Week 6 gives us maybe the game of the year in Division I while Division IV has the entire week off, and hopefully time for me to catch up on their statistics.
Both Fall Mountain and Newfound reached out to me this week with stats for the kids so please send any you have to email@example.com
I want to thank the latest football coaches who have become Gold Level Coaches/Programs, supporting our 8-person team and gaining access to our library of literally hundreds of full game videos.
Thank you to Paul Silva of Stevens and Josh Marzahl of Gilford-Belmont!
Tomorrow night ‘The Franchise’ Jennifer Chick-Ruth & I will be at Souhegan when the 4-1 Sabers take on the 3-2 Pelham Pythons.
Today's column is sponsored by our longtime partners at Great Bay Community College, who have an open house coming up on October 26th. Click on any of their banner ads for more information to visit their website!
Londonderry (5-0) at Bedford (5-0)
Feels like a pretty good time to see how we’d rate the entire division after 5 games.
(Any angry comments or complaints regarding that list? Please feel free to call the Jack Heath Radio Show…Justin McIsaac will answer the phone)
Your playoff match-ups today…with A LOT still to be determined… would be:
Goffstown at Londonderry
Salem at Bedford
And then Nashua North & Exeter vs. a tie-breaker matrix.
Want a Popsicle headache?
Merrimack beat Bishop Guertin, who beat Nashua South, who beat Merrimack…………
Meanwhile, Portsmouth-Oyster River lost to both BG and Nashua South and absolutely positively has to beat Merrimack next weekend for a chance to get in…my guess is, in the end, it’s Nashua South as the 3 seed and Merrimack as the 4.
Back to the big-time match-up Friday night in Bedford.
Londonderry’s defense has been overshadowed a bit by a high scoring offense but they’ve been elite this season. Tyler Kayo is the team glue-guy, doing a little bit of everything on both sides of the ball while Bedford’s passing attack will be a good test for a secondary led by Matt Pemberton & Kyle Proulx.
Expect them to match up with Tim Greene & Solomon Sanchez tomorrow night.
Cooper Bartlett is a three-year starter at center and has been a huge part of Londonderry’s undefeated start.
For Zach Matthews team Jack Grogan has been the team’s best linebacker and short yardage back all season long while Zach Barnard has been very good on both sides of the ball at guard & defensive end.
Jack Jones leads a secondary, from the free safety spot, which will be tested by Lancers all-state receivers Cole Keegan and Alex Tsetsilas.
Exeter (4-1) at Spaulding (2-3)
I wanted to take the time to talk about the job Kevin Hebert and his coaching staff is doing at Spaulding.
In his second year as Head Coach (it should be his 7th or 8th season but that’s a whole other story…if you want to wind McIsaac up.. ask him…), the Red Raiders are already competitive after a stretch of seasons that saw them at the very bottom of Division I football.
When I began this website 12 years ago Spaulding was always a team that ground you out for four quarters, could run the ball, play physical in the trenches and week after week, competed with the best teams in the state.
That style of play and more importantly that identity got lost over a stretch that saw Spaulding giving up an average of 49 points per game.
Don’t believe me?: 2017 Spaulding Team Page and Results
In two short years, Spaulding took a potential playoff team in Merrimack all the way to the wire on opening night, beat seacoast rivals Winnacunnet & Dover and battled Portsmouth-Oyster River on the road.
After what we saw in 2016 and 2017 this is the equivalent of Tacko Fall starting for the Celtics by February.
Hebert and his excellent staff went back to basics and re-built that once-proud culture. Athletes who had passed on playing football in the past now wanted to be a part of it, and have become contributors.
Players like offensive tackles Hudson White & Alex Walter along with guard Darren Keller have been foundational parts of the revival while Brenden Cary (TE), Ryan Lane (a standout at both receiver and in the secondary), Jake King at linebacker and Garrett Langis at defensive back have bought in completely and led the way.
The numbers in the program are up across each class and there is genuine momentum built after the triple-overtime win over Dover.
Listen to my boy’s call of the 4th down hook & ladder play in overtime:
All of this makes Division I a more complete race in the next few years as Spaulding continues its climb and Eric Cumba does the same down the road at Dover.
In summary….it’s just nice to have Spaulding back in the conversation again…
Milford (4-1) at Kennett (5-0)
This is the game where we get a better sense of where the North stacks up against the South.
Milford has to get on a bus for two-plus hours a week after a close loss to arch-rival Souhegan to play one of the last unbeaten teams in the division.
Kennett has played faster, tougher and more disciplined than they had a year ago, and have gone in a whole new direction offensively under veteran Head Coach Vaughn Beckwith. Parker Coleman has been very good at quarterback and he has playmakers in the backfield around him.
Kennett’s leading rusher Dominic Jones did not play a week ago against John Stark and his availability will be a key against a Milford team that can score in bunches.
Bobby Graudstein has been very good at the front of the Eagles defense along with Will Eaton & Kyle Perry. Tomorrow night they face the best playmaker they have faced all season when Gavin Urda rolls into town.
The Spartans defense has been gouged for big plays in recent weeks but still has very good lineman in Mike McQuire, Joe Shepard, Samson Hodges, and Kyle Forsley.
Getting off the bus and getting loose will be a key for Keith Jones’ team because this is a game where Kennett has the opportunity to prove themselves as a contender to be the last team standing at UNH next month.
We already know Milford is capable, tomorrow night we find out about the Kennett Eagles.
Pelham (3-2) at Souhegan (4-1)
This one should be interesting, and Jen & I are looking forward to covering it.
Pelham’s defense has been terrific, that was a very big win over Hollis-Brookline last weekend, and they are getting enough offense to win in the ’20s.
Matt Muise & Charlie Katin are part of a running back committee while Ian Hoey has been effective at quarterback.
Meanwhile, Souhegan looks like a fast-break offense and has been inconsistent on defense. Austin Jain has evolved into a very good passer in Robin Bowkett’s spread offense and Luke Manning might be the best receiver in the state.
For Tom Babaian’s team Zach Jones, Colby Travis, and Ed Shlimon have all had all-state seasons and the defense as a group is allowing only 8.8 points per game.
If Souhegan gets this game into the high 20’s Pelham is going to have a hard time keeping up, but few teams have gotten there against the Pythons.
Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton (4-1) at Monadnock (3-2)
So let’s rate the teams after 5 weeks:
First of all, Newport is the best 1-4 team in the state. Trust me on that statement.
They won at Stevens and their losses are to four of the top five teams on the list above. They will be favorites in every game left on their schedule except possibly at home against Laconia in Week 8. So expect to see them in the post-season.
Lebanon is the clear #1 today but a showdown with Campbell looms on November 1st in the season finale.
Give Trinity a ton of credit for beating Campbell last weekend, John Thibeault is a Player of the Year candidate for the Pioneers. On the other side, the injury to Carter Vedrani might not be as serious as first feared and that would be huge for Glen Costello’s Cougars.
No one is counting Monadnock, the defending champs, out of anything but they need a marquee win on their resume and beating HD-Hopkinton this weekend would give them that.
Stevens has a sneaky big-game this weekend against Laconia and they need a win if they have any hope for a home-playoff game.
Paul Silva’s teams seem to always peak in late October and that’s good because the schedule is about to get real serious.
After the Sachems this weekend, the Cardinals close with Lebanon, Trinity, and Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton, in a season finale Jen & I will be covering.