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The NHTI Semifinal Preview

By Dave Haley, 11/11/21, 6:15AM EST


Ryan Graney and Exeter worked overtime for another shot at Winnacunnet (photo by Matt Parker)

 Today we take a look at the semifinal match-ups in Division’s I & II this weekend,

 Next week we will ask opposing coaches to break down the two championship games using blind quotes.

 Check out our Division’s III & IV championship scouting reports right here on our website.

 Our column today is brought to you by our partners at NHTI in Concord. 

 NHTI will be holding an on-campus open house on January 5th from 4 to 6 pm.

 For more information, click on their website here or any of the banner ads on our website!

 Click to visit the NHTI website

 We will be out covering two games this weekend:

 Colin O’Neil, Matt Swormstedt & I will be in Laconia when Somersworth squares off with Fall Mountain for the Division IV title.

 Pete Tarrier & Shannon Hargreaves will be in Bedford for the Division III championship game when undefeated Pelham takes on the Trinity Pioneers.

 We will have all the highlights plus the post-game interview/celebration with the champs.


Division I playoff bracket and post-season statistical leaders

(3) Exeter at (1) Winnacunnet

Box score of the regular season meeting

Video highlights of the regular season meeting


(3) Salem at (1) Londonderry

Box score of the regular season meeting

Analysis: I thought Pete Tarrier made an excellent point on our Sunday morning podcast, saying that he thought the Salem/Londonderry semifinal winner should be the favorite next weekend because of their ability to win an offensive shoot-out. 

 We’re a week away from having to consider that, but it illustrates the difference between these two games;

 If I’m Bill Ball of Exeter or Ryan Francoeur of Winnacunnnet, I feel like 24 points wins me the game on Saturday. 

 If I’m Jimmy Lauzon of Londonderry or Steve Abraham of Salem, I don’t feel like 24 points are going to be enough.

 My picks: I like Winnacunnet, who has to take better care of the football if they want to be the last team standing; the three other teams left are too good, to beat Exeter. 24-10.

 My gut tells me to go with Londonderry on their home field even though Salem has been outstanding over the last month.

 I was (very) wrong not to include Aidan McDonald in my player of the year candidates. My thinking that there were too many other good players on that Salem team was sound but ultimately incorrect. He’s terrific and would be a worthy selection.

 I’m going with the Lancers in what should be an outstanding game….38-35.


Division II playoff bracket and post-season statistical leaders

(3) Milford at (2) Lebanon

Box score of the first meeting

Video highlights of the first meeting

(4) St Thomas at Timberlane

Box score of the first meeting

Analysis: It certainly feels like we have been on a 2-month trek towards Timberlane vs. Lebanon, and now both teams stand just one win away.

 St. Thomas has been a nice story, a very good program who has gone away from the spread offense they ran under former head coach Eric Cumba (now at Dover) and became a wing-t offense under Ed McDonough.

 They feature two all-state backs, Liam Sullivan & Tyler Leedberg, and have earned wins over Plymouth & Hanover.

 Timberlane, with their size & athleticism on the offensive & defensive lines, is a tough match-up for them. l see Saturday's result being closer than the 43-0 score on opening night, but I can't see Timberlane being knocked off at home.

 Milford can beat Lebanon, but they will have to control the game's pace to do it. Lebanon beats their opponents with the quick strike, the 70-yard run, or the 80-yard kickoff return.

 Milford has to make Lebanon beat them 4 yards at a time, slow & methodically.

 If the Spartans are going to pull the upset, they need to keep Jackson Stone & the Raiders' offense working long stretches on the defensive side of the ball.

 I watched Milford cap a 6-minute drive with a touchdown against Lebanon, only to have the Raiders score three plays later.

 That is demoralizing for a team, and if Lebanon can get out in space they should beat Milford again and take on fellow unbeaten Timberlane next weekend.

My picks: The Timberlane Owls roll into the finals…Lebanon beats Milford by two scores.

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