Now that the calendar has turned to October the stakes seem a bit higher week to week. You can convincingly argue there will be games played this weekend that could keep teams out of the post-season.
Today we will take a closer look at the contenders in Division III as we did last week with the top two divisions. We’ll also preview four games big games in Divisions I & II.\ along with pour trip to cover Winnisquam vs. Mascoma Friday night.
We want to thank the latest coaches to support the work of our 8-person team as Gold Level Coaches/Programs:
Chris Childs of Lebanon
Glen Costello of Campbell
Jay Wood of Hillsborough-Deering Hopkinton
Tom Babaian of Pelham
Each program has access to our library of over 200 full game videos
We will be out at one game on Friday night:
‘The Franchise’ Jennifer Chick-Ruth and I will at Winnisquam when the undefeated defending champs take on Mascoma with former Head Coach Pat Riberdy joining me as the color commentator.
Today’s column is sponsored by our friends and partners at Great Bay Community College. Click on any of their banner ads for more information and check out their Open House on October 26th!
Pinkerton Academy (2-2) at Salem (3-1)
There isn’t a lot of time for moping around on the North/South side of the bracket.
One week after Pinkerton lost to their arch-rival Londonderry for the first time since 2001 they need to get back at it quickly against an excellent Salem football team.
The Blue Devils have been able to shake off some key injuries to get to 3-1. In addition to their three standout running backs (Riley Mulvey, Josh Maroun & Brandon Wall) Rob Pike’s team has had a number of players step up.
Noah Poulin has been one of the team’s best players at linebacker as well as on the offensive line while Tanner Morgano, a junior along with Poulin, has been terrific on the line as well.
Jack Milos has been very good at receiver and might be the team’s best cornerback. The Blue Devils defense will be tested by a Pinkerton team that can hammer you with the power running game and has an all-state weapon in tight end Trent Leduc.
I was impressed with how Pinkerton kept fighting after falling behind Londonderry 28-7 at the half. At one point the Astros scored 17 unanswered points, and Head Coach Brian O’Reilly has to like the way his team responded after being outplayed in the first half.
Their margin of error becomes razor-thin now, giving this one a playoff feel this weekend.
Nashua South (3-1) at Nashua North (4-0)
That was a huge win by Nashua North last weekend ((Nashua North 31, Exeter 28), but they need to beat Nashua South to reap the benefits.
A win over their inner-city rivals moves Dante Laurendi’s team to 5-0 with the tie-breaker over both Exeter & South. It also sets them up for the top seed in the East/West bracket as they will be heavily favored in each of their remaining four games.
First things first, Scott Knight’s team is playing better by the week and is getting terrific production out of Josh & Jason Compoh. The Panthers have put up 100 points in their last two games but will face their toughest test of the season when Titans roll in this weekend.
Curtis Harris may be your Division I player of the year but the 4-0 start has been a group effort.
Laurendi has gotten very good production & play from players like Zach Mascszak, Ruben DeJesus & Aidan McGrath on the offensive line, Travis Holbrook at defensive tackle, Spencer Whiting, Justin Edwards and Devin Bracetty at linebacker as well as Jayden Espinal in the secondary.
The Titans can assume control of the conference and their side of the bracket with a win here. They also would own bragging rights against their biggest rival.
Souhegan (3-1) at Milford (4-0)
Division II never disappoints……year in & year out it’s the most entertaining division in the state and if you are searching for further proof I direct you to this box score from last weekend (Milford 63, St. Thomas 42).
Milford is wearing teams down and winning the fourth quarter because of it. Gavin Urda is running one of the best offenses in the division and Head Coach Keith Jones and his veteran staff has been getting terrific play on the offensive and defensive lines from Mike McGuire, Joe Shepard, Samson Hodges and Kyle Forsley.
That line has opened up running lanes for Urda, Caden Zalinski and Junior Ughu. Tomorrow night Souhegan is in store for another very physical game, just as they had at Alvirne two weeks ago.
Robin Bowkett’s Sabers have gotten terrific production out of quarterback Austin Jain (4th in the division in passing yards) and all-state receiver Luke Manning, who will be targeted against Milford's big physical defense.
Souhegan has also gotten great contributions on the offensive & defensive line from Alex Karpawich as well as at linebacker from Mitch Hauser.
The winner here takes a big step towards a home playoff game or possibly even two.
St Thomas (2-2) at Plymouth (2-2)
Two perennial contenders usually in a fight for a top seed are now fighting just to be one of Division II’s eight playoff teams.
Plymouth is playing like the inexperienced team we recognized they were coming into the season. They have looked very good for quarters at a time, even dominant for stretches, but they have made costly mistakes and often at the worst times.
Like a lot of teams they are having their depth tested by injuries and on Saturday afternoon they will face a Saints team ready to win a shootout after scoring 42 points in a loss last week.
Plymouth doesn't want a shootout and on Saturday their ability to cover & tackle in space will be tested. Both Bow and Kennett, we are deep diving on the Eagles next week, beat the 3-time champions running the football.
St. Thomas can’t win a game that way, not against a team like Plymouth, so they will spread the field and try to get Cooper Blomstrom, Hunter Lassard & Will MacLean the ball in space.
Game of the week: Lebanon at Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton
Do you know what game proved the depth of Division III in 2019? It was Newport going to Claremont and beating Stevens.
Newport is a football town and a very proud program. They’ve been down the past few years after back to back trips to UNH but they are re-building and good enough to pull an upset in November.
Let’s start with the champs……….Monadnock is a bit wounded right now after back to back home losses to Lebanon & Trinity.
Both teams spread their offense out and made the Huskies cover them in space instead of trying to beat them up at the line of scrimmage. Something very few teams have been able to do over the last five years.
Monadnock has a big test this weekend when they travel to Newport before next week’s showdown with Hillsborough-Deering Hopkinton.
Lincoln Blodgett has been terrific on both sides of the ball and the offense has produced, the Huskies have to be better defensively. Starting this weekend against the Tigers.
Pre-season favorite Campbell hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record this season, but they have nothing left to prove after back to back trips to UNH. They’ll get their first major test of the season against Trinity this weekend with games against Monadnock and Lebanon closing out their regular season.
Conor Sweeney has moved over from running back and played well at the quarterback position while Carter Vedrani and Keegan Mills are two of the best players in the division, on both sides of the ball.
We’ll know more about the Cougars as they hit the more difficult part of their schedule but Glen Costello’s team should still be considered the favorite.
Lebanon has been every bit as good as advertised in the pre-season. Chris Childs’ team is very underrated defensively and they are a team that can legitimately beat you either running the football or throwing it.
Jon Willeman is putting up huge tackling numbers at linebacker while leading the division in passing yards and touchdown throws. Wade Rainey gives them an elite back and Jackson Stone is putting together an all-state season.
Chris Childs is one of the best coaches in the division and there are playmakers on both sides of the ball. There is a lot to like about the Raiders and today they own the best resume in the division.
Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton has been rolling as the Red Hawks come into their showdown with Lebanon undefeated. The next three games are going to define their season and tell us where they will be ranked in the playoffs.
After Lebanon, this weekend Jay Wood’s team faces Monadnock and Trinity on the road in back to back weeks. This is a team many people think has a shot to get to Durham in November but they’ll have to prove it over the next three weeks. Get through that stretch 2-1 or better and they are in great shape.
Paul Silva’s Stevens Cardinals are always lurking, they have a terrific playmaker in Keaghan McAllister but they are struggling to replace the production of Quentin Bicknell.
We had announced we would be in Claremont for the Lebanon game but ‘The Franchise’ Jennifer Chick-Ruth had a scheduling conflict….we aren’t missing out on another trip to Barnes Park so we will be there on November 1st when the Cardinals face Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton.
Mascoma (2-2) at Winnisquam (4-0)
The champs are knocking back contenders by the week and now it’s Mascoma’s (I am never referring to them as Mascoma Valley…we’ve been over this) turn to challenge the best team in Division IV.
A team that is almost entirely made up of juniors by the way.
Phil Nichols has been tearing teams apart in the passing game, while rarely seeing the fourth quarter. Gunner Horman might be the best receiver in the division and Garrett Mango has been terrific on both sides of the ball all season and may be the most underrated all-state player in Division IV.
Andre Cormier and Nolan Perrino have run the ball well for Derek Hunt’s team while Cooper French & Brady Palmer have been very good as we
Winnisquam handled Fall Mountain 33-14 (Fall Mtn. did stay in that game into the second half) and rolled over Justin McIsaac’s Raymond Rams 34-7 last weekend.
Mascoma, Bishop Brady, and arch-rival Franklin stand in the way of a second straight undefeated season….the Royals are up first, and we will be there Friday night to cover it.