Boston High School: Winnacunnet

N.H. football squads eye postseason play

November, 1, 2013
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The final weekend of the New Hampshire high school football season is upon us.

New HampshireEight teams from each division -- two per conference -- will advance to next weekend’s conference championship games, which will serve as the postseason’s quarterfinal round.

Here’s what’s still at stake in each division:

DIVISION I

Four teams have already qualified for postseason play in Division I: Concord (8-0), Nashua South (7-1), Pinkerton Academy (6-2) and Londonderry (4-4). Londonderry will play at Pinkerton Academy in next weekend’s Division I South championship game.

Keene (6-2) can clinch a playoff spot by beating Alvirne (1-7) Friday. If Keene wins, it will play Nashua South in the Division I West title game. Keene handed Nashua South its only loss (42-28) last weekend.

Spaulding (5-3) and Exeter (5-3) will be the two teams that move on from Division I East if each wins Friday. Spaulding plays at Dover (2-6), and Exeter is home against Nashua North (3-5). If either Spaulding or Exeter loses Friday, the door will be open for Winnacunnet (5-3) to reach the postseason.

The winner of Friday’s game between Manchester Central (6-2) and Bedford (7-1) will face Concord in the Division I North title game.

DIVISION II

Seven of the eight playoff teams have been determined in Division II: Monadnock (8-0), Portsmouth (7-1), Plymouth (7-1), Windham (7-1), Trinity (6-2), Sanborn (5-3) and Kennett (4-4).

Sanborn will play Monadnock in the Division II West title game, and Trinity will face Windham in the Division II South title game.

Merrimack Valley will clinch a postseason berth if it beats Plymouth on Saturday, or if St. Thomas (6-2) loses to Trinity. A St. Thomas win and a Merrimack Valley loss would make it possible for St. Thomas to advance, depending on results of other Division II games this weekend. Either Merrimack Valley or St. Thomas will face Portsmouth in the Division II East championship game.

Kennett will face Plymouth in the Division II North championship game.

DIVISION III

The matchups in two of the four Division III conference championship games are set in Division III: Epping-Newmarket (3-4) will face Bishop Brady (3-4) in the Division III East title game; and Bow (6-1) will meet Pelham (7-0) in the Division III South championship game.

Stevens (5-2) and Gilford (6-2) have also qualified. Stevens will face the winner of Saturday’s game between Mascoma Valley (5-2) and Newport (5-2) for the Division III West title, and Gilford will meet either Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough (4-3) or Winnisquam (3-4) in the Division III North championship game. Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough will advance if it beats Epping-Newmarket on Saturday, or if Winnisquam loses to Newfound (2-5).

NHIAA WEEK 9 SCHEDULE
DIVISION I
Friday
Spaulding at Dover
Nashua North at Exeter
Bishop Guertin at Timberlane
Winnacunnet at Nashua South
Manchester Central at Bedford
Goffstown at Concord
Manchester West at Manchester Memorial
Salem at Londonderry
Pinkerton at Merrimack
Alvirne at Keene
DIVISION II
Friday
Kennett at Kingswood
Pembroke at Mondadnock
Hanover at Portsmouth
St. Thomas at Trinity
Milford at Laconia
Lebanon at Kearsarge
Hollis/Brookline at Souhegan
Sanborn at Windham

Saturday
Merrimack Valley at Plymouth
Con-Val at John Stark

DIVISION III
Friday

Raymond at Stevens

Saturday
Franklin at Bishop Brady
Epping/Newmarket at IL/Moultonborough
Pelham at Farmington-Nute
Winnisquam at Newfound
Campbell at Bow
Fall Mountain at Somersworth
Newport at Mascoma Valley

UNION LEADER/WGIR/WMUR POWER POLL
1. Concord (8-0)
2. Bedford (7-1)
3. Pinkerton (6-2)
4. Nashua South (7-1)
5. Keene (6-2)
6. Manchester Central (6-2)
7. Bishop Guertin (5-3)
8. Portsmouth (7-1)
9. Exeter (5-3)
10. Plymouth (7-1)

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader, and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia.

New Hampshire Week 6 football preview

October, 11, 2013
10/11/13
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There are plenty of people who figured the Concord High School football team would be good this season, but it’s unlikely anyone expected the Crimson Tide to be this good.

New HampshireConcord is 5-0, has won each game by at least 28 points and is averaging 50 points per contest.

Two Crimson Tide running backs are averaging more than 13 yards per carry: Mark Gaudet (13.5) and Walters Ndi (13.2).

“They’ve had their way with everybody,” Pinkerton Academy coach Brian O’Reilly said when asked about Concord, a team Pinkerton will face Friday night in Derry. “No one has been able to stay with them so far, so we’ll see. If we’re not able to stop their offense it’s going to be a long night.”

The Astros are having a pretty good season as well, Pinkerton has won four in a row since opening with a 14-12 loss at unbeaten Bedford.

Pinkerton has the top offensive threat in the state in senior running back Manny Latimore, who has run for 955 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.

Concord coach Eric Brown said the No. 1 thing on his team’s to-do list tonight is preventing Latimore from having a huge night.

“Manny Latimore is in a class by himself,” Brown said. “It’s not just his runs from scrimmage. It’s his punt returns, kickoff returns and the other things he’s done. Hopefully they’ll have to go to someone else.

“We’ve been really strong against the run, but I think Pinkerton’s offense is a different level than some of the teams we’ve been playing. This is going to be a big challenge for us.”

Elsewhere in Division I this weekend:

« Spaulding (Rochester) will meet Bishop Guertin (Nashua) on Saturday (4 p.m.) at Nashua’s Stellos Stadium. The game features two teams that are battling to get into the playoffs. BG (4-1) suffered a one-point setback against Winnacunnet (Hampton) in its opener, but has won four in a row since then. Spaulding (3-2) thrust itself into the playoff picture by beating Winnacunnet 42-29 last Friday.

« Keene (3-2) will play at Winnacunnet (3-2) in a game that will all but eliminate one team from the playoff hunt. Keene is in third place, behind Nashua South (5-0) and Bishop Guertin (4-1), in Division I West. Winnacunnet is in a three-way tie for first place with Spaulding and Exeter (3-2) in Division I East. Two teams from each conference will qualify for postseason play.

DIVISION II

Even though St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover is about a 15-minute ride from Portsmouth High School, it’s been more than 40 years since the schools played each other in football. That will change Friday night, when the teams will meet in Portsmouth.

St. Thomas is 5-0, Portsmouth is 4-1. The winner will have sole possession of first place in Division II East. Each team runs a spread offense.

“We’re very similar in terms of style,” St. Thomas coach Eric Cumba said. “It could be a very high-scoring game, or the longest game in history.”

St. Thomas has allowed 41 points in its five victories, two of which were shutouts. Portsmouth has scored at least 35 points in each of its five games, and has put up at least 41 points three times.

Portsmouth has won the last two Division III championships, and St. Thomas enters the weekend as one of seven unbeaten teams in the state. Concord, Bedford, Nashua South, Plymouth, Monadnock and Pelham are the others.

“The first thing that jumps out at you is that they carry that Portsmouth High School aura,” St. Thomas coach Eric Cumba said. “There’s a lot of tradition going on there.

“Then when you pop in the film you see that they get the ball to a lot of different guys all over the field. They might be the most explosive team I’ve coached against. They’re a lot like Trinity (Manchester) and Plymouth in terms of their ability to score points, they just do it in a different way.”

DIVISION III

Pelham, the only unbeaten team in Division III, will try to extend its winning streak to five games when it plays at Epping-Newmarket (2-2) Saturday. Despite its 4-0 record, Pelham has little room for error, since the three other teams in its conference -- Bow, Campbell and Somersworth -- each have three victories.

Pelham’s defense has allowed 20 points in its four games. Division I Bedford is the only team in the state that has allowed fewer points (12).

« In terms of playoff position, the most meaningful game in Division III this weekend is Saturday’s matchup between Gilford (3-2) and Newfound (2-2) in Bristol. Gilford is tied with Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough for first place in Division III North. Newfound is alone in third.

(Read full post)

New Hampshire Week 1 football preview

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
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Pinkerton Academy football coach Brian O'Reilly had three quarterbacks competing for the starting job throughout the preseason, but few people outside of the O'Reilly household know who will be behind center when Pinkerton opens its Division I season at Bedford on Friday night.

New HampshireThe candidates are all juniors: Jack Hannaway, Conner Holland and Jake Froehlich. Hannaway and Holland were with the Pinkerton program last season. Froehlich transferred to Pinkerton from the Tilton School, where he threw for 1,492 yards and 13 touchdowns in eight games last season.

Choosing from three talented quarterbacks is a problem many coaches would welcome.

“But it is a problem,” O'Reilly said. “They're all pretty good.”

Regardless of who it is, Pinkerton's quarterback will be handing the ball to running back Manny Latimore often Friday night. Latimore, who is widely considered to be the top offensive players in the state, rushed for 1,504 last season. He'll likely have a larger role in the Pinkerton offense this season.

“Based on his senior year, it's possible that Manny could be one of the best running backs we've ever had here,” O'Reilly said. “When you have that kind of weapon you have to use it. I will use it. Trust me.”

Bedford is playing in its third division in as many years. The Bulldogs lost to Portsmouth in the 2011 championship game, and to Winnacunnet in last year's Division II championship game.

The Bulldogs, who have 125 players in their program, made to move to Division I in the offseason.

“This is where I would prefer to be,” said Bedford coach Kurt Hines, who has been Bedford's head coach since the school first fielded a varsity team in 2008. “We're going to find out where we fit in the division Friday night.”

***


Winnacunnet at Bishop Guertin is another interesting Division I matchup on this weekend’s schedule. The Warriors and Cardinals are scheduled to meet Saturday night (7 p.m.) at Nashua's Stellos Stadium.

Both programs competed at the Division II level last season, but each was placed in Division I when the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association reduced the number of divisions for football from six to three.

Winnacunnet defeated BG in last year's Division II semifinals.

“As long as we stay healthy I think we should be in the playoffs,” BG coach Travis Cote said. “We should be in that first round (quarterfinals) and who knows after that.”

(Read full post)

New Hampshire football preview

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
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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.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

January, 18, 2013
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We're more than a month into the Division 1 boys basketball season, and you'd have to dig deep into the league standings before you found a team not capable of winning this year's state championship.

New HampshireEntering Friday night's schedule eight teams are above .500, and all of them seem to have legitimate title hopes.

“Obviously some teams are better than others right now, but there are quite a few teams that could put things together by the end of the year and they could be real dangerous,” Salem coach Rob McLaughlin said. “I see a lot of teams that could cause problems.”

Even Manchester Central (7-0) and Trinity (6-0) – the only unbeaten teams in league play – have a non-league loss against a Division I opponent. Trinity lost to Central in the Queen City Invitational, and Central lost to Manchester Memorial in the same tournament.

Memorial (5-1) is one of four teams with one loss. That group includes Bishop Guertin (6-1), Nashua South (6-1) and Spaulding (6-1). Merrimack (4-2) and injury-plagued Winnacunnet (4-3) round out the top eight.

“Right now I'd have to say Trinity and Central are the two best teams,” said McLaughlin, who has faced five of the top eight teams in the standings. “At least they're the best teams we've played. Then there are a bunch of teams that aren't that far behind.”

GIVING DEVILS THEIR DUE
No NHIAA hockey team is playing better than Salem, which is 6-0-1 since opening the season with a 1-0 loss to Bishop Guertin. The Blue Devils stretched their winning streak to five games when they beat Exeter 6-1 Saturday.

Salem has been winning with defense. Goaltender Nick Phair has a 1.16 goals-against average – the lowest among Division I goalies – and a .949 save percentage in 233 minutes. Cody Soucy (nine points) and Jake Pappalardo (seven points) lead the offense.

The Blue Devils have outscored their opponents, 29-11.

STAR GAZING
Rosters for the second CHaD New Hampshire East-West All-Star Football Game were released earlier this month. This year's game will be played June 29 at the University of New Hampshire's Cowell Stadium, and will benefit Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (ChaD).

Former Manchester Central coach Jim Schubert will coach the West, and former Concord coach Bob Camirand will serve as the East's head coach. The East roster includes five players from Division I champion Exeter and five from Division I runner-up Pinkerton Academy of Derry.

“As is the case with any all-star game there are some people who are worthy who won't be selected,” Camirand said. “We looked at people who were familiar with the 4-4 defense and running the football from under center out of the Wing-T or the Double-Wing, which is what I hang my hat on.

“The Pinkerton kids and the Exeter kids are familiar with the offense we'll be running so it makes for an easy transition.”

The West won the inaugural game, 44-12, last summer.

“This is an all-star game,” Schubert said. “These are the best senior players in New Hampshire in the eyes of the coaches.”

EAST-WEST ALL-STAR ROSTERS
West players:
David Cannone (RB/LB) Bedford; James Capparell (QB) Bedford; Brian Collins (WR/OLB) Bedford; Dylan York (RB/DB) Bedford; Blake Boudreau (FB/LB) Bishop Guertin; Nick Marino (RB/DB) Bishop Guertin; Seth Gosse (OL/DL) Concord; Tolbert Nemo (RB) Concord; Kody Benwell (FB/TE/LB) Franklin; Nathan Grevior (OT/DT) Franklin; Connor Benjamin (QB/RB/WR) Goffstown; Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris (WR/S) Hanover; Mitch Frick (WR/CB) Hollis/Brookline; Lucas Luopa (QB/DB) Keene; Dylan Drew (RB/LB/DE) Lebanon; Zach Hileman (C/DL) Manchester Central; Troy Pelletier (WR/DB) Manchester Central; Pierre Noel (WR/S) Manchester Memorial; Jared Ombati (RB/DB) Manchester Memorial; Zach Ziemba (QB/DB) Manchester West; Chris Sanborn (TE/DE/MLB) Mascoma; Joe Albina (RB/LB) Milford; Nick Patterson (G/LB) Monadnock; Mike Lynch (OT/DT) Nashua North; Deric Wagner (TE/RB/LB/DE) Nashua North; Stephen Choate (WR) Nashua South; Christian Stack (OL) Nashua South; Matt Tremblay (RB/OL/LB) Newport; Brandon Goodale (FB/HB) Plymouth; Chase Wyman (OG/DT) Plymouth; Tyler Ford (QB/WR/DB) Souhegan; Jake Kennedy (OT) Souhegan; CJ Gosselin (OT/LB) Stevens; Colin Bouchard (OL/DL) Trinity; Ryan Carrier (FB/DL/LB) Trinity; Romeo Masuku (RB/WR/LB/DB) Trinity; Russ Pallas (OL/DL) Trinity.

West coaches:
Jim Schubert (head coach), Mike Bombardier, Eric Brown, Dante Laurendi, Jimmy Lauzon, Paul Lavigne, Bob Leclair, Gerry Tautkus.

East players:
Matt Dow (OL/DL) Dover; Kyle Seawards (RB/WR/DB) Dover; Eric Wilson (TE/LB) Dover; Zach Bosen (TE/DT) Exeter; Tyler Grant (HB/TB/SS) Exeter; Logan Laurent (P/K) Exeter; Jamie Vogt (HB/LB) Exeter; Jameson Whiteley (TE/OLB) Exeter; Conor McDonald (LB) Kennett; David Mahoney (RB/LB) Laconia; Graham Nyhan (TE) Laconia; Troy Ward (FB/DE) Londonderry; Chadd Loring (C/DL) Pelham; Chris Ford (OG/DT) Pembroke; Jake Bernaiche (G/DL) Pinkerton; David Hansen (G/LB) Pinkerton; Chris St. Onge (HB/QB/S) Pinkerton; Matt St. Onge (FB/LB) Pinkerton; Brett Stuart (HB/DB) Pinkerton; Dillon Crosby (RB/OLB) Portsmouth; Rick Holt (DT) Portsmouth; Kurtis Leonard (C/DE) Portsmouth; Drew Francoeur (QB/DB) Somersworth; Tyler Kretschmar (OL/DE) Somersworth; Kyle Hall (OL/DL) Spaulding; Ryan Monette (RB/WR/CB/S) St. Thomas; Joe Richard (G/LB) St. Thomas; Joshua David (RB/WR/DB) Timberlane; Ryan McCarthy (WR/DB) Timberlane; Danny Cannone (RB/TE/OLB/DE) Windham; Kevin Cooney (FB/OLB/DE) Windham; Joe Lorenz (QB/S) Windham; Jordan Cutting (G/OT/NG) Winnacunnet; Christian Dyer (OT/DT) Winnacunnet; Ben Franzoso (RB) Winnacunnet; Ben Gareau (WR/DB) Winnacunnet; Mason Taylor (G/OL) Winnisquam.

East coaches:
Bob Camirand (head coach), Peter Bergeron, Dave Bernaiche, Dan Fallon, Dave Malay, Ken Sciacca.

NHL EYES SANFORD
Zach Sanford, who helped Pinkerton Academy win the 2012 Division I ice hockey championship, was among the players listed on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's mid-term rankings, which were released on Jan. 15.

Sanford, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound forward, was listed at No. 83. He is currently playing for the EJHL's Islanders Hockey Club, and had three goals and 15 assists through 24 games.

Sanford, an Auburn resident, had 69 points in 21 games last season – he collected at least one point in every game -- and collected a goal during Pinkerton's 3-2 triumph over Manchester Memorial in the Division I championship game.

EPPING'S STANLEY JOINS ELITE GROUP
Senior Frank Stanley became the seventh Epping High School boys basketball player to score 1,000 career points when he tossed in 25 during a 66-29 victory over Wilton-Lyndeborough on Jan. 11.

Stanley, an undersized center, finished the game with 1,001 career points.

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report. He has been covering high school sports throughout New England since 1992.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
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Whenever the Pinkerton Academy football team generated some momentum in Saturday's Division I championship game, Exeter took it away.

New HampshireThe Astros scored three touchdowns in the game, and Exeter answered with a touchdown on its ensuing possession each time. The Blue Hawks delivered the knockout blow when quarterback Ethan Joyce connected with halfback Colby Swane on a 27-yard touchdown pass with 4:47 remaining in Exeter's 31-21 victory.

The touchdown pass came shortly after Pinkerton's Manny Latimore returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown that helped the Astros pull with three points, 24-21, with 9:22 to play.

“We could not get p[the Exeter offense] off the field,” Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly said. “We worked really hard for our offense today – sometimes too hard. We worked and worked and worked, and then they go right down the field and score on us. We couldn't make them give the ball back to us.”

Top-seeded Exeter completed its season with an 11-1 record (10-0 in Division I). Second-seeded Pinkerton finished 10-2 overall, and 8-2 in Division I. Both Pinkerton losses came against Exeter.

“Every time I thought we were in a little danger, we came back and responded offensively,” Exeter coach Bill Ball said. “Offensively we probably executed as well as we have all year – against a very good team. A lot of third-down and fourth-down conversions. Just a real solid effort by the guys.”

The Exeter-Pinkerton contest was one of three championship games played Saturday. Winnacunnet defeated Bedford 21-13 to win the Division II title; and Portsmouth beat Goffstown 54-27 in the Division III championship game.

The Astros received a strong performance from Latimore, a junior running back who opened the scoring with an 84-yard touchdown run.

Exeter answered when Jamie Vogt scored on a 7-yard run, and then took its first lead when fullback Galen Antolino scored on a 4-yard run with 7:51 left in the first half. The PAT was blocked, which left Exeter with a 13-7 advantage.

Pinkerton quarterback Sean Conroy capped a 13-play drive with a 6-yard touchdown run on the opening possession of the third quarter, but this time it took the Blue Hawks three plays to retake the lead. Senior halfback Tyler Grant scored his 20th rushing touchdown of the season and added the two-point conversion to give Exeter a 21-14 advantage with 5:41 left in the third.

Grant, who entered the game with 1,138 yards on 151 rushing attempts, finished with 96 yards on 22 carries.

After Logan Laurent's 32-yard field goal extended Exeter's lead to 10 points, Latimore kept things interesting by returning a Laurent punt for a touchdown. Latimore rushed for a game-high 177 yards on 22 carries.

Any hope for a Pinkerton victory was erased when Joyce hooked up with Swane for a touchdown pass that helped Exeter push its lead to 10 points.

It was the second time Exeter has beaten Pinkerton to win the Division I championship in as many years. The Blue Hawks prevailed, 23-13, in Derry last season.

“I'd say this one feels a little better,” Grant said. “It's my senior year and to go out on top is unbelievable.”

DIVISION II: Winnacunnet 21, Bedford 13
Junior quarterback Ing Hao Veasna turned in what may have been the best game of his varsity career and led top-seeded Winnacunnet to its first state championship since 2000.

Veasna completed 8 of 11 passes for 163 yards and scored on a 5-yard run in the third quarter. Carly Gould made her second of three point-after kicks following Veasna's touchdown to give the Warriors (11-1) a 14-7 lead.

Gould, who played girls' soccer for Winnacunnet, will play college soccer at Brown.

Quarterback James Caparell scored on a pair of 2-yard runs for Bedford (9-2). His second TD made it a 14-13 game with 56 seconds left in the third quarter, but the PAT failed.

Caparell gained 106 yards on 13 carries, and completed 11 of 14 passes for 94 yards.

Seth Edwards scored the game's final touchdown on a 14-yard run with 1:14 to play.

Running back Ben Franzoso opened the scoring with an 8-yard run. Franzoso picked up 80 yards on 26 carries and finished the season with 1,431 yards rushing.

Winnacunnet beat Bedford, 14-6, during the regular season.

DIVISION III: Portsmouth 54, Goffstown 27
Injuries forced fourth-seeded Portsmouth to use four different quarterbacks this season, but junior Donovan Phanor looked healthy Saturday.

Phanor passed for 192 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 178 yards and two more touchdowns to help Portsmouth repeat as the Division III champion.

Portsmouth wide receiver Colin MacDonald caught six passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

Portsmouth (8-2) also won last year's championship as the No. 4 seed. Third-seeded Goffstown (6-4) trailed 20-14 at halftime, but the Clippers scored on each of their first five possessions in the second half.

Goffstown quarterback Connor Benjamin passed for 150 yards and gained 143 yards on the ground in the loss.

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader, and publishes the New Hampshire Football Report: www.nhfootballreport.com.

Winnacunnet (N.H.) basketball coach Beattie steps down

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
7:41
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Winnacunnet (N.H.) girls' basketball head coach Ed BeattieCody Smith for ESPNBoston.comWinnacunnet (N.H.) girls' basketball head coach Ed Beattie resigned Tuesday. Beattie led the Warriors to seven state titles, including a string of five straight from 2007 to 2011.
HAMPTON, N.H. – Winnacunnet High School's Ed Beattie, one of the most successful girls' basketball coaches in New England, submitted his letter of resignation Tuesday night.

Beattie said he decided that he wouldn't return for the 2012-13 season months ago, but didn't officially resign until he was offered a coaching contract for the upcoming season on Monday. He cited increased stress and a lack of support as the reasons for his decision to step away from his coaching position. Beattie is also a History teacher at Winnacunnet.

“I didn't get the kind of support that would have been necessary for me to continue,” Beattie said. “I spoke to the administration months ago and told them that I would not be returning, and I think some people were non-believers.

“I saw things that I didn't think were very good for my girls' basketball program. I tired to be professional and use the proper chain of command, but nothing has really changed on that front. I based my decision on their decision not to make changes.”

Beattie, 57, began coaching girls basketball at Winnacunnet in 1981 and guided the Warriors to 29 winning seasons. His Winnacunnet teams were 519-173 and won seven state titles, including five in a row from 2007 to 2011.

The five consecutive state championships tied a state record held by Nashua (1985-89). The 1986 Nashua team was named the No. 1 team in the country by USA Today and several other national publications.

Winnacunnet had an 84-game winning streak end during the 2011 season. In addition to it league victories, Winnacunnet built that streak by winning holiday tournaments in Maine, Massachusetts and Florida.

The 2009 Winnacunnet team won the KSA Holiday Basketball Tournament, a five-day event in Orlando, Fla. The tournament featured teams from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Florida.

Beattie, who was inducted into the New Hampshire Coaches' Association Hall of Fame in 2006, may have been known best for his efforts to advance girls' sports. He helped form New Hampshire's first AAU girls basketball team and was also Winnacunnet's first girls soccer coach. He coached soccer from 1979 to 1989 and again from 1993 to 1998. The Winnacunnet girls' soccer team won a state title in 1983.

Beattie's father Bryce was a well-known high school basketball coach in Maine and Massachusetts. His coaching career in Massachusetts included stints at Salem, Swampscott and St. John's Prep.

Beattie made it clear that he's not done with basketball, and said it's possible he could coach at another school in the future.

“Stress was a big part of this,” he said. “I had already compromised some of the things I had to stand for. This wasn't easy. I'm not through with basketball, I'm just through with Winnacunnet basketball.”

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

September, 2, 2012
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Talk of an obscure rule in the NHIAA football policies and procedures manual -- and, more specifically, one prominent head coach's violation of it -- dominated the 2012 preseason.


New HampshireMike Beliveau made statewide news Aug. 21 when the story of his infraction broke in the New Hampshire Union Leader. The longtime leader at Division III power Souhegan said he unknowingly violated the manual's 15th point of emphasis, which prohibits filming or scouting opponents before their final scrimmage or jamboree of the preseason.


Beliveau attended the Aug. 17 scrimmage between Division I Nashua South and host Winnacunnet, a Division II program doubling as Souhegan's season-opening opponent.


“I did not know the policy. As a 20-year veteran coach, I should have,” Beliveau told the Union Leader. “Because I did not know the policy, I violated the policy when I went scouting. I've recommended to my school, my team, the NHIAA, that I be unavailable to coach the first two regular-season games.”


School officials, not the NHIAA, handle disciplinary issues involving coaches. But the state's governing body for interscholastic athletics must approve of the school's recommended sanction.


All parties agreed a one-game penalty was sufficient, meaning Beliveau will serve a Week 1 suspension on Aug. 31 while his Sabers face the team he scouted.


“For the nature of the infraction, in football, two weeks is a good chunk of the season,” NHIAA executive director Patrick Corbin told the statewide newspaper. “The AD and myself agreed that one game was adequate for this situation.”


Beyond the initial statement provided, Beliveau has declined to comment.


Many of his coaching colleagues, however, spoke openly about the matter. They did so during, of all events, the 23rd annual Queen City Jamboree on Aug. 24 at Gill Stadium. The QCJ has long been considered football's final dress rehearsal before the regular season kicks off.


The overwhelming majority of football coaches at the jamboree said they did not know the rule existed – until Beliveau's misstep brought it to light.


Brian O'Reilly, entering his 35th year at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, is among them.


“I'm not surprised he didn't know and, I think, most coaches didn't know,” O'Reilly said. “And to be honest with you, I never really looked at (the manual) either.”


The fact the rule was enforced opened eyes. Several coaches said, for years, representatives of opposing teams attended their scrimmages.


Justin Hufft, the second-year grid boss at Goffstown, said opposing coaches routinely caught peeks of Souhegan's scrimmages. Hufft spent 11 seasons as an assistant to Beliveau.


“When I was around him, I always saw him be nothing but gracious to other coaches … So, I'm disappointed when I see people treating him in a different manner,” he said.


Of course, the fact that the violation occurred at Winnacunnet didn't help Beliveau's cause. The Hampton school's athletics director, Carol Dozibrin, is also the NHIAA football committee chair.


Beliveau was spotted in plain sight, supporting his assertion that he didn't know the rule existed. If he intended to knowingly ignore the policy, why not make himself less visible?


Regardless, this much seems clear:


“In the future,” Bishop Guertin head coach Travis Cote said, “I don't think many guys will make those mistakes after what's happened to Mike this year.”


PRESEASON NO. 1

Unlike August 2011, the Exeter Blue Hawks won't enter this Division I football regular season with modest expectations.


The spotlight shines brightest on them.


Exeter wears the bull's-eye as defending champion, status earned after last year's 23-13 championship upset of Pinkerton. The stunner capped a storybook worst-to-first turnaround, as the Blue Hawks went winless in their 2010 Division I debut.


Which explains this: Exeter earned New Hampshire's preseason No. 1 ranking in the fifth-year Power Poll, the weekly statewide high school football top 10 as voted by media members from the Union Leader, WGIR-Radio and WMUR-TV.


“Any time your school's name is being tossed around with any of those programs, it's great,” Exeter head coach Bill Ball said about being joined in the top three by No. 2 Pinkerton and No. 3 Manchester Central. “It says a lot about the quality of football in New Hampshire.”


Ethan Joyce is among Exeter's senior leaders. He'll take the snaps in the program's signature straight-T offense. Halfbacks Tyler Grant and Colby Swane provide the blend of power and quickness.


Defensive tackle Zach Bosen and linebacker Jamie Vogt anchor Exeter's hard-hitting defense. Placekicker Logan Laurent, offered a scholarship by the University of New Hampshire, returns to give Exeter a decisive advantage on special teams.


“We have some experience back, guys that have been in the fray,” Ball said. “It's incumbent upon them to let the new guys know what's expected.”


DECISIONS, DECISIONS

Offensive linemen are often overlooked. But Souhegan's 6-foot 4-inch, 290-pound left tackle Jake Kennedy will be tough to miss this season.


Kennedy already has seven verbal scholarship offers to play college football at either the Football Bowl Subdivision or Football Championship Subdivision levels.


The list of schools includes Massachusetts (FBS), and Colgate, Fordham, Holy Cross, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.


“I'm not focused on (the scholarship offers) right now. I'm focused on this team,” Kennedy said. “I want to help these guys win a championship.”


NEW FACES

All six of NHIAA football's divisions feature at least one new head coach. Here's the rundown:


Brad Archer (Gilford) and Art Jacobs (Farmington-Nute) walk through the door in Division VI. Ryan Clark (Pelham), John Francis (Inter-Lakes-Moultonborough), Ross Salovitch (Epping-Newmarket) and John Welch (Sanborn) join Division V.


Steve Burns leads defending Division IV champion Trinity. He takes over after five years as an assistant on Gary Leonard's coaching staff.


“Is it any different for me? A little bit. Anything that goes wrong for me is my fault. I don't get to blame Gary anymore,” Burns deadpanned.


Ryan McCartney – whose uncle is former University of Colorado head coach Bill McCartney – guides Division III ConVal. Claude Gagnon calls the shots at Division II Spaulding.


Former Westford (Mass.) Academy assistant Adam Gagne secured the job at Division I Salem.


Gagne replaces New Hampshire coaching legend Jack Gati, who amassed a 221-138 career record (four state titles) in 34 years at Trinity, Concord and Salem. The new coach scrapped the Salem staple straight-T for the spread.


“I have the utmost respect for Jack and what he's done. If anything, it's made (the coaching transition) easier for me because (the players) know football,” Gagne said. “That's a true testament to Jack.”


Marc Thaler is a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader. He co-hosts the “N.H. High School Football Show” on WGIR-AM 610. Follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

June, 8, 2012
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Bishop Guertin High's wealth of talent, particularly on defense, is best illustrated by this fact related to the 2012 NHIAA Division I final:

New HampshireMinus one of their best close defenders the Nashua powerhouse in boys' lacrosse still clinched a championship three-peat.

Kyle Karaska, a University of Massachusetts recruit, broke his hand in the state semifinals. But given the depth at the position, BG still broke the spirits of Hanover High's Marauders with a 10-5 title-clinching win June 6.

The final score doesn't do BG justice, either. This contest, played at Bedford High, was never in question.

“I thought we outplayed them better than 4-0. But that's been the story of our season,” said BG coach Chris Cameron, referencing the halftime score and his club's ability to dominate play despite what the scoreboard suggested. “We were just so good defensively.”

UMass commit Bob Fahey, the coaches' association pick as defensive player of the year, spearheaded yet another dominant defensive performance. The state's No. 1-ranked club finished 14-1 in-state, and 18-3 overall.

The out-of-state setbacks were by a combined two goals. Guertin lost to La Salle Academy (R.I.), 7-6, and nationally ranked Duxbury (Mass.) High, 6-5.

The Cards also avenged their only in-state loss. After thumping Hanover, 15-3, in the season-opener, Cameron's boys were stunned 10 days later by the same team, 14-9.

“After our (April 20) performance up in Hanover, I thought, 'Maybe they're just better than us,'” Cameron said. “But I could tell right away (in the final) that our kids were ready to play.”

Fahey said he and his teammates “loved our matchups” for the title game. New Hampshire's top close defender took away attackman Christian Johansen.

Long-stick midfielder Brody Smith stayed glued to the other half of Hanover's top scoring tandem, midfielder and Michigan recruit Christian Wolter.

Johansen and Wolter, the sparks to Hanover's up-tempo game, did not score in the season-opening loss. They struck for seven goals and an assist in the win.

“We wanted to slow them in transition,” said Fahey, well aware Hanover's snipers combined for one goal in the rubber match.

R.I.T.-bound Jay Krzyston and Karaska's replacement, Endicott commit Sean Fenn, completed BG's dominant defensive unit. They helped take away the middle and force shooters to fire from the perimeter.

Goaltender and Harvard recruit Colin Delea (eight saves) took a shutout deep into the third quarter, which ended with BG boasting a 10-2 lead.

That's because Blake Boudreau owned the faceoff X after halftime.

BG's junior midfielder won 8 of 9 third-quarter faceoffs. It translated to lengthy possessions and a back-breaking 6-2 frame.

The fourth quarter? It was merely a formality.

Appearing in its eighth straight Division I final, BG became the first program since Pinkerton Academy of Derry (1999-2002) to celebrate a three-peat.

The Cards clinched their fifth crown since emerging on the scene as a surprise winner in 2005.

“They like to push in transition. But, 6-on-6, that's not their game,” Cameron said of the Marauders. “That took them out of their game – and (forced them) to play from behind.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

May, 13, 2012
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Every win streak, no matter its length, has an expiration date.

New HampshireLearning the life span of record runs for Portsmouth High baseball (89 games) and Londonderry High girls' lacrosse (59 games) ended in the same week, however, was certainly unexpected.

The Clippers run of consecutive NHIAA wins on the diamond, currently a national record, was snapped April 30 by Seacoast rival St. Thomas Aquinas High. The Dover club celebrated a comeback 5-4 home win.

“This year's group, 2012, is the most different of all the five teams (that contributed to the streak),” Portsmouth head coach Tim Hopley said. “Ten of the 18 guys had never been in a varsity game before the season started, and they weren't necessarily invested in what had happened in the past.

“Yet our best players, our leaders, pointed us in the right direction and they went out and were able to get the record back,” added Hopley, referring to Martensdale-St. Mary's (Iowa) High, which briefly broke the Clippers' record last season. “Whether it be for a few weeks or longer is irrelevant. It really is."

The Lancers' state-record streak of NHIAA wins was stopped by visiting Concord High. The date was May 5. The score was 14-12.

“I told the girls, 'Now it's done. You've set the bar for the state. You've done something that's going to be awfully hard to do again. Now you can focus on the next game. As long as we don't lose the last one, that's what matters,'” said Londonderry coach Bob Slater, whose program owned one of the nation's longest overall win streaks, a 51-gamer, until last season's 12-9 loss at Andover (Mass.) High.

Portsmouth, the four-time defending Division II champion, last lost an NHIAA contest in the 2007 quarterfinals. Hollis/Brookline High eliminated the Clippers, 4-3.

Londonderry, the three-time defending Division I champ, hadn't lost to an in-state foe since the 2008 title game. Amherst's Souhegan High scored a 15-7 win.

Both streaks were snapped by teams that nearly won a state title last spring. STA and Concord closed their 2011 campaigns in heartbreaking fashion.

The Saints were four outs from hoisting hardware. Pitching ace and star slugger Jordan Bean -– less than a calendar year before scoring the streak-snapping run -– was tagged for a two-out, two-strike bases-clearing double in the home sixth. It was the critical blow in a four-run inning for the Clippers, 9-6 winners.

The Crimson Tide erased a five-goal halftime deficit and had the chance to tie the championship at 10-apiece with 21 seconds to play. But goaltender Sarah Ford clinched the 10-9 win for the Lancers by stopping Jenna Tewksbury's free-position shot.

Here's how the win streaks came to a halt:

STA rallied for four runs in its last at-bat. Chris White ripped the game-winning single back through the box. White's winner scored Bean, who belted a two-run, game-tying double in addition to scattering eight hits and allowing two earned runs over six frames.

“We have a tremendous amount of respect for the entire Portsmouth program and all that they have accomplished over the past five years. I think this year's victory went a long way to dispel the myth in the minds of our players that we simply cannot beat them,” said STA coach Marc Schoff, whose program entered the showdown 49-15 since 2009, with eight of those losses to the Clippers.

“One of our players said after the St. Thomas game that most people never have the opportunity to set a significant national record once in their lifetime," Hopley said. "But we were fortunate enough to be able to accomplish it twice.”

Concord quickly surrendered four goals, but rebounded to take a 7-5 halftime lead. Late in regulation, Jane Symmes ensured the game's seventh tie didn't materialize. Winning the draw with her team protecting a 12-11 lead, she scored Concord's critical 13th goal.

“They got down, 4-0, at the beginning and that was a wake-up call. After that, they got back into the game and took charge,” Concord coach Terry Anderson told the New Hampshire Sunday News. “This was an intense and competitive game, and the difference was ball control, just getting the draw and making good decisions.”

MORE WITH HOPLEY
What else did Portsmouth's baseball coach say about the national record-setting streak?

On the post-game message after losing: “First, standing in short right field 3 minutes after the game, we told them that it was bound to happen at some point, and that we really did do everything that day to win.

“The next day was the second step, more reflectionary. We told them how proud we were of them for what they had accomplished and for how they handled themselves through everything. It had to be said, and it will be said to every player who's been a part of this crazy ride. But we also reminded them that the seventh game of the season wasn't going to, couldn't, and shouldn't define who we were as a group.”

On winning while in the national spotlight: “The fact that the last two groups had to deal with the circus of media attention was probably fun at the time. But in hindsight, for 15-, 16-, 17-year-old high school kids who have to worry about a Calc test, their girlfriends, and cleaning up their room so mom and dad stop yelling, dealing with something like that is pretty heady stuff.

“And I'm sure we'd all do it again in a minute if we had the chance.”

NOTEWORTHY
– Holly Kathios, a freshman pitcher for the softball team at Nashua's Bishop Guertin High, threw a complete-game no-hitter on May 10. She notched nine strikeouts, worked around three walks, and contributed a fourth-inning RBI single. The Cardinals beat Hampton's Winnacunnet High, 2-0.

– Jake Kennedy, a soon-to-be senior at Amherst's Souhegan High, was nominated for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 5, 2013. Offered a scholarship by the University of Massachusetts, the offensive and defensive lineman is one of 400 football players nationwide, and the only one from New Hampshire, to receive a nomination. Ninety players will be selected later this year for the East vs. West matchup televised on NBC.

Marc Thaler is a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He co-hosts the “N.H. Sports Show” on Manchester's WGIR-AM 610 and the Seacoast's 96.7 FM every Saturday morning. Read his “New Hampshire GameDay” blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
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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.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

January, 19, 2012
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Draining the game-winning shot is a dream shared by most, if not all, hoop junkies.

New HampshireNow add this element to the drama: Knocking down the 3-pointer that serves as the knockout punch to your former team.

Manchester Central High's Dawson Dickson didn't just dream such a scenario. He lived it Jan. 10. The sophomore point guard's trey earned the Little Green a 41-40 Division I boys' basketball road win over fierce Queen City rival Trinity High.

“I've wanted to hit a game-winning shot my whole life,” said Dickson, who transferred from Trinity, this year's championship favorite, after his freshman year. “I didn't even think about the situation. I was open, so I shot it.”

Reacting rather than thinking served the sophomore well. McHugh Gym – one of the smaller, yet most electric hoop venues in the state – was packed.

“It was my old school and bragging rights were on the line,” Dickson said.

It was hot. It was loud. And, hardly surprising, the home team's unforgiving student section didn't give Dickson a break for four quarters.

On the court, the game was tied at 38-apiece inside the final minute. Dickson, a year removed from shooting countless jumpers on Trinity's home court, hadn't attempted a single 3-point shot.

Until, that is, a defensive breakdown left him open beyond the arc.

Muscle memory – and a go-for-the-jugular mindset – kicked in. Dickson lofted the 3-ball with 52 seconds to play.

Dagger.

Central's one-possession lead, however, was trimmed to a point. The Pioneers also had a chance to take the lead in the final seconds, but couldn't convert the critical field goal.

Dickson's former team was saddled with its first league loss of the season.

As for the underclassman, hardly overwhelmed with the game in the balance, what was he feeling once the score went final?

“Relief,” Dickson said. “The Trinity kids were on me the whole game.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

December, 16, 2011
12/16/11
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The immediate goal for Pinkerton Academy's Astros is straightforward: Finish atop the regular-season standings this winter in Division I boys' hockey.

Sounds cliché, right?

New HampshireTurns out this very dangerous squad from Derry – the preseason pick to finish as rink royalty – has yet to earn a No. 1 playoff seed under nine-year coach Casey Kesselring.

“We've never finished first,” Kesselring confirmed before adding that his 2008-09 title team emerged from the bracket as the No. 4 seed.

Kesselring's club a year ago earned the No. 2 seed. But the Astros were a quarterfinals casualty, stunned at home by arch-rival Londonderry, 3-2.

Considering the talent returning on Pinkerton's roster, expectations are extremely high.

First-line wingers Zach Sanford and J.D. Dudek fuel Pinkerton's high-octane attack. Sanford, a junior, and Dudek, a sophomore, led the team in points a year ago.

Further illustrating the talent this team possesses: Freshman Devin Moore centers the top line.

There's no drop-off with the second line. Junior center Dominic Corsetto skates with classmate Connor Brady and sophomore Brendan Philippon.

Kesselring believes the trio would be the top line for most clubs in the state.

Clearly, Pinkerton's strength is potting pucks. Offensive output should provide insurance for the team's junior goaltenders. Nate Mitchell and Matt Marchman are first-year varsity stoppers.

Of course, the coach isn't the least bit worried about the lack of varsity experience his goalies possess. Nor is he concerned about the preseason bull's-eye painted on Pinkerton.

“It doesn't bother me. It gives the school recognition. It gives the kids recognition,” Kesselring said. “But they don't hand out rings in the preseason.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
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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.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
4:21
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Show of hands: Who's surprised by Spaulding High's success this season on the gridiron?

New HampshireAsk that question in Rochester and, truthfully, throughout New Hampshire. You'll find the team's head football coach is among many with an arm stretched high to the sky.

"Kind of. I didn't think we'd win three in a row," head coach Dennis Fontaine said shortly before his Red Raiders added a fourth straight win to their resume Oct. 21. "For the kids to grasp the new systems on offense and defense, they picked it up quick. They're executing what we showed them."

Those new systems on both sides of scrimmage are the result of Fontaine's appointment to the head coaching post this fall. Spaulding's once-proud program is under new leadership for the second time in as many seasons.

Fontaine is the fifth head coach since 1998, the first season after legendary Hugo Bolin retired with a 198-127-3 career record and five state titles.

The post-Bolin era hasn't been pretty.

Spaulding went 28-107 from 1998-2010, a span that included time in Divisions I and II. The program celebrated just one playoff season in those 13 campaigns. Jim Keays, known for his championship success at Somersworth High years ago, led the '06 Red Raiders to the Division II semifinals.

Considering the coaching turnover and run of football futility, there was nothing in the preseason that indicated Spaulding (4-4 overall, 3-3 Div. II) would compete for the playoffs.

There weren't any signs in September, either.

The Red Raiders went 0-4, including three consecutive setbacks to perennial contenders in league play. They suffered three shutout losses. They were outscored, 125-8.

Then came the turning point. Rather than fight the formula for winning -- from yet another head coach -- the players bought into it.

“They're realizing it's not just a bunch of hot air. They're taking it and applying it on the field,” said Fontaine, previously a longtime assistant for recently retired Rod Wotton, who owns New England's record for career wins (342), and led Maine's Marshwood High and Dover's St. Thomas Aquinas High to a combined 21 state titles.

Spaulding rattled off four straight wins from Sept. 30 to Oct. 21.

The Red Raiders stunned Keene High, 25-17. They whacked Manchester West High, 47-14. They slammed Merrimack High, 39-0, for the program's first shutout win since the '06 season.

Handling Hudson's Alvirne High with ease, 39-13, Spaulding celebrated its first four-game win streak since 1999, when Dave Keller was at the helm.

Fontaine said the turnaround has been a team effort.

There are, however, standouts in the group. The Scott brothers, Tyrone and Trey, are running the football with purpose. Linemen Dillon Couture and Ben Lafond are providing push up front.

Safety Nate Zriny “is playing fantastic defense,” Fontaine said. “He'll play anything for us. He'll play nose tackle if we ask him to.”

Fontaine's gridders have two regular-season games remaining, though they close their league slate Oct. 28 at Hugo Bolin Field against Plaistow's Timberlane Regional.

A win for the Red Raiders earns them the No. 3 playoff seed.

Surely, Fontaine is excited by his squad's stunning second half to the season. Right?

“Yes and no. I've been there before from prior coaching. You can't get too excited in front of the kids,” he said. “We just do our normal practice, work on what we need to do on offense and defense.”

Spoken like one very focused head football coach.

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