Week 2 Football player of the Week JJ Bright of Souhegan with head coach Robin Bowkett and Jeff Whitman of Adrenaline
As we have done annually for the past fifteen seasons, we hand over our championship game previews to the people who know these teams better than anyone, the coaches who faced them during the season.
Using blind quotes, we asked three head coaches to break down the Division I championship game being played on Saturday afternoon at Exeter high school.
Pete Tarrier and Ian Melewski will bring you all the highlights and play-by-play as Londonderry looks for their second consecutive championship and third title in four years when they face the Cinderella 10th-seeded Bedford Bulldogs.
Our column today is brought to you by Jeff and Blaise Whitman of Adrenaline Fundraising, who work with both the Londonderry and Bedford football programs.
The team at Adrenaline Fundraising has raised money for New Hampshire's football programs from the high school to youth level for over 20 years. Reach out to them today if you have a program looking to raise money!
Follow them on Twitter at @adrenalineNort1 and AdrenalineNHMA.
Jeff can be reached at 770-5776 and firstname.lastname@example.org
Blaise can be reached at 978-518-6371 and email@example.com
Londonderry vs. Bedford
Most people expected the Londonderry Lancers to be here. Very few would have anticipated Bedford to join them.
Jimmy Lauzon's defending champions went undefeated against their New Hampshire schedule, with their only loss coming on the road at Rhode Island powerhouse Bishop Hendricken (40-20).
The Bedford Bulldogs were upset on senior night by Merrimack, 24-21, but not only haven't lost since they haven't given up a single point in their three playoff games.
The Lancers have only given up fourteen points in two games against Merrimack and Pinkerton Academy, making this a game between the two best defenses in the division.
We asked three head coaches to break down the two teams and Saturday's match-up, starting with the defending champs.
"They have such a well-run program; it almost has a college feel to it," said one of the head coaches we spoke to. "I like to call my team the hardest working team in the division because of the work they put in watching film and in the weight room, but Londonderry is the team that puts in the most effort."
A fellow coach echoed that opinion.
"They watch a ton of film, I'm not sure where they find the time, but they study film like no other team we face. That allows the players to play faster because they can anticipate the play and the area of the field they need to get to."
"Londonderry does a good job of using all eleven guys on the field, they all fill a role, and they all understand their assignment. They are a team that trusts their coaches, and that filters down to players like Trevor Weinmann and Drew Heenan, who are team leaders, to the other guys on the field."
"An example would be that they are not afraid to send pressure at you because they have confidence their teammates will cover them on the defense's back end."
Speed was a word that came up often with the coaches.
"This is a great match-up of speed. I thought the two fastest teams in the state were Londonderry and Nashua North until I saw Bedford running (North) down in the quarterfinals. I don't see an advantage on either side when it comes to the athletes both coaches will be putting out on the field."
"Londonderry has speed in all three phases (offense, defense, and special teams)," said a head coach who faced the Lancers. "They do an outstanding job of taking away what you do best, and they tackle very well. It's a team that makes fewer errors than other teams we faced."
What about the Lancers offense?
"Drew Heenan is excellent, seems to be a quiet leader, a great kid, and has a total understanding of the offense," said a head coach we spoke to. "(Andrew) Kullman and (Jake) Schena are two players with a lot of speed, and they are veterans. They've been in big games and know where they need to be on third and long."
"They are an offense that looks to exploit your weakness. They take what the defense gives them. They don't turn the ball over very often, and they have so much confidence in their defense that they aren't going to go for it in high-leverage situations that could give the other team good field position."
What about Zach Matthews' Bedford Bulldogs?
"They are peaking at the right time. When we faced them, I felt really good about our offense, but they shut us down."
"It looks to me like they have simplified their defense, allowing them to play faster. They tackle very well, and they make great defensive reads. The loss to Merrimack seemed to flip a switch for them. Like they got pushed around and decided they weren't going to allow that to happen again."
"The strength of their defense is their speed, Parker Bromley at linebacker and those two all-state defensive ends, Cal McAuliffe and Kevin Sheridan. They play a 4-4 defense, and it looks like they understand their assignments and have the confidence to fly to their spots."
A fellow coach also talked about the Bedford playmakers.
"Colby Snow is a terrific player. He's a winner and someone who makes plays for them all over the field. He’s such a weapon coming out of the backfield, you have to account for him at all times.”
"I was really impressed with their two defensive ends McAuliffe and Sheridan. They set that edge and will apply a lot of pressure on Drew Heenan and the Londonderry offense. This is going to be the best defense Londonderry has seen all season and this isn’t an explosive Londonderry offense like we have seen in the past.”
"Danny Black has impressed me at quarterback. Watching film on him, he looked like a junior in the early parts of the season but like a senior now.”
“ He stands in the pocket and always has his eyes down the field. One thing about Londonderry is they will give you different looks, so Zach (Matthews) and his staff will need to make in-game adjustments throughout. They’re going to try to confuse him.”
"The kid I love on that team is Logan Sfeir. He's very underrated. He's a tough runner who gets in on everything defensively. You win with players like him and he’s playing extremely well right now.”
What will be the keys to the game on Saturday?
"The first team to three scores wins. I don't see a lot of points being scored. Bedford matches up very well with Londonderry, and I could see them winning."
"Londonderry's big game experience will be the difference. Those kids understand the rhythms of a game like that, and that will be the difference in a close game.
So who wins the game?
"I'll go 21-14, Londonderry."
My pick: I'm rolling with the Bulldogs in a big upset and an extremely close game.