Every year, we hand the football championship previews off to the people who know these teams better than anyone, the coaches who face them during the regular season.
We asked four opposing head coaches to break down Saturday’s two championship games using blind quotes.
We’ll have coverage of both games, all the highlights, and the post-game interview/celebration with the winning team.
Pete Tarrier and Ben Conant will be at Souhegan High School when Campbell squares off with Trinity for the Division III title.
Berkley Stevens and Colin O’Neil will be in Laconia when Newport squares off with Somersworth for the Division IV championship.
Our Championship Scouting Report is brought to you by our longtime partners at Nashua Community College, who have an Open House next Wednesday on November 15th!
(1) Campbell vs. (2) Trinity
The two best Division III teams will square off Saturday afternoon at Souhegan High School.
We asked two head coaches who faced them during the regular season to break down the two teams—beginning with the defending champs.
"Campbell is by far the toughest team to prepare for in our division because they will give you different looks, and you never know what they'll do."
"When we played them, we had to really emphasize to our players that they might try something unexpected on special teams. They are very well coached; Glen (Costello) does a terrific job."
Another head coach talked about the Cougars offensive line.
"They have the best line in the division. They are tough, fundamentally sound, and relentless. Scott Hershberger is outstanding, and he runs behind an excellent offensive line. That's been their winning combination."
What about the defense?
"Their defensive line never let us get comfortable or find a rhythm. They want to get a lead, get you in 3rd and long situations where you feel like you need to take a shot down the field. That's where they turn you over."
"They have excellent athletes. Nick Hershberger is a tremendous defensive player, and Nick Mackey and Logan Allaire are also excellent."
"The key to the game is how Trinity handles Campbell's physicality. It will be on turf, which favors Trinity, but it will also be cold. I see Campbell grinding them down again."
What about Rob Cathcart's Trinity Pioneers?
"It comes down to their speed and athleticism. When you play against good teams in this division, they usually have two, maybe three, elite athletes you need to worry about. Trinity has seven or eight."
"Devohn Ellis is terrific. I really like Paul Thibault, and (QB) Jack Service could be the difference on Saturday, but their most impressive player is Alex Oayaronbi. He lined up at nose tackle, gave us fits, and then killed us at receiver on the other side of the ball."
The coaches agreed that the Pioneers' ability to throw the football could be a winning formula.
"Campbell will play man defense because they feel like they can get to Service before he can set up to throw. If he has time, though, he can really hurt them. He's a very good quarterback and has weapons to throw to."
"I think you'll see Trinity go with some empty backfield and try to spread Campbell out. I don't think they can beat them lining up in the straight T."
"Inter-Lakes Moultonborough hung in with Trinity in the semifinals for a half, but it was two big plays on offense, and just like that, they had control of the game."
"Both teams are so used to playing with a lead and that usually means they can be aggressive on defense. It'll be interesting how that plays out in a close game."
So who wins on Saturday?
"Trinity wins it. They have too much speed on that turf field."
"I'm going with Campbell. Their toughness wins out in what should be a really good game."
My pick: It's a one-score type of game where Trinity has the big play advantage, but I will go with Campbell in a close one.
(1) Newport vs. (2) Somersworth
This is the game we predicted we would see back in August. On Saturday, the Somersworth Hilltoppers will look to win their third consecutive Division IV title against their rival Newport Tigers, the 2020 champions.
We asked two head coaches to break down the two teams and the title game rematch, beginning with the undefeated Newport Tigers.
"They are very well coached, and they play extremely hard," said one of the head coaches. "They finish their blocks, sometimes ten yards downfield, and they gang tackle."
"Kyle Ashley is the best player in our division, and the coaches are slick in trying to hide where he is lining up. They'll try to disguise where he comes from, so you must alert your players."
"If they run ten plays, they are running seven for him."
A fellow coach agreed.
"Kyle (Ashley) is legit. When we faced them, I wondered if he would live up to all the hype, and he did."
"Newport has a very knowledgeable football staff, and John (Proper) does a great job.”
“Their offense is better than their defense. Their pass defense could be better, but they believe they can get to your quarterback before he has time to throw. They'll send a bunch of guys on passing downs."
"Their offensive line is underrated. Somersworth has the better line play, but Newport can compete with them."
"One weakness of theirs is their special teams, so watch for that on Saturday. Somersworth can put a ton of speed on the field, and they'll look to get big returns when Newport has mass substitutions in the return game."
What about the defending champion Hilltoppers?
"The strength of their team is their offensive line. Big Cam Dubois is a problem, and they often run behind him on the right side of the line."
"They run what they run; they don't try to trick you or mix it up. They are very well coached by (Jeremy) Lambert, and with Tayshwn Sheppard, they can beat you to the edge for big gains."
"Newport is a ball control team. Somersworth is a big-play team, but they are also very similar. They line up and beat you."
"They won't throw it much, which is good for Newport because pass defense is their weakness."
"Their line blocks low, fast, and hard. They knocked our guys off the ball, and we could never get any rhythm against them."
"I like the balance between offense and defense for Somersworth more than Newport's. The first meeting saw Newport jump out on them fast on their home field, but Somersworth was in control the rest of the way."
"Now you get the rematch on a neutral and turf field. I think that favors Somersworth."
So who wins the game on Saturday?
"I'm going to go with Newport in a low-scoring game."
"Somersworth beats them 26-15."
My pick: I'm going with the Hilltoppers in a great game.