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The Manchester Community College Division I & II Playoff Preview

By Dave Haley, 11/10/22, 6:15AM EST


Dominic Coppeta and the Owls take on Exeter (photo by Matt Parker)

 We are down to eight teams in Division I and the final four in Division II and today we will preview all six games taking place this weekend.

 Ian Melewski and I will be in Gilford on Saturday afternoon when the fourth-seeded Souhegan Sabers come in to face the undefeated Gilford-Belmont Golden Eagles with a spot in the championship on the line.

 We’ll have all the highlights plus the post-game interview/celebration with the entire team!

 Our preview is brought to you today by our great friends and partners at Manchester Community College who have an upcoming Open House next Wednesday from 4 to 6 pm

 Division I

 (8) Merrimack at (1) Londonderry

 Londonderry Team Page

 Merrimack Team Page

 If Londonderry wins the game, it will be because: They didn’t come out rusty after a week off (knowing Jimmy Lauzon he probably flew in the Browns for a scrimmage) and asserted their will early. The Lancers are a big favorite and have been playing better by the week.

 If Merrimack wins the game, it will be because: The Tomahawks played terrific defense in the red zone, forced several Londonderry turnovers, and were effective with their running game. Kip Jackson’s team is going to need a few breaks to stay in it and turnovers will be a necessity.

My pick: The Lancers should be moving on


(5) Bishop Guertin at (4) Pinkerton Academy

 Pinkerton Team Page

 Bishop Guertin Team Page

 If Pinkerton wins the game, it will be because: The weather suited their style of play and they dominated with the run game. It’s very likely this game is played in the rain or on a wet field, which means slipping around for the players and having to really hang on to the football. The Astros only throw the ball seven times a game, Coach Brian O’Reilly therefore won't have any issues playing in poor weather. 

 If Bishop Guertin wins the game, it will be because: The Cardinals defensive line held up well against the Astros offensive line and QB Matt Santosuosso was able to take shots down the field to receivers like Cody Symansky. They’ll also need Jakob Baker to have a big day against the Astros all-state running back duo of Cole Yennaco and Jacob Albert.

 My pick: I’m going with the Cardinals in a close one.


 (6) Timberlane at (3) Exeter

 Exeter Team Page

 Timberlane Team Page

 Box score from the first meeting

 If Exeter wins the game, it will be because: Their linebackers have a big day holding the Owls rushing attack in check and they win the field position battle. The Blue Hawks have a very good kicker in Ethan Moss and will have plenty of adjustments from the first meeting with the Owls.

If Timberlane wins the game, it will be because: They are able to throw the ball to complement their run game. Kevin Fitzgerald’s team has big-play ability and a deep group of running backs to keep the Blue Hawks guessing and beat them for a second time.

 My pick: I’m expecting another low-scoring one-possession game, this time I’m going with the Blue Hawks.

 (10) Bedford at (2) Nashua North

 Nashua North Team Page

 Bedford Team Page

 Box score from the first meeting

 If Nashua North wins the game, it will be because: The defense held the Bulldogs in check and Derek Finlay had another big game when the Titans needed it most. Chad Zibolis’s team is also smart enough to know Bedford is a 10-seed in name only, and a team capable of not only beating them this weekend but winning again in the next round.

 If Bedford wins the game, it will be because: The offense steps up as it did a week ago in Windham and the defense doesn’t allow Finlay, Jordyn Raisanen-Andino, and the Titans running game to control the clock and wear them down. Bedford needs a good balance of their running game (which averaged 6.4 yards a carry last weekend against Windham) and play-action throws from Danny Black.

 My pick: In a terrific game, I’m going with The Titans.


Division II

Souhegan at Gilford-Belmont

Gilford Belmont Team Page

Souhegan Team Page

If Gilford-Belmont wins the game, it will be because:  They took advantage of the conditions and won the game on the ground. Unlike the six games played this weekend in Divisions I, III & IV, this game will be played on grass. With at least an inch of rain projected to be coming Friday night/Saturday morning, this game is likely to be played in the mud, and I think that’s just fine for the Golden Eagles. Those field conditions would make it difficult for the Sabers to throw the ball, and Gilford-Belmont can lean on Isaiah Reese, Michael Kitto, and their big offensive line.

If Souhegan wins the game, it will be because: The Sabers win the battle in the trenches, use JJ Bright to follow Isaiah Reese's every move to negate his breakaway ability, and win with short passes to a talented group of receivers. Souhegan is the faster team overall, but does that advantage get taken away on a muddy track?

The pick: On a dry turf field, I’d go with Souhegan, but this game is not going to be played in those conditions. I’ll go with the alma mater in a game that goes to the wire.


Bow at Pelham

Pelham Team Page

Bow Team Page

If Pelham wins the game, it will be because:  Of their ability to skip the 12-play drives and score on you with big plays. The Pythons can beat you going down the field in seven minutes or seventy seconds. They also might be the best defense Bow has seen all season. The Pythons shut down Souhegan’s running game in their regular season meeting but gave up 196 yards to Plymouth’s Dylan Welch last Saturday. They’ll need to contain the Bow running attack to move on to a championship game for the third straight season.

If Bow wins the game, it will be because: Like Gilford-Belmont, they use the conditions to their advantage and win running the football more effectively than the Pythons. The Falcons have had issues with speed on the outside, and although Pelham certainly possesses that trait, Bow matches up with the Pythons better than they would Gilford-Belmont or Souhegan. Add to that a slow track…the game will be be played on grass...and Bow has a chance to pull off a very big upset.

The pick: Tough to pick against Pelham, and I’m not going to, but this should be an excellent football game between two similar teams.


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