It seemed no matter which Division III head coach I spoke with the warning would be the same; “ Don’t sleep on Monadnock.”
Don’t sleep on Monadnock?? Do you mean the defending champs who have advanced to UNH in back to back seasons and return 5 all-state starters on both sides of the ball?
“ I wouldn’t sleep on Monadnock, I’m telling you,” said a playoff coach I spoke with this week.
And I’m telling you I’m not.
“ We have a chance to be pretty good again,” said Monadnock Head Coach Ryan Avery. “ Like any other team, it will be about health and improving week to week.”
Campbell looks like a team that could be very tough to beat, and they are wearing the scar left by their last second loss at UNH last November.
Lebanon has talented seniors and a very good Head Coach who has won this division before.
Jay Wood and Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton return all-state back Colby Quiet and three starters on their offensive line.
John Thibeault of Trinity might be the best football player in the division (I said might Keegan Mills fans) and I’m not ever counting out either Paul Silva and Stevens or Craig Kozens and Laconia.
In other words…..it’s going to be a pretty fun race to UNH.
Today in our third football preview we take a look at Division III, where Campbell & Monadnock are ready for Round III while 10 other teams will try to crash the party.
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(*- indicates playoff teams)
Being regarded as one of the team’s to beat is nothing new for a Campbell football program that has won as many games over the last 10 years as just about any program in the state.
The mission in 2019 is to win their second championship in three seasons and go down as the rare team that can win multiple titles together.
“This is a special group,” said Head Coach Glenn Costello of his Cougars. “Talent-wise we have a lot of very good football players but it’s also the attitude they bring to practice every day and the way they love to compete that stands out.”
That attitude was on full display last November when Campbell nearly beat Monadnock at UNH with their best player helplessly watching on crutches from the sidelines.
Keegan Mills, the NHsportspage Division III Player of the Year last season, is healthy once again and maybe better than ever.
A very scary thought for opposing coaching staffs. “He’s a different player, even just from a year ago,” said Costello. “He is playing at the highest level I’ve ever seen him and he is just bigger physically than in the past.”
Joining Mills in the backfield will be Conor Sweeney, who was terrific at running back in Mills’ place in last year’s title game. Sweeney will move over to quarterback this season. “We want to get both players in the backfield together and we have been very impressed with how Conor has played at the position in the pre-season.”
All-state linebacker/defensive end Carter Vedrani will serve as the team’s H-back while a pair of sophomores Garrett Arnold and John Newell will get carries as well.
Cam Barrett returns at wide receiver after a standout season on both sides of the ball a year ago in Campbell’s spread offense.
Ambrose O’Neil will help anchor the offensive and defensive lines alongside Josh Lavoie, Kyle Wark, and Ricky & Brady Robicheau.
Carter Vedrani and Keegan Mills make up what might be the best linebacking group in the division while Hunter Caron and Drew Adamakos will contribute right away as well.
Cam Barrett and Garrett Arnold will lead the Cougars secondary while sophomore Brady Mills, Keegan’s younger brother, will see action right away as well.
“It begins and ends with Monadnock,” says Costello of the pre-season hype for his team. “Until someone knocks them off, they are the team to beat.”
Chris Childs has a group at Lebanon that is smart, athletic and ready to compete for a spot at UNH.
They also happen to be a lot of fun to coach. “I want to win every time we step onto the field but honestly I’d enjoy coaching this team even if we never won a game,” said the Raiders veteran head coach. “They are just a great group of kids and they’re really looking forward to competing together every week.”
Jon Willeman returns at quarterback and looks primed for a big season. “He’s really matured as an athlete physically and as a leader on the team,” said Childs. “He gives us everything we are looking for from the position.”
Wade Rainey is set for an all-state season at running back and serves as a coach on the field for Childs. “Wade is just a very tough & physical runner who also understands where everybody needs to be on the field.”
Phillip Mellish returns at fullback while Jackson Stone will play several positions on the field, including wide receiver.
The offensive and defensive lines will be anchored by a group that includes Noah Tyler, Josh Mondragon, and Mason Adams, who are all returning starters. “I’d like it if we had a little more depth on the lines but that’s probably every coach in the divisions wish."
Phillip Mellish will play linebacker alongside Wade Rainey while Jon Willeman will play cornerback and Jackson Stone safety in the secondary. Caleb Smith and Cole Ames will see time at defensive end.
“Our goal is to get to UNH,” says Childs. “If we can improve week to week and stay healthy I think we have a good chance to compete for the title.”
The defending champion Monadnock Huskies lost some big names from last years team but with talent returning on the line and playmakers back on defense, the champs are going to be very much in the conversation again.
“ It’s been a good pre-season and we’ve seen our numbers improve, especially in the younger classes,” said Head Coach Ryan Avery of his team.
Nate Doyle will take over at quarterback for the graduated Tim Santaw. The 6’2 junior has good size and has played well in the pre-season. “ Nate is settling right in. He still needs regular-season game reps but he is a smart kid and coming along quickly.”
Lincoln Blodgett returns at running back after an all-state season last year on defense. He will be joined in the backfield by Justin Joslyn, Jackson Lepisto and Aidan Hart, the younger brother of graduated all-state back Tim Hart.
If the Huskies are getting back to UNH for a third straight time it might be the play on the offensive and defensive lines that leads them there. All-state performer Joey Drew serves as the anchor alongside Dylan Cashman and Wyatt Gaudet. Victor Lotito will serve as the team’s tight end and extra lineman.
“ We have a veteran on each side of the line so that is what helps bring the entire group together,” said Avery. “ We certainly aren’t where we will be in 3 weeks but we are coming together.”
Lincoln Blodgett is an all-state middle linebacker who will call the defense while Joey Drew and Nate Doyle will head the line and secondary for the defending champs.
“ I’m encouraged by the 14 freshman we have this year and there seems to be a real buzz around the program since our back to back trips to UNH,” said Avery of the effect success is having on his program. “That’s something we want to build on.”
The Red Hawks of Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton surprised a lot of people around Division III when they upset Laconia on the road on opening night a year ago. Jay Wood’s team then carried that confidence all the way to the playoffs.
With their player of the year candidate back and a very good nucleus joining him, the Red Hawks won’t be satisfied again to just get in. “We want to get to the next step and take it as far as we can,” said Red Hawks Head Coach Jay Wood. “ That’s the goal this season.”
Colby Quiet returns at running back and linebacker after an all-state season a year ago and for the first time in his high school career, he’s actually 100% healthy going into the season. “ We’ve had to manage his injuries every year he’s been in the program,” said Wood. “ So watching him play with no limitations, obviously that is great for our team.”
Mike Oberheim started the last 3 games at quarterback and will be the starter from Day 1 this season. He will be joined in the backfield by Quiet, Dylan Barrett and Jack Morrell.
Jack Horne is another returning starter at tight end.
The line play will be led by returning starters Jon McMahon, Vince Waddell, and center Tyler Allen. Three newcomers will contribute right away as Alex Brown and Evan Jacobson join the starting lineup. “ We have a good group there and they have played very well in the pre-season,” said Wood.
Colby Quiet will lead the linebacking group for defensive coordinator Chase Phaneuf’s defense while Max Costello & Tyler Allen will help lead the secondary.
“ We are excited to get going but for us, the only focus is on Laconia on opening weekend. We have to be ready to play every week and it starts with a very good Laconia team.”
For the Stevens Cardinals (by the way The Franchise Jennifer Chick-Ruth & I are coming to Clairmont on Friday, October 18th when Stevens hosts Lebanon. Great atmosphere for a football game and we can’t wait to get back out there)…..where was I…….?
Oh yes, for the Stevens Cardinals it’s all about the development of their offensive and defensive lines this season.
The skill players bring enough to the table to get Stevens back to the title game after a two-year absence, but a new-look offensive line needs to give them the space to operate.
“ You can have all the skill players in the world but if they don’t have blocking in front of them, they’re not going very far,” said Head Coach Paul Silva. “ We have confidence that we will come together as a group but right now we are a work in progress.”
Junior Owen Taylor will take over at quarterback and gives the Cardinals a QB with the ability to find playmakers down the field.
Those playmakers include all-state back Keaghan McCallister and fellow all-state performer Quentin Bicknell, who played QB a year ago.
“ We want to get Keaghan & Quentin the ball out in space and we think moving Quentin back to running back will help that,” said Silva. “ He was great about the decision and I think he & Keaghan have the potential to have a very big year for us.”
Hunter Christian will contribute right away at fullback for the Cardinals.
275 lb. Phil Mason gives Silva an all-state anchor on the offensive and defensive lines as he will play alongside Hunter Paradis and Tucker Derosier. “We played Trinity twice last year and the first time they just dominated us in the trenches and in the game. The second time around in the playoff game it was the other way around, and we knocked them off,” points out Silva. “ That’s an example of how important it is to the success of your team.”
Keaghan McCalister and Quentin Bicknell will play linebacker alongside Owen Taylor while Lucas Mudge & Alex Taylor will lead the secondary. “ There are so many well-coached’ teams in this division, it’s going to be a battle every week.”
Championship Game Pick: Campbell vs. Lebanon
Coming soon: Division IV