The post-season has arrived.
Today we will preview all 14 games being played around the state this weekend as all games lead to UNH in two weeks and Laconia next weekend.
Austin Grass & I will be in Laconia next Saturday night and have full coverage of the Division IV Championship game.
On this Saturday afternoon ‘The Fran,chise’ Jennifer Chick-Ruth & I will be in Pelham when the 3rd seeded Pythons take on 3-time defending champion Plymouth. Former Pelham and Bishop Guertin basketball coach Matt Regan (pronounced REEEEE-GANNN) will join me as my color commentator/Pelham homer.
Today’s preview is sponsored by our friends and partners at White Mountains Community College with locations in Berlin, Littleton and North Conway!
(4) Pinkerton Academy at (1) Londonderry
Is there such a thing as exorcising a demon………..twice?
This feels sort of like if Chief Brody & Hooper had blown up the 20-foot great white shark in ‘Jaws’ and then while they started paddling back to Amity Island another huge fin popped out of the water.
The Monkey is off the program’s back but what is right in front of this Londonderry team is a Pinkerton Astros team that believes a trip to UNH is just something you do every November.
The Astros earned their way here with a big win over Bedford last weekend. While they may have the running game to control the clock the Lancers are the better offense with more playmakers (Jeff Wiedenfeld, Alex Tsetsilas, and Cole Keegan).
The Lancers have been the best team in the state all season, which isn’t changing on Saturday.
My pick: Londonderry 31, Pinkerton 14
Would two wins in a row count as a winning streak?
(3) Salem at (2) Goffstown game will be played at St. Anselm College
There is something really good building at Goffstown where Justin Hufft’s Grizzlies went from likely 4-seed to North Conference champions in the span of two weeks.
Goffstown is an early favorite to get to UNH in 2020, but Salem is a team built for now. How Rob Pike’s team defends the Grizzlies offense the second time around decides this one.
Playing at St. Anselm gives a slight edge to Salem and takes home field away from Goffstown. The Blue Devils have been playing on Haverhill’s turf all season long and should be comfortable playing in Manchester on Saturday.
My pick: Salem 27, Goffstown 14
(4) Merrimack at (1) Nashua North
The big (and unfortunate) news coming before this match-up is that Titans player of the year candidate Curtis Harris won’t be playing because of an injury.
If there is one thing Kip Jackson’s Tomahawks do well, it’s put up points.
Devin Wood finished as the leading receiver in the state, Jared Dyer is a beast on both sides of the ball and Kyle Crampton stepped right in a week ago for James Dowling and played very well at quarterback.
The Titans still have enough weapons on offense but they are going to have to win this game behind their defense led by Max Ackerman.
Do I think Dante Laurendi’s team can win a low scoring game without Harris?
My pick: Nashua North 13, Merrimack 7
Yes I do
(3) Nashua South at Exeter (2)
I think this is a talented and very well-coached Panthers team but also a bad match-up for them.
Exeter was able to control the ball for great chunks of the game last week and QB Ryan Grijalva has shown he is capable of making the big play downfield with his arm when the moment arises.
My pick: Exeter 35, Nashua South 14
My Division I pre-season preview had Exeter facing Londonderry at UNH……I’m not moving off that.
(8) Souhegan at (1) Bow
Let’s start by saying that I believe seven of the eight teams in the playoffs can not only get to UNH but win it all, and Souhegan is one of those seven teams.
The Sabers had no answer for Steve Guerrette (5 touchdowns or 9 in the last two weeks if you are scoring at home) but the Falcons weren’t able to do much to slow down QB Austin Jain, WR Luke Manning and the Sabers offense either.
I like Bow to move on but the road to UNH is paved with spread offenses and that has been Bow’s weakness in the past.
My pick: Bow 38, Souhegan 28
A big Andrew Robbins field goal late seals the W
(5) Hollis-Brookline at (4) Kennett
Vaughn Beckwith’s Eagles haven’t faced a team with this kind of passing attack all season. How they adjust and how quickly will tell you if they can win on Saturday.
Hollis-Brookline’s quarterback Sander Wimmer is not only the leading passer in the state but a three year starter and if that doesn’t sound comfortable enough his top receiving target was born a few minutes before (after?) him.
I came away from North Conway very impressed with QB Parker Coleman but the Eagles are in trouble if Hollis-Brookline jumps ahead early and turns Kennett into a one-dimension offense.
The Cavaliers are playing very, very well right now….you might even say peaking at the right time.
My pick: Hollis-Brookline 42, Kennett 17
No one wants to play Hollis-Brookline right now…
(6) Plymouth at (3) Pelham
Jen & I have been along for the ride with the Bobcats for three straight post-seasons so there was no way we weren’t going to Pelham on Saturday.
I joked a few weeks ago that if these teams met in the post-season 3-0 might win it in overtime.
I still think you will see a low scoring game, and that is a statement about two very good defenses and not a lack of offense. I was really impressed Pythons QB Ian Hoey and Matt Muise is a very good running back with size.
Cody Bannon hasn’t put up big numbers at QB for Plymouth this season but he has won on the big stage and Joe D’Ambruoso looks primed to carry the ball 20 times on Saturday.
Plymouth wants to hang around in this one, and steal it in the end. I’ve seen it first hand quite a few times.
If you are Pelham, you want a two-score lead late.
My pick: Pelham 13, Plymouth 7 (OT)
(7) Alvirne at (2) Milford
I can’t quite figure out who is more disappointed that these two teams are playing again after their crazy season finale last week, Milford or Alvirne?
Both teams know they can beat the other, what you want to watch for in this one is how Milford defends the pass the second time around.
The Broncos figured out early on that they were going to struggle running the ball all night so they put the ball in the capable hands of junior quarterback Kyle Gora, who threw for 171 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Broncos defense did a nice job against Spartans QB Gavin Urda. Milford wasn’t able to break a lot of long plays; they just consistently put themselves in good shape on 2nd down and converted when they had to on 3rd.
Alvirne is going to have to be able to run the ball to win…I’m not sure they can win it with a one dimensional offense.
Winner here is more than capable of being the last team standing.
My pick: Milford 38, Alvirne 35
It’s going down to the wire again
(8) Laconia at (1) Lebanon
An old school rivalry to kick off the Division III playoffs.
The Sachems were thought to be a team that would compete for titles when they moved down from Division II but it hasn’t happened in the first two seasons.
Ryan Dee is a good dual-threat quarterback and the Sachems defense has really come around in the last month of the season.
Don’t expect Chris Childs and his team to look past Craig Kozens team. These two schools have played a lot of games that have gone down to the final possession.
The Raiders have been as good as any team in the division behind Jon Willeman & Wade Rainey. They will settle the argument in the next three weeks over who is #1; Campbell, Trinity or Lebanon.
My pick: Lebanon 28, Laconia 7
(5) Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton at (4) Monadnock
A match-up of two of the best running backs in the state when Colby Quiet leads the Red Hawks against Lincoln Blodgett and the Huskies.
Ryan Avery’s team earned a home game with the win over the Red Hawks earlier in the season but expect a much closer game the second time around. Jay Wood’s team was battling injuries in that game and closed with a good road win over Stevens last Friday night.
I expect this one to be very close……with the slight edge going to the champs.
My pick: Monadnock 34, Hillsborough-Deering Hopkinton 28
(7) Newport at (2) Trinity
If Newport upsets Trinity do they get to take John Thibault back for the next round?
Nice bounce back by Newport to make the post-season. This is a very good football program with a lot of tradition. It’s good to see them back in the post-season.
I just don’t think they are staying very long.
My pick: Trinity 38, Newport 10
(6) Stevens at (3) Campbell
Stevens has earned their reputation as a team you’d rather not see in November. Just last season they upset Trinity after being beaten by the Pioneers during the regular season.
That wasn’t done with smoke & mirrors though. Stevens lost the battle in the trenches in the first match-up but then turned around and won the battle of the line of scrimmage in the playoff victory.
Can they do that on Saturday against a Campbell team trying to get back to UNH for a third straight season?
The status of Keegan Mills, and whether he will be playing on Saturday, gives you some pause but this Stevens team just hasn’t found their stride yet. One player has seemed to be lost to injury the same week another returns, and when you’re not a very deep team, that can be hard to overcome.
Still, I think Paul Silva’s team keeps it close for three quarters.
My pick: Campbell 21, Stevens 14
(4) Bishop Brady at (1) Winnisquam
If Justin McIsaac is calling Division I the ‘Londonderry Invitational’ what are we calling Division IV?
The Giants struggled to compete against the three other playoff teams and with a week off the Bears should be ready to go Saturday afternoon.
Phil Nichols, Nolan Perrino, Gunner Horman, Garrett Mango, and Cooper French make up an offense teams have not been able to stop this season. Bishop Brady gets another crack at them on Saturday.
My pick: Winnisquam 49, Bishop Brady 7
(3) Fall Mountain at (2) Raymond
Fall Mountain has won five in a row behind the rushing of Izaak Westover while Raymond was beaten at home in their season finale by Mascoma 30-17.
Orion Binney’s team is the pick.
My pick: Fall Mountain 24, Raymond 21