Boston High School: Ryan Carrier

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
9:35
PM ET
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."

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
6:13
PM ET
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

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
3:58
PM ET
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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