volleyball championships on Nov. 6.
OR (20-0) ousted No. 2 seed Gilford, 3-0, at Pinkerton. Libero Brianna Datti collected four clutch kills.
Winnisquam (19-1) eliminated No. 3 seed Epping, 3-0, at Plymouth State University. Carolyn Hajdusek tallied 12 kills as the Bears celebrated back-to-back titles.
TIEBREAKER = HEARTBREAKER
Nine football teams currently ranked in the statewide Top 10 reached the postseason. Division I Central is the only team in the Week 11 Union Leader/WGAM/WMUR Power Poll that missed the playoffs.
Central – tied for No. 7 in New Hampshire – last qualified for the second season in 1998.
The Little Green finished in a three-way with Nashua South and defending champion Salem. The teams were 5-3 in Division I and 1-1 in head-to-head games.
Road record winning percentage in league play, the next tiebreaker, broke the deadlock. South was 3-1 (.750). Central and Salem were both 2-2 (.500).
By rule, once the three-way tie is broken, the process reverts to the first tiebreaker: head-to-head result.
Salem beat Central, 45-19, in Week 2.
“There are four teams that made the playoffs. We only beat one of them. We beat South (23-8 in Week 10),” Central head coach Ryan Ray told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “We didn't beat Pinkerton, we didn't beat [Nashua] North and we didn't beat Salem. So, right there, unfortunately, that tells me we didn't deserve to go.
“So, whatever the tiebreakers are, however we lost it, it's too bad for our seniors and very disappointing for me,” added Ray, whose team faces Division IV Trinity in Manchester's Thanksgiving Day game. “But, let's be honest. If we won more games, we wouldn't have this problem.”
FOOTBALL: WEEK 11 GAMES TO WATCH
Friday, Nov. 12
Milford (6-4, 6-2 Div. III) at Portsmouth (6-3, 6-2 Div. III), 7 p.m.
These teams meet in the state semifinals for the third consecutive season. Portsmouth, which enters as the No. 2 seed, owns a five-game win streak in the head-to-head series, including semifinal wins over the Spartans the last two seasons. Third-seeded Milford was routed by Portsmouth, 40-0, in a Week 5 matchup on the Seacoast.
Saturday, Nov. 13
Division I semifinals
Salem (6-4, 5-3 Div. I) at Pinkerton (8-2, 7-1 Div. I), 1 p.m.
Prepare for madness at Memorial Field. It's a rematch of last year's semifinal, only the teams swapped seeds. Defending champ Salem, the No. 4 seed, visits top-seeded and statewide No. 1 Pinkerton. In Week 4, these rivals played a four-quarter thriller. The Astros celebrated a 38-31 home win thanks to a game-ending, goal-line stand.
Nashua South (6-4, 5-3 Div. I) at Nashua North (6-4, 6-2 Div. I), 1 p.m.
Talk about bragging rights. This is the first playoff game between these Gate City grid squads since Nashua High's post-2003 split. South won the 2008 title. North was last year's runner-up. In this year's Week 6 showdown, South knocked off North, 38-21. For playoff purposes, North is the No. 2 seed. South is No. 3. But it hardly matters. Both teams play at Stellos Stadium, site of this semifinal. The place should be packed.
Division II semifinals
Dover (7-3, 6-2 Div. II) at Winnacunnet (8-2, 6-2 Div. II), 1 p.m.
Two Seacoast squads, one ticket to the final. Third-seeded Dover is perhaps the division's hottest team. It started 0-3 overall, 0-2 in Division II, but now rides an impressive seven-game win streak. Dover last lost in Week 3, dropping an 18-13 decision to the foe it faces this week. Meanwhile, it appears second-seeded Winnacunnet survived some late-season injuries. Can it make a second straight trip to the title game?
Keene (7-3, 5-3 Div. II) at Bishop Guertin (8-2, 7-1 Div. II), 7 p.m.
Last week, these teams met at Stellos Stadium. The outcome helped determine playoff seeding. BG won, 14-0. But it's worth wondering if both sides, anticipating a reunion, went with vanilla approaches. BG seeks a three-peat. A win this week ensures the two-time defending champ plays for its seventh championship in eight years.
Division III semifinals
Hollis/Brookline (5-4, 5-3 Div. III) at Souhegan (9-1, 8-0 Div. III), 1 p.m.
On paper, this may be the biggest mismatch of the entire Week 11 slate. Top-seeded Souhegan is two wins from a three-peat. Fourth-seeded Hollis/Brookline is a playoff team for the first time in program history. When the teams met in Week 3, Souhegan cruised to the 36-15 home win.
Division IV championship
Trinity (9-1 Div. IV) at Lebanon (10-0 Div. IV), 1 p.m.
For most of the season, Trinity was considered the division's most dominant team. But Lebanon shut down Trinity's high-scoring attack in the finale at Gill Stadium. Cody Patch rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns as Lebanon won, 14-6, and secured the No. 1 seed. Now, second-seeded Trinity, last year's undefeated Division V champ, must win in the Upper Valley to clinch a second straight crown.
Division V championship
St. Thomas Aquinas (9-1 Div. V) at Kearsarge (10-0 Div. V), 1 p.m.
These teams met in a finale, too. It's a wonder the game ever ended. Kearsarge won in triple overtime, 37-36. The reward was home-field advantage and the second championship berth in program history for top-seeded Kearsarge. Standing in the way of perfection is No. 2 seed STA. Ten years ago, STA defeated Kearsarge for the Division IV crown.
Division VI championship
Newport (8-2 Div. VI) at Gilford (9-1 Div. VI), 1 p.m.
Just like the other championship games, this one is a rematch of the finale that determined the top seed. Gilford doubled up Newport, 40-20. Both teams punched tickets to the title game with lopsided wins in the semifinals. Together, the finalists outscored the opposition a week ago, 81-8. Based on the first head-to-head meeting, it stands to reason the sequel will also feature plenty of point-scoring.
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 email@example.com.